Keith Hunter on the Police Funding Settlement
Keith Hunter - "The Government must produce more clear and accurate statements on police funding in the future"
Last month my proposal for increasing the Council Tax police precept by 6.4% was approved by the Police and Crime Panel. The ability to increase by this higher than usual amount was granted by the Government after much lobbying from PCC’s and Chief Constables nationally for a fairer settlement on police funding.
At the time, the Policing Minister said the government had listened to what we were saying, which was that communities had suffered as a result of years of police funding cuts and were struggling to maintain the front line. This view was echoed across all forces in England and Wales and by PCCs of all political parties.
The Government announced in press releases and through their official Twitter account that they were putting a £450m increase into policing, which on the surface was warmly received by many, but the headline gave the impression that this was additional funding from Government when in fact £270m of that figure was left for Police and Crime Commissioners to raise locally through Council Tax bills. Of the remainder, £130m was for ‘national policing priorities’ so not available to local forces, and £50m was for national counter-terrorism work.
At the time, I said in the media that it was disappointing that the Government had not responded with improved funding but had moved the burden onto local taxpayers. That flexibility has allowed us to recruit more officers but I and many others believed it was misleading for the Government to take the credit for it, and had merely assumed that PCC’s would hike up local taxation, which we had little option on, as to do otherwise would effectively result in a cut, not an increase to our budgets.
Last week, in response to a letter from the Shadow Policing Minister among others, the Chair of an independent watchdog, the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove said: “The Prime Minister’s statement and the Home Office’s tweet could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central government is providing an additional £450 million for police spending in 2018/19. The Home Office tweet also implied that the £450 million sum is guaranteed. As the Minister for Policing’s statement outlined, up to £270 million of the funding settlement will come from local council tax, if Police and Crime Commissioners and Mayors choose to raise these sums.”
I am pleased Sir David has highlighted how misleading the Government announcement was, and I encourage the Government to produce more clear and accurate statements on police funding in the future to give the public a better understanding of the issues faced by police forces as they strive to provide an effective service in protecting the public.
I also encourage the Government to be clearer to the public regarding their policy of transferring the burden from national funding to local taxpayers to pay for policing and some other services.
Sir David Norgrove’s statements in correspondence can be viewed at: https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence/response-on-police-funding-statements/
Posted on Monday 26th March 2018