Multi-year funding settlement needed to rescue policing
It is “deeply unfair” for communities to be caught in the middle of a postcode lottery of policing with a two-tier system where wealthier communities have more money available for local policing, says John Apter | Credit: PA Images
The Government must consider multi-year funding deals, akin to the NHS, if it is to reverse years of damaging cuts, says the Police Federation of England as Wales – echoing the chief inspector of constabulary’s calls.
Last week, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor has published his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2019.
The comprehensive report calls on the Home Office to review its outdated funding formula, highlights there are still “serious weaknesses” in the provision for mental health services and says levels of service don’t always meet public expectations as officers struggle with demand.
Sir Winsor also pressed the need for an end to one-year financial settlements, suggesting rolling three-year programmes, adjusted each year, which would be an “enormous aid to strategic planning”.
He warned if the Government does not take steps to overhaul the system more forces will be left with little choice but to apply for Home Office special grant funding (usually reserved for unexpected and exceptional policing demands) “simply to make ends meet”.
Responding to the report PFEW National Chair John Apter said: “Much of this report is what we have been calling for and warning about for many years – it doesn’t take a crystal ball to realise you get less with less. Our incredible officers are doing an increasingly difficult job with fewer resources from policing a pandemic to picking up the pieces of an underfunded mental health service.
“My frustrated colleagues endlessly chase their tails despite doing their utmost best – but they simply cannot do everything they once could.”
At the end of March 2019, there were 20,564 fewer police officers and 15,185 fewer police staff than there were at the same point in 2010, whilst the population of England and Wales has grown from 55.7 million to 59.4 million during this period.
He continued: “The Government must urgently review its funding formula to enable forces to plan for the future effectively. Boom-and-bust recruitment, short-term, one-year financial settlements do not work, and forces shouldn’t have to operate on a ‘hand-to-mouth’ basis.
“Over the last decade the police service has been hit hard by budget cuts and it needs more than a one-year cash injection to put things right.”
Mr Apter added it is also “deeply unfair” for communities to be caught in the middle of a postcode lottery of policing with a two-tier system where wealthier communities have more money available for local policing.
The reported added demand is outstripping supply and the 20,000-officer uplift programme that the Federation welcomes but requiring 54,000 people to be recruited and trained over the three-year period, will not close this gap.
Mr Apter continued: “Whilst the support from the Home Secretary and Policing Minister to initiate the uplift programme is very welcome - we need reassurance that the Government will fund years two and three of this programme and see this through to the end.
“I completely accept that as a result of the current crisis the Government has financial pressures, but policing must be a priority and a genuine increase of 20,000 officers is essential so my colleagues can keep the public safe. However, whilst the increase will help ease the pressure, it is not a panacea and will only bring us back to where we were before damaging cuts were made.
“The Government must make a significant, long-term investment to give police the boost they need to better protect the communities they serve,” he concluded.