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Police Funding

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

Following the debate on police funding held in this House on 28 March 2018 and the motion of this House, the Government wish to highlight that they are committed to protecting the public and providing the resources necessary for the police to do their critical work. At the 2015 spending review, the Government protected overall police spending (the combination of Government grants to police and crime commissioners (PCCs), police precept, and spending on national priorities such as the police transformation fund) in real terms. Counter-terrorism police grant was also specifically protected.

Before taking decisions on the 2018-19 settlement, the Government were determined to ensure that we continued to enable the police to respond to changing demands on them. I visited or spoke with every police force in England and Wales to better understand the demands they face and how these can best be managed. I saw for myself the exceptional attitude and hard work of police officers and staff around the country, and listened to the evidence about the genuine increases in demand they are facing.

Crime as traditionally measured by the independent crime survey for England and Wales—widely regarded as the best long-term measure of the crime people experience—is down by more than a third since 2010 and by more than two thirds since its peak in 1995. However, we recognise that there have been material changes in the demands on policing since the 2015 spending review. Demand on the police from crimes reported to them has grown and shifted to more complex and resource intensive work such as investigating child sexual exploitation and modern slavery. At the same time the terrorist threat has changed.

We included four key elements in the police funding settlement for 2018-19 to enable the police to respond effectively: an increase in funding, greater future funding certainty, clear opportunities for substantial improvements in productivity and efficiency, and greater financial transparency to ensure effective use is made of police financial reserves.

Following the spending review in 2015, the Government committed to protecting force-level funding in cash terms over the spending review period, when police precept and Government grant are taken together. The 2018-19 settlement changed this by enabling every PCC to maintain their funding in real terms. This was achieved by a combination of protecting the Government grant to PCCs in cash terms (compared to 2017-18) so PCCs retain the full benefit from any additional local precept income, and increasing flexibility to raise precept without calling a referendum (in England). The vast majority of PCCs used the additional flexibility to increase precept, resulting in an over £280 million increase in funding in 2018-19. In addition, many PCCs have set out proposals to use this extra funding to improve frontline policing.

We are also increasing investment in national policing priorities such as police technology and special grant by around £130 million in 2018-19 compared to 2017-18. This reflects our commitment to support the police to deliver a modern digitally enabled workforce, and to manage major events such as the Commonwealth summit and terrorist attacks. We are maintaining the size of the police transformation fund at £175 million in order to help drive police reform.

Counter-terrorism police is receiving a £50 million (7%) increase in like for like funding when compared to 2017-18, enabling the counter-terrorism budget to increase to £757 million, including £29 million for the uplift in armed policing from the police transformation fund. Once the armed uplift programme is complete, there will be around 7,000 armed officers in England and Wales, which exceeds the number of firearms officers in 2010. This is a significant additional investment in the vital work of counter-terrorism police officers across the country. These specialist armed officers will be better trained and equipped than ever before to deal with the full range of complex terrorist attacks.

Separately, the Home Office has also provided £9.8 million in special grant funding to cover the costs of the police response to the Manchester Arena attack and a further £7.6 million to support the costs in London.

Overall, police funding across the system is increasing by around £460 million year on year, including police precept. The House of Commons debated and voted for the police funding settlement on 7 February, as is done on an annual basis.

The motion debated by the House on 28 March referenced the UK Statistics Authority’s recent work on police funding statements. The Government recognise that police funding is a complex topic and are committed to presenting and explaining police funding clearly. The UK Statistics Authority suggested the Home Office should produce a regular analysis of police funding in line with the principles set out in the code of practice for statistics. The Home Office chief statistician is currently considering how this could be achieved.

Police leaders rightly highlighted to me that one year of additional financial support would not be sufficient to mitigate the challenges the police face. It is also important that PCCs and chief constables can plan effectively. Therefore the Government committed at the police settlement to protect police grant in cash terms, and repeat the additional precept flexibility in 2019-20, so long as significant progress is made this year on efficiency and productivity. This approach gives policing the opportunity to make major improvements in efficiency, and use those gains to improve services to the public.

Efficiency and productivity are essential to a sustainable plan to enable the police to manage challenging demands. Since the police funding settlement, I have been working with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs Council to agree concrete proposals to save around £120 million through better procurement and use of shared services. We are also working with the police to deliver the benefits of better, digitally enabled working. The motion debated on 28 March called for 10,000 additional officers. The motion did not make reference to efficiency or productivity. If all forces could deliver the same one hour per officer per day of productivity benefits from mobile working as the best in a recent sample with eight forces, this has the potential to free up the equivalent of 11,000 extra officers nationally to provide the proactive policing that committed police officers want to deliver. The Government believe that it is essential that we work with the police to realise these productivity benefits, rather than focusing on extra funding or having a sterile debate on officer numbers alone.

We are also encouraging the police to make effective and prudent use of their financial reserves. As at March 2017 PCCs held usable resource reserves of over £1.6 billion. This compares to £1.4 billion in 2011. Current reserves held represent 15% of annual police funding to PCCs. There are good reasons for holding reserves, including to invest in better ICT to help officers work smartly. However, PCCs’ plans for using their reserves must be robust and open to public scrutiny. That is why we set out new guidance in January requiring them to publish their reserves strategies in plain English, with a clear justification for each reserve held, as well as publishing national information on the level of reserves held.

Taken together, the Government have listened to the police, we have substantially increased police funding in 2018-19, we have demonstrated our complete commitment to protecting the public from terrorism, and we have provided the police with the tools to respond to changing demand.