Straw attaches strings to police funding

21 Oct 99
Winning money for new recruits from the crime-fighting fund could be conditional on police authorities signing up to the new national communications project.

22 October 1999

With Home Secretary Jack Straw still under fire over accusations that he misled voters with his pledge to recruit 5,000 more police officers, it is becoming clear that strings will be attached to the promised £35m.

The new fund will be run on a challenge-fund basis, and Public Finance understands the Home Office is considering three key criteria that successful bidding authorities will have to meet. These include the 2% efficiency target already set for this year and a link to the new ethnic minority recruitment targets. But, crucially, the Home Office is considering making signing up to the new Public Safety Radio Communications Project a condition.

The £1.5bn project aims to provide all forces in England, Wales and Scotland with digital, state-of-the-art secure mobile radio communications services. To succeed it will need all forces to be involved, but several still believe the system could be difficult to justify locally in terms of value for money.

The Association of Police Authorities (APA) this week confirmed Home Office officials have written to it advising that funding for the core service costs of the project will be deducted from police grants before allocations are made. Making signing up a condition of bidding for the fund would ensure the new system is truly comprehensive.

The APA said any new money was welcome, but the government was 'biting into local discretion'.


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