Claims over police austerity cuts 'patently untrue', says minister

Claims that West Midlands Police was "uniquely targeted" by Government austerity measures have been branded "patently untrue" by a senior minister.

West Midlands PCC Simon Foster has been accused of failing constituents
West Midlands PCC Simon Foster has been accused of failing constituents

Kit Malthouse MP has hit out at West Midland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Foster for blaming the Government for his force's chronic financial position.

Labour PCC Mr Foster says his force has lost £175 million in funding over 10 years which has impacted on its ability to fight crime. He has warned of an imminent budget blackhole and is set to raise council tax by £10 a year.

Policing minister Mr Malthouse, said: "I hear repeatedly from the Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands that his financial situation is down to the actions of the Conservative Government and that somehow austerity was uniquely targeted at West Midlands Police, which was somehow singled out.

"That is patently untrue, not least because police funding is distributed by a legally enforceable formula that does not discriminate by area.

"To say that somehow the financial problems of West Midlands Police are down to the Government, when other police forces are faring much better, is economical with the actualité, shall we say."

It came as Tory MPs in the Black Country railed against the closure of dozens of police buildings across the region, including stations in Wednesfield, Tipton and Solihull which are set to be axed in the coming years.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP

Speaking in a parliamentary debate on the issue, Stourbridge Tory MP Suzanne Webb, said: "I am hearing loud and clear that we have a police and crime commissioner who is failing constituents not just in Solihull but throughout the West Midlands - he is certainly failing the constituents in Stourbridge.

"The consistent problem with the police and crime commissioner is that he is continually closing police stations and not reopening them."

Dudley South Conservative MP Mike Wood said his constituency badly needed a "proper police station with officers operating out of it" once Brierley Hill station closes down in a couple of years.

Mr Malthouse told MPs there had been a "significant uplift in funding" for West Midlands Police and that officers needed "somewhere to operate from".

Mr Foster has accused Mr Malthouse of "ignoring" the actions of his Government over the past decade, and questioned why funding for West Midlands Police was down £17m on Greater Manchester Police.

"The formula used by the Government to distribute police funding has been a severe issue for West Midlands Police for many years," he said.

"We are losing out on around £40 million a year. Chief constables campaigned on this for over a decade, highlighting that urban forces were hit much harder by austerity than rural areas.

"Due to historic decisions West Midlands Police also has the second lowest council tax in the country, meaning the £175 million cuts the force faced hit us even harder.

"This meant that 2,221 officers were lost and now the government is only funding 1,200, meaning we're missing 1,000 police officers.

"This along with rising costs from record inflation means West Midlands Police is still facing a shortfall in its budget this year."

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