Police cuts ‘damaging public confidence in forces’

7 Nov 18

Public confidence in the police is being damaged as “crude cuts” are being made to forces while they deal with the effects of other public services being squeezed, according to MPs.

Funding for police forces in England and Wales was down by 19% from 2010-11 to £12.3bn in 2018-19, the Public Accounts Committee highlighted today.

Forces are operating with nearly 50,000 fewer members of staff, including 15% fewer officers, than in 2010, the committee pointed out in a report on the financial pressures on the police.  

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The ‘thin blue line’ is wearing thinner with potentially dire consequences for public safety.

“Public confidence and trust that the police will respond is breaking down.”

The PAC noted the Home Office accepted its formula for allocating funding for commissioners was out of date in 2015 but its work to review this stopped in early 2017.

“The department [still] has no firm plans in place for [up-dating the formula] and tells us that reform of the funding formula cannot be rushed,” the report stated.

But with the department’s “lack of a comprehensive picture of all the demands” forces are under they are “subject to crude cuts across the board”.

The MPs added: “Forces are feeling the pressure of ‘cost shunting’ as cuts to other areas of public spending, such as health, are passed onto policing because it is so often the first line of response.”

Only a quarter of emergency and priority incidents the police responded to were crime-related, the PAC found.

But there was no comparable data on how much it costs forces to respond to non-crime related incidents, such as mental health crisis, the report concluded.

Violent crime and sexual offences were increasing as “forces are dealing with more incidents which are not crime related”, it added.

Chancellor Philip Hammond “did not address the financial stability of police forces” in last month’s Budget, the MPs said. Prior to the Budget the home affairs committee said that policing “urgently” needed more funding to avoid “dire consequences”.

The chancellor committed £160m to counter-terrorism police funding in the Budget.  

In its report, the PAC also suggested the Home Office’s ‘top-slicing’ of 11% of police funding for national programmes – such as police technology programmes – was not being used effectively.

“This cannot continue,” Hillier said. “Government must show leadership and get on with fixing the flaws at the heart of its approach to policing.

“In particular the Home Office must improve its understanding of the real-world demands on police, and use this information to inform its bid for funding from the Treasury. And when it secures that funding, it must distribute it effectively.”

A report from the National Audit Office in September came to similar conclusions as the PAC, finding the government was failing to ensure the police force is financially sustainable.

 

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