Police funding in England and Wales

28 September 2018

The total police budget in 2018/19 is £12.3 billion. £8.6 billion is funded by central government, with the rest funded by council tax contributions and charging for some services, like policing football matches.

£728 million for counter terrorism policing, and £75 million for capital projects are funded separately.

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Increased spending this year comes from sources other than central government

In March 2018, the government announced that police funding is set to ‘increase by £460 million in 2018/19’.

Compared to 2017, there are no changes in the size of the grants each police force receives from the government. Since inflation is above 2% these budgets are likely facing real terms reductions in funding.

So this extra money is either coming from other sources, or going to other areas of police spending.

A maximum of £280 million is being raised by allowing police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to raise council tax in their areas, by up to £1 a month for a ‘typical’ band D household. They already have the power to raise local taxes to an extent, but the change allows for greater increases without having to trigger a local referendum.

An extra £50 million is being spent on counter terrorism operations. This includes £24 million extra announced in September 2017, and is on top of the government commitment to “spend 30% more overall in real terms on key counter-terrorism capabilities over the Parliament”.

The remaining £130 million has been set aside for special grants to meet unexpected costs for events such as terrorist incidents, and for improving the technology used by police forces.

Police funding fell from 2010/11 to 2018/19

That’s according to estimates compiled by the National Audit Office. Overall funding fell by 19%, taking inflation into account. That compares to a 31% increase in funding between 2000/01 and 2010/11.

That 19% isn’t what the government itself has reduced the budget by. Direct government funding has fallen by 30% over the same period. Most of the police budget comes from central government, but forces can also raise money locally via council taxes and this pot increased over the period. That’s why, overall, it’s a 19% loss of funding.

This varies a lot locally. That 19% average ranges from an 11% fall in Surrey police force to a 25% fall in Northumbria. This is mainly because some forces, like Northumbria, rely more heavily on government grants and don’t raise as much locally. Surrey, by contrast, was one of four police forces to raise more money locally than from the government this year.

As mentioned above, the amount they can choose to raise from council tax increased last year. The effect on the funding for a particular police force depends on the response from their PCC. They could have chosen to raise taxes by the full amount, or choose to raise them by less than this, or not at all. Every PCC in England and Wales increased the council tax precept this year, but not all by the maximum allowed.

Across England and Wales for 2018/19, 68% of funding received by police forces is set to come from central government, and 32% from local taxation.

Police funding is devolved in Scotland, partly devolved in Wales, and there are separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Government funding to the police will fall this parliament, but local forces have mostly raised the difference themselves

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. In 2018/19 they can increase their portion of an average Band D council tax bill by up £12 over the year in England. Most PCCs have done this. The Welsh Government has not set a cap.

How much money this raises, and how much the charge costs tax payers in total varies across the country. The lowest charge for a band D property in England is £110.33 in Northumbria, the highest is £236.57 in Surrey. Two-thirds of properties in England are in bands A to C so will pay less than the headline amount.

In Wales the increase in council tax ranged from £8.91 in North Wales to £15.28 in South Wales. The band D charges are closer together, from £224.56 in Dyfed-Powys to £258.12 in North Wales. Over half of properties in Wales will pay less than this.

A small part of government police funding is ring-fenced for counter-terrorism, but the allocations to local areas aren’t published for security reasons.

In 2018/19, £728 million has been set aside for counter-terrorism.

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