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West Midlands Police Federation

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Home Office lacks long-term plan for policing

19 September 2018

Police forces are struggling to cope with the impact of the funding cuts – according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

And the Police Federation of England and Wales says the report just reinforces what it has been saying for some time.

The Audit Office accuses the Home Office of a ‘light touch approach’ to overseeing policing and states it is ‘ineffective and detached’ when it comes to distributing funding, meaning it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable.

John Apter, Federation national chair, says: “This report echoes what we have been saying for some time and must serve as a wake-up call to the Government. For too long it has turned a blind eye to the crisis in policing that has occurred on its watch and is of its own making.

“We’ve seen funding reduced across the board without consideration for the growing list of demands on police time, or the ability of forces to raise funds locally through council tax.

“Now we hear that the Home Office is so detached from reality that it does not know if policing is financially sustainable – and lacks a clear picture of the funding levels that are required to maintain the essential policing service that the public has a right to expect.

“The responsibility of any Government is to secure the safety of its public – for this government to sleep walk into this very predictable crisis is shameful.”

The NAO said there were early indications the sector is struggling to deliver an effective service and strong evidence the police are facing increased pressure compared to 2015. While it believes the level of pressure is currently manageable, it recognises that a number of forces are at high risk in terms of future resilience.

The report goes on to talk about the real term cuts to policing in the past few years – stating forces have managed financial pressures by reducing workforce sizes. Total funding to police forces, from central Government and council tax, has fallen by 19 per cent in real terms since 2010-11. Consequently, officer and support staff numbers are down 18 per cent, by almost 45,000 in the same period.

The report states: “The Home Office’s light touch approach to overseeing police forces means it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable. It lacks a long-term plan for policing and significant gaps remain in its understanding of demand for police services and their costs.

“The way the department chooses to distribute funding has been ineffective and detached from the changing nature of policing for too long, and it cannot be sure overall funding is being directed to the right places.

“With plans to reform the funding formula on hold, and no systematic approach to ensuring forces are financially sustainable, we cannot conclude that the Home Office’s oversight of the police system is value for money.”

And, it stated that as the Home Office was failing to measure all demands for police services it does not have the ability to allocate funding in a way that fairly takes account of forces’ local circumstances.

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