What happened to council funding, welfare spending and police numbers under the Coalition?

23rd May 2019


There were 17,000 fewer police officers in 2015 than in 2010.


Correct for England and Wales.


£22 billion was taken out of welfare between 2010 and 2015.


This is how much more would have been spent in real terms on social security payments across the UK between 2010/11 and 2015/16, had changes introduced between 2010 and 2015 not taken place.


There were 25% cuts to local government spending between 2010 and 2015.


Correct for England, looking at a comparable measure of council funding which includes central government grants, council tax and business rates, called “core spending power”.

Claim 1 of 3

“You’re rising in the polls at the moment but isn’t there a danger of people breathing new life into a party which brought us through austerity: huge cuts, 25% cuts in local government spending, £22 billion out of welfare and 17,000 fewer police officers.”

Andrew Marr, 19 May 2019

On his Sunday programme, during an interview with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Andrew Marr quoted a number of figures relating to public spending and the police workforce. He said that there had been a reduction of 25% in local government spending, £22 billion taken out of welfare spending and 17,000 fewer police officers.

Although he didn’t specify a time frame for this fall, the context seems to suggest that he meant between 2010 and 2015—the period when the Liberal Democrats were in coalition with the Conservatives.

The figures Mr Marr quoted are correct. Police numbers did reduce by around 17,000 during that time. Around £22 billion less was spent in real terms on social security payments than otherwise would have been the case, due to changes announced between 2010 and 2015. And council funding—looking at a comparable measure including money from central government, council tax and business rates called “core spending power”—fell by 25% in real terms.

Local government funding

Analysis by the National Audit Office found that council funding in England from central government and council tax combined decreased by 25% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2015/16.

This is based on a measure called ‘core spending power’ which includes “the main streams of government funding to local authorities”, money the council gets from council tax and business rates and some other funding.

We’ve explained more about how these funding figures are calculated here.

The welfare budget

The changes in welfare spending which Mr Marr quoted are based on BBC analysis of figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies—this in turn was based on policy costings from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

These figures show the results of changes to social security measures across the UK announced between 2010 and 2015. This amounted to just over £22 billion less being spent on social security by 2015/16 (in 2018/19 prices) than would have been the case had the changes not occurred.

Police numbers

Between March 2010 (just before the Coalition entered government) and March 2015 (just before the general election that year) the number of police officers in England and Wales fell by just over 16,500. That’s around 12%.

Police officer numbers peaked in 2009 at just under 144,000 and have been on a downward trend since then.

There were over 122,000 police officers in England and Wales in March 2018. These figures are all referring to full-time equivalent officers (or how many there would be if you added up all police officers’ hours to create full-time roles.)