Airstrikes, police cuts and doctors: factchecking Prime Minister's Questions

18 November 2015

"We've seen an increase in neighbourhood officers of 3,800 over the parliament and we've seen a 31% cut in crime... In the capital city, we've seen a 500% increase in neighbourhood policing."

David Cameron

Crime is down 31% since 2010 according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which estimates the level of crime as experienced and recounted by victims. Crimes in Scotland and Northern Ireland are counted separately and differently.

The survey gives us a consistent picture of certain kinds of crime but it does not present a full picture of crime. Crimes against businesses, drug possession, fraud and cyber crime are examples of crimes excluded from the survey.

The Prime Minister is right that there are more police in neighbourhood policing roles since 2010 (in England and Wales), but there are fewer police officers overall.

The definition of 'neighbourhood policing' hasn't been consistent over time either. A police officer with 'neighbourhood functions' now isn't necessarily the same as one with the same defined functions as in 2010. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary highlighted in 2012 that the scope of roles undertaken by neighbourhood teams was widening, such as including responding to nearby incidents.

There are just under 3,800 more police officers in 'neighbourhood policing' roles since the end of March 2010, and up to the end of March 2015. At the same time, there are just under 17,000 fewer police officers across England and Wales over the same time period.

That '500%' increase is also the case comparing the Metropolitan Police's 895 neighbourhood officers in 2010 with 5,612 officers in 2015. Even these figures exclude Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who also play a significant role in local policing.

So what's really going on is a shift in priorities. Several police forces - including the Metropolitan Police- shifted to greater use of 'Neighbourhood Policing Teams' a few years ago, a "substantial increase in neighbourhood resourcing". All the while, the number of police officers overall stayed at similar levels or fell.

But the recent trend shows falling numbers of neighbourhood police since 2014, so it's not a one-way picture.

All the above figures are full-time equivalents.

"The first survey of UK public opinion on Syrian intervention since the Paris attacks by Survation has shown the following: 52% believe that, and I quote, 'The UK should engage with all countries to coordinate an appropriate response militarily or otherwise, backed by United Nations resolution'. And only 15% believe the UK should independently launch air strikes."

Angus Robertson

When asked which options they felt would be the best way for the UK to combat the threat posed by IS subsequent to the attacks in Paris, 15% of respondents to the Survation survey said that the UK should, like France, independently launch airstrikes on IS targets in Syria immediately.

The majority of respondents (52%) opted for the option described by Mr Robertson.

13% said the UK should assist in ways other than supporting military action and a further 13% said the UK should stay out of it completely. The last 7% said they didn't know.

A slightly different question asked in a YouGov poll also conducted over the weekend found that 58% of respondents approved of the RAF taking part in air strike operations against IS in Syria. They were less in favour of the UK sending in ground troops with the US.

What is on offer is not an increase in hours. Indeed for many doctors it will mean less long hours. It's not a cut in the paybill for junior doctors—it's actually an 11% basic pay increase. It'll mean a better rostering of doctors, including at weekends with more support for consultants... [urges the constituent to] go on the DH website, look at the pay calculator and see how you'll be affected... Anyone working legal hours will not be worse off under this contract" 

David Cameron

While the government says its new plans amount to an 11% average pay rise for junior doctors, it's also been claimed by doctors that it will really mean a real terms pay cut.

What this boils down to is what type of hours doctors are working. Currently, doctors get paid more for working unsociable hours. Under the new contract, some hours currently deemed unsociable will become part of the basic working pattern.

The 11% pay rise relates to the proposed increase in basic pay.

Other figures offered in contrast to this range between a 15% and 26% pay cut. The 26% pay cut was a figure given by a doctor to the Independent for the amount lost from changes to unsociable working hours pay. They said that a doctor currently earning £30,000, £20,000 of which was their standard contract pay and £10,000 of which was their unsociable working hours pay, would see that reduced to £22,000 gross pay.

The proposals are complicated, and how they translate into junior doctors' actual pay and working conditions is even more so. Different hospitals, different specialties, different managers—there's no simple way to quantify what their impact would be on a 'typical' junior doctor.

"the Labour party… left this country with the biggest budget deficit anywhere in the western world"

David Cameron

"The West" is pretty poorly defined geographically. Australia and Greece are western, Croatia is not. We've used the "Western European and others" voting bloc from the United Nations for this analysis, although we don't think that using alternative definitions will change the outcome significantly.

Looking at the IMF's figures from their World Economic Outlook database (and remembering our previous caveats), as a proportion of their GDP several western governments had larger deficits than the United Kingdom in 2010, and in 2009.

Ireland, Greece and the USA beat the UK's figure in both years, proving once again that everything's bigger in Texas (or at least its parent nation)—even the deficits.

Update (20 November 2015)

We've added context to the section on neighbourhood police officers after some readers got in touch to point out changes in the definitions of officers' functions since 2010.

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