“We have protected the police budget since 2015, there’s 460 million extra going in this year if you include from the local precept.”
Dominic Raab MP, 17 May 2018
“When you talk about the police budget... an important role for police, where they have the numbers is to actually engage with communities, to get information, to find out what’s going on. But because actually the government hasn’t protected the police budget and because there are fewer policemen, that very important role for the police, apart from law enforcement, isn’t happening.”
Diane Abbott MP, 17 May 2018
Honesty in public debate matters
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Police funding is set to increase this year
In March 2018, the government announced that police funding in England and Wales will ‘increase by £460 million in 2018/19’. Not all of this money comes from government directly.
Of the £460 million, £280 million extra is being raised locally, not centrally, through increases in council tax charged by Police and Crime commissioners.
So the budgets of local forces are projected to increase by around £280 million (or by 2.6%). Once you factor in the effect of price increases on the 2017/18 budget this increase in spending is much smaller at around £114 million (or 1%).
An extra £50 million in cash terms is being spent on counter terrorism operations. The remaining £130 million is for improving the technology used by police forces and for special grants to meet unexpected costs for events such as policing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
Police funding fell from 2010 to 2015 and has been protected since then
From 2010/11 to 2015/16 the police budget fell according to estimates compiled by the National Audit Office.
The 2015 Spending Review promised to “protect overall police spending in real terms over the Spending Review period”—up to 2019/20, and that’s reflected in more detailed estimates the government has published.
The central government part of that is actually expected to fall in real terms. It only stays flat overall if local Police and Crime Commissioners raise the maximum they’re allowed to. For 2018/19 PCCs actually raised more from council tax increases than the government’s forecast
We’ve written more on police funding here.
Police officer numbers are falling
The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by just under 20,000 between September 2010 and September 2017.
There were 122,000 police officers in September last year. Counting those from the British Transport Police and those on secondment it was 125,000. We’ve written more about this here.
There’s evidence that community policing deteriorated in 2016 but has since improved
We asked Ms Abbott’s office what specifically she meant by saying that the police aren’t engaging with communities.
Ms Abbott’s office pointed us towards a briefing from the House of Commons Library which shows that the number of Police Community Support Officers has fallen from a peak of around 16,900 in 2010 to around 10,200 in 2017 (working the equivalent of full time).
Last year, the police watchdog HM Inspectorate of Constabulary expressed concern that “the extent to which neighbourhood teams are diverted to other work is too often detracting from neighbourhood policing and limiting problem solving opportunities.”
It also said that “local policing is the area of operational policing that shows the greatest decline in performance.”
But this year the inspector said: “It is commendable that since 2016, nearly half of all forces have increased or maintained the number of staff assigned to neighbourhood policing. This is despite an overall 8 percent decrease in expenditure dedicated to this area.” It said further improvements were still needed.