Amidst growing pressure to allocate more resources for police across the UK, at a time when many police forces are struggling to meet the demands placed on them by current crime rates, in January 2020 the government made a welcome announcement on funding for the police system.
For the period of 2020-21, the amount of police funding available could increase by more than £1.1 billion. This is the biggest funding increase in a decade, representing an increase of just under 10% on the core (resource) grant provided for police forces last year.
However, the responsibility lies with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to effectively utilise the flexibility provided by the Home Office to access funds and deliver a reduction in crime.
How is the funding broken down?
This funding isn’t entirely “new”. The amount includes the £750 million announced last year, to support officer recruitment targets.
However, £700 million of this will go directly to PCCs, while the remaining £50 million will be spent nationally to improve recruitment and training processes. With this £700 million, PCCs are expected to have recruited 6,000 more officers by March 2021.
Funding continues to be ringfenced for counter-terrorism, with the increase including £24 million to increase specialised firearms officers. This has been referred to as the ‘firearms uplift’.
Additional money is being pumped into other existing national priorities, building on the previous year spend, including for police technology and National Capability Programmes.
What do PCCs need to do?
£81 million has been made available in the form of Special Grant funding, which police forces can apply for if they need to cover costs of unexpected events and major investigations.
However, in terms of government grants more broadly, PCCs will have access to £667 million more than the previous year.
While the bulk of funding will come from these grants, around one third of funding comes from the police precept, and this is where PPCs’ power now lies. For 2020-21, PCCs in England have the flexibility to increase local funding, by setting the council tax referendum limit to £10 for a typical (Band D) property. The precept is made up of their share of council tax, and so by making the most of this flexibility, current forecasts show funding could increase by £248 million.
PCCs must consult local electorates on any proposed change, and as part of this, they should lay out plans for how the increase in funds will feed directly into investments that result in better police services.
For the average household facing this increase, it would mean around 20 pence per week more is paid as part of their council tax.
What’s happening outside England?
Welsh police forces will also need to consult local electorates before raising any precept funding. While policing is a source of devolution confusion, PCCs in Wales do have the same eligibility to do this.
In recent years, Welsh forces have chosen to increase funding in this way, though not all have opted to meet the full amount available. The changes have meant an increase of 19 pence per week for some households, but up to 29 pence for others.
The devolution of policing in Scotland is much clearer, with forces directly funded by the Scottish government and no council-tax raising powers. While this may appear stifling compared to the latest powers granted to police peers elsewhere, local authorities across Scotland are able to allocate some of their general budgets to funding policing priorities, and so forces in Scotland may look to have more influence in this space.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) cannot increase funds through local taxes, and instead bids for capital from its central funder, the Westminster Treasury.
Shifting Power: From Patel to the PCCs
In reference to this January funding announcement, the Home Secretary Priti Patel emphasised the significant role that PCCs must play going forward.
Having highlighted that this is the “biggest funding increase in a decide (for policing)”, Patel stated the responsibility is now with police to “make full use of this significant investment to deliver for the public.”
More money means more “bobbies on the beat” so that everyone can feel safe in their communities.
This article was written by Lauren Powell, Portfolio Lead, IG Criminal Justice Hub