HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 c111W
Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on policing in rural areas. [75893]

Mr. Denham

Support for the police service in both rural and urban areas continues to be a key element of this Government's policy. We now have the highest levels of police officers since records began in 1921 (129,603).

Last year we provided an extra £30 million through the Rural Policing Fund to tackle problems faced in the 31 more rural police areas. This is being paid again this year.

The Police Authority and the Chief Officer may decide how to spend this additional money for the benefit of rural communities. It may be used to fund additional officers. Some police authorities have used the money to buy and operate mobile police stations to provide an enhanced police presence in remote areas.

Police numbers in the rural areas have increased significantly. At 31 March 2002 there were 60,401 officers in the 31 more rural forces. This represents an increase of 2.6 per cent. over March 2001 and 4.9 per cent. over March 2000.

Police forces can also employ Community Support Officers (CSO's) to provide additional support in rural communities. 19 of the 27 successful bids on the new CSO Fund were from the 31 more rural forces and they will receive between them £3.9 million this year. CSOs will provide a visible police presence and will have a vital role to play in support of the police in reducing the fear of crime, increasing public safety and tackling antisocial behaviour.