Police forces 'spending £120 per baton and £630 per helmet', claim Labour

A freedom of information request submitted by Labour found that it costs £100 more to buy a police baton in one area than in other areas.

England, London, Parliament Square, Riot police and public order police, helmet and baton.
Labour claims that the price of police batons varies greatly by area. (PA)

Labour have described the varying cost of vital police equipment in neighbouring areas as “extraordinary”, as the party revealed plans for extra funding.

A freedom of information request submitted by Labour found that it costs £100 more to buy a police baton in one area, compared to the price in nearby parts of the country. Meanwhile, some forces are paying up to £630 for a single motorcycle helmet, according to the figures published in The Times.

Labour’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said she “couldn’t believe it” when she saw the figures. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Labour would adjust the procurement nationally and use the money saved to spend on employing 13,000 police officers.

She told the programme: “Each of the individual 43 police forces buy their equipment individually so it means they are paying difference prices. You won’t believe it. I couln’t believe it when I heard it.

London, UK, 22nd March 2024. Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry is being interviewed in Westminster during the morning media round. Credit: Thomas Krych/Alamy Live News
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry described the figures as ‘extraordinary’. (PA)

“So for example if you want to buy a standard baton in Leicestershire it costs £20 – but if you want to buy it in Northamptonshire it costs £120.”

Thornberry also highlighted the £27,000 cost for a high performance car in Lancashire, compared to £55,000 in Merseyside.

She added: “There is an independent police foundation, which is a think tank – they’ve said if you adjusted your procurement nationally we would save £700 million. This is extraordinary.”

The figures show that a motorcycle helmet ranged from £467.49 in Derbyshire to £628.50 in Staffordshire. Mobile phones cost £345 in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, compared to £480 in Wiltshire. Meanwhile the cost of extracting data from a mobile phone in a 28-day period – vital for police investigations – is nearly five times higher in Derbyshire (£5,100) than in Staffordshire (£1,100).

Yahoo News UK has contacted the Home Office, Northamptonshire Police and Staffordshire Police for a comment.

For the most recent financial year, funding has increased for policing in England and Wales, with figures showing an increase by up to £556 million in the year up to March 2024. This represents a 3.3% increase from the previous financial year.

The government says that funding has grown in real terms for the last nine consecutive years, following a previous decline between March 2011 and 2015.

Public spending on the police service in the UK rose to £25.3bn, following a fall from £19.3bn to £16.35bn between 2009/10 and 2013/14 due to government austerity.

However, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said police are facing severe funding pressures and a cash shortfall in the billions. Gavin Stephens said policing was still recovering from the austerity programme and that redundancies felt by police community support officers (PCSOs) and administrative workers meant frontline officers were having to fill the roles – taking them off the streets.

Public sector expenditure on the police service in the United Kingdom from 2009/10 to 2022/23. (Statista)
Public sector expenditure on the police service in the United Kingdom from 2009/10 to 2022/23. (Statista)

He said: “Effectively, the pain of the budgetary pressures are felt by police staff. So hence the fact that we’ve got 4,000 staff vacancies and we’ve got 6,000 police officers that are in roles that should be done by police staff.”

Meanwhile, public service union Unison last year predicted that police forces face a £700m budget shortfall by 2026. The worst affected force would be the Met Police, who would face a £282m shortfall in two years time, followed by West Midlands Police (£34m) and Kent Police (£31m), according to Unison.

The union said: “Severe cuts to police budgets will leave many forces unable to protect communities or bring criminals to justice... These figures are yet another warning sign that policing is in deep crisis.”

A policeman walking away from an elderly person's home.
Policing is still yet to recover from years of austerity, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council. (Getty)

A rise in shoplifting appears to show the pressures on police resources. Although many types of theft have declined since the start of 2020, shoplifting has continued to rise with more than 402,000 offences committed in the year to September 2023 – equivalent to one every 80 seconds. Labour said figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed charges for shoplifting had fallen by around 16% since 2018.

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 states that for any shoplifting offence less than £200, it should be treated as a summary offence – meaning someone caught would be given a penalty notice fine of just £70 – without facing an arrest or the thief having to turn up at magistrates.