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Police funding report

The Home Office’s light touch approach to overseeing police forces means it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable. It lacks a long-term plan for policing and significant gaps remain in its understanding of demand for police services and their costs. The way the Department chooses to distribute funding has been ineffective and detached from the changing nature of policing for too long, and it cannot be sure overall funding is being directed to the right places. That’s according to the National Audit Office (NAO), which has released a report, ‘Financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales 2018’.

For the full 47-page report visit the NAO website.

The auditors found that police did not have an evidence-based understanding of demand, or what affected their costs, and so it was difficult for forces to provide services that met needs; or show how much resource they needed to deliver the services. How forces have managed, and where they get their money from (mostly from central government, and some from council tax) varies, the report showed, as for example 12 forces reduced their officer numbers by more than 20 per cent, and one force increased officer numbers by 6pc.

See also the October 2018 print issue of Professional Security magazine.

Comments

Labour Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester Bev Hughes called the report disturbing but unsurprising. She said: “The findings echo what I and other PCCs have been telling the Government for some time, as budget cuts continue to impact on local policing and put community safety at risk. It beggars belief that ministers still do not understand, or are just plain ignorant of, the demands on policing. Focusing on crime statistics as an indicator of police demand is fundamentally flawed as it fails to consider the complexity and the day to day challenges faced by police officers, along with the impact on victims and communities.”

She made the point that in Greater Manchester since 2010, the Coalition then Conservative Government has cut £215m, and there are 2,000 fewer police officers in the force area.

Talking of PCCs, at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Chair Mark Burns-Williamson said: “The National Audit Office rightly raises the issue of the financial stability and sustainability of policing to meet the ever growing complexity and demand faced by forces and PCCs. Addressing the balance between purely local and national strategies for effective and consistent policing across England and Wales is at the heart of the report. The prolonged period in not addressing how the funding formula is allocated has contributed to the uncertainty, along with the overall reductions in central grant, both of which need to be tackled if the overall financial position of policing is to improve in the future.”

And APCC Finance Lead, Roger Hirst said: “This is an important report which highlights some of the challenges that policing is currently facing. The demand on the service is increasing as is the complexity of the cases forces deal with and this trend is predicted to continue over the next few years. The last policing settlement gave PCCs the welcome opportunity to increase their precept, however, given the different levels of precept and share of budget accounted for by council tax across different areas, some forces still face significant challenges. The funding formula has been subject of discussion for a number of years and Police and Crime Commissioners support the need for its review. PCCs are working closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Home Office to review our demand and resources in the run up to the next Government spending review.”

Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, accused the Home Secretary of trying to hoodwink public. She said: “It’s a bit rich for Sajid Javid to claim that police funding has increased on the same day that the independent budget watchdog says that central government funding has been cut by 30 per cent in real terms (after inflation) since 2010/11. Instead of trying to hoodwink the public the Home Secretary should accept what almost everyone knows, everyone but the Tories. Police cuts have consequences and his government’s underfunding of the police is hampering the fight against crime.”

Sajid Javid, speaking at the Police Superintendents’ Association’s annual conference, referred to the NAO report, saying that whilst there are a number of aspects of the report that he didn’t quite agree with, it rightly recognises the pressures on the police. In his speech he pointed to increases in funding; over £1 billion more in policing than three years ago, including more money raised through council tax. “That’s why just last week; I announced a £21m extra to help law enforcement agencies to help fight online child sexual exploitation. That’s why as a government we put over £50m over the next year to boost cyber capabilities within law enforcement at a national, regional and local level. We’re also making £40m available over the next two years to help support the new Serious Violence Strategy.’


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