Biggest cash boost for police ‘in a decade’ announced

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

The Government has promised the biggest cash boost for police “in a decade” as it announced its funding plans for the coming financial year.

Funding for police forces will increase by more than £1.1 billion in 2020/21, the Home Office said.

The total amount of funding available for the year could reach £15.2 billion – if police and crime commissioners ask council tax payers again to stump up extra cash to pay for services, known as a precept.

According to the announcement, the money includes:

– £700 million to recruit 6,000 officers – the first phase of the 20,000 pledged over the next three years.

– £150 million made available to fight organised crime and crack down on online child abuse.

– £39 million allocated to tackling serious violence – including £20 million to target county lines drug dealing.

– £906 million for counter-terrorism policing, which was announced earlier in the week.

But in a written ministerial statement to Parliament, Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said the £153 million allocated to cover pension costs was “held flat” compared to the previous year and the figure would be “reconsidered” at the next spending review.

Mr Malthouse said “it is only right that in return the Government holds the police to account on delivering for the public”, adding that the police are expected to achieve “measurable improvements” including addressing “efficiency and productivity”.

The £1.1 billion rise is made up of £667 million grants and an anticipated £248 million from precept, with the remainder made up of funding for national priorities and funding for counter terrorism police which does not go directly to forces, the Home Office said.

The total of £15.2 billion includes £8.702 billion in government grants and an anticipated £4.397 billion in precept, according to the department.

John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales which represents rank-and-file officers, said this was “clearly a better” financial settlement for policing than previous years, adding: “The Government has listened and started to invest in policing but once again the buck has been passed to police and crime commissioners and local taxpayers. This is simply unfair.”

Last week Mr Apter told the PA news agency it would be “unforgivable” if politicians failed to act on “desperately needed” long-term funding for policing,

He called on ministers to rewrite the rules on funding by introducing “at least” a 10-year strategy for budgets to allow forces to properly plan for the future instead of sticking to the current annual review.

Reiterating this call on Wednesday, he added: “Boom-and-bust, short-term, one-year financial settlements do not work, and forces shouldn’t have to operate on a ‘hand-to-mouth’ basis. The Government has admitted the funding formula is outdated and must urgently address this.”

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “At last the Government have recognised the damage they have done with 10 years of cuts to policing.

“This must be the first step in addressing the chronic funding problems that still exist.

“I am pleased that after years of campaigning we have had some success in changing the Government’s direction.

“There is much more for them to do though.”

But Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned the announcement did “not even make up for the number of police officers lost since 2010, even though our population has grown” adding: “Both the Met Commissioner and I will push the Government to give us the 6,000 extra police officers our city needs, and a proper long-term funding commitment in order to recruit and support them.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says the city needs more police officers (Rick Findler/PA)

He said funding to tackle the root causes of crime were also needed, adding: “Sadly, there is little sign that the Government will reverse their huge cuts to youth services, schools, councils and community facilities that caused crime to rise in the first place.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the announcement showed the Government was “delivering on the people’s priorities” and would mean “more officers tackling the crime blighting our streets, so people can feel safe in their communities”, adding: “The police must now make full use of this significant investment to deliver for the public.”

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said it was a “positive settlement for policing overall.

Roger Hirst, who leads on finance for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), said the news was “extremely welcome” while his deputy Paddy Tipping added: “This is a first step in building police numbers again.

“We need to recognise that it will take three years to get back to the level of officer numbers that existed in 2010.

“Many of the cost pressures we face, including cost of inflation and pay awards, will have to be met locally through the precept.

“Once again, it needs to be acknowledged that with different levels of precept and share of budget accounted for by council tax, the level to which forces benefit will vary from the precept increase.”