Spring Statement: Yorkshire police forces get share of £100m boost from Chancellor to tackle knife crime crisis

Police in Yorkshire will receive a portion of a £100 million cash injection to tackle the knife crime crisis, the Chancellor has announced today in his Spring Statement.

By Rob Parsons
Wednesday, 13 March, 2019, 14:08
Chancellor Philip Hammond pictured before the Spring Statement

The extra funding for forces in England has been earmarked for overtime costs and specialist units dedicated to combating serious violence.

Most of the money will go to the seven police forces with biggest knife crime problem, including West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

Ministers have come under pressure to provide a financial boost for police following a spate of fatal stabbings and last week the Home Secretary held emergency talks with police chiefs, including from Yorkshire’s largest two forces, after a string of fatal stabbings prompted warnings of a “national emergency”.

Total funding for forces in England and Wales reduced by 19% in real terms from 2010/11 and 2018/19, according to the National Audit Office. Officer numbers have fallen by nearly 20,000 since 2010.

In December, Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled a provisional settlement that could see police funding rise by nearly £1 billion from April, including money raised through council tax.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said many police and crime commissioners have already committed to using this extra funding to recruit and train additional officers. "But that takes time," he said. "And action is needed now."

He said the additional £100 million over the course of the next year will be ring-fenced to pay for additional overtime targeted specifically on knife crime, and to fund new violent crime reduction units to deliver a "wider cross-agency response to this epidemic".

Responding to the news, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Any additional funding to tackle knife and violent crime is to be welcomed. I have long advocated a whole system approach and the proposed investment in new violent crime reduction units is an important step forward.

“I will be working closely with the Home Office, West Yorkshire Police and partners to help coordinate how this funding is to be spent productively, whilst aligning with projects already running here in West Yorkshire such as those funded through the Home Office Early Intervention Youth Fund (EIYF) and my Safer Communities Fund (SCF) which I have helped co-ordinate.

“In the meantime, in order to protect our communities, I will continue to build a compelling case for increases in central police funding to increase capacity and allow for further investment in crime prevention, in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review. Which will be crucial in sustaining a long term approach to reducing knife and violent crime generally.”

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Mr Javid said the money, including £80 million of new funding from the Treasury, will allow police to swiftly crack down on knife crime in areas where it is most rife.

He added: "I am deeply concerned by the rising levels of knife crime that is devastating communities and robbing young people of their lives and futures.

"Law enforcement plays a key role - and it is clear from speaking to police leaders in recent weeks that they need an immediate increase in resources."

National Police Chiefs' Council chairwoman Sara Thornton welcomed the announcement.

She said: "It will help police forces strengthen our immediate response to knife crime and serious violence.

"Bringing violence down is a police priority. We know what works to bring down violence and this additional funding will help us to increase the number of officers available to carry out targeted patrols in crime hotspots, increase our use of stop and search and disrupt gangs and crime groups."

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said the money does not make up for cuts of £175 million his force has faced, but acknowledged it will "partially cover the extra funding needed in the short-term".

A string of recent deaths have prompted fresh debate over police resources.

Amid mounting calls for action, Theresa May sparked a backlash when she insisted there was "no direct correlation between certain crimes and police numbers".

Earlier this year it was disclosed that the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales had risen to its highest level since records started more than 70 years ago.

Official statistics showed there were 285 homicides where the method of killing was by a knife or sharp instrument in the year to March 2018. This was the highest number since the Home Office's Homicide Index began in 1946.