PM pressed over ‘fairer funding deal’ for West Midlands Police

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing MPs during PMQs on December 1
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing MPs during PMQs on December 1

The PM was pressed in the Commons over cuts to the force’s budget, which Labour politicians in the region say have contributed to a huge spike in crime.

The force is also struggling to cope with a record number of emergency calls, while Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Foster is under fire for signing off on a cost-cutting programme that will see more than 20 police stations and bases close over the next four years.

Speaking in PMQs, Coventry North East Labour MP Colleen Fletcher said West Midlands Police had lost 2,221 officers between 2010 and 2019 due to budget cuts.

She said that 1,200 coming in by 2023 through a Government uplift programme would still leave a shortfall of 1,000 officers.

“This lack of frontline policing has left the force stretched and under significant pressure, with officers actually telling me there are simply insufficient resources to investigate every crime,” she said.

“Will the Prime Minister commit to providing West Midlands Police with a fairer funding deal to ensure the force can return officer numbers back to their 2010 levels?”

In response Mr Johnson said the Government had recruited 11,000 new officers out of its 20,000 target across the country, including “more women and people from ethnic minorities than ever before”.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said Mr Foster and his predecessor David Jamieson needed to accept responsibility for rising crime, instead of attempting to “walk away” from decisions saying “nothing to do with us, guv”.

Mr Foster has started a cross-party campaign for more cash after claiming his force faced a budget black hole of £60m by 2025/26.

He said: “I’m calling on MPs from across the region to join me in putting this case to the Government, so we can put the 1,000 missing police officers back on our streets, to keep people and their families safe and secure.”

The stations to go include Aldridge, Wednesfield, Oldbury, Tipton and Smethwick.

Doug James, who represents Darlaston South as an independent on Walsall Council, said the closures were more evidence of local policing services being “ruined”.

He said: “Millions can be found for events, party conferences, Commonwealth Games policing, and environmental protest protection, but police invisibility on local streets and people’s growing lack of faith in them to fight crime is just accepted.

“It is time for the police to be headed by an independent elected authority or included in the Mayor’s responsibilities. The current farce goes far beyond a funding crisis and poor management.

“It is undermining our communities, respect for law and is a complete abandonment of common sense and the protection of law abiding citizens.”

Express & Star Walsall