Police funding in England and Wales

Published: 9th Jan 2018

In December 2017, the government announced that police funding is set to ‘increase by £450 million in 2018’.

Compared to 2017, there are no changes in the size of the grants each police force receives from the government. Since inflation is currently at around 2.8% (as of November 2017), 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 £270 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 recent announcement 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 2015/16

That’s according to estimates compiled by the National Audit Office. Overall funding fell by 18%, taking inflation into account. That compares to a 31% increase in funding between 2000/01 and 2010/11.

That 18% isn’t what the government itself has cut from the budget. Direct government funding has fallen by 25% 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 slightly over the period. That’s why, overall, it’s an 18% loss of funding.

This varies a lot locally. That 18% average ranges from a 12% fall in Surrey police force to a 23% 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 the only police force last year to raise more money locally than it got from the government.

As mentioned above, the amount they can choose raise from council tax has just been increased. The effect on the funding for a particular police force depends on the response from their PCC. They could choose to raise taxes by the full amount, or choose to raise them by less than this, or not at all

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 and there are separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Government funding to the police will fall this parliament, but local forces can raise 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. The new announcements raise that maximum, but it’s too early to tell how each PCC will respond.

The government plans to spend 30% more on counter-terrorism by the end of the decade

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, £757 million has been set aside for counter-terrorism from government resource funding of about £9.4 billion.


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