Statistics watchdog rebukes Theresa May over police funding claims
Labour has demanded an apology from Theresa May after the official statistics watchdog said her claims on police funding could have misled the public.
The UK Statistics Authority - which has rapped Boris Johnson over his use of numbers about Brexit in the past - also rebuked Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and the Home Office.
Back in February the Prime Minister told the Commons local police budgets were seeing a £450m funding boost during a rowdy session of Prime Minister’s Questions.
The claim was repeated by Ms Leadsom in a letter and in tweets by the Home Office.
But stats boss David Norgrove said up to £270m of the cash would come from council tax only if mayors and police and crime commissioners choose to raise the sums.
“The Prime Minister’s statement and the Home Office’s tweet could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central government is providing an additional £450m for police spending in 2018/19,” he said in a letter to Labour MP Louise Haigh.
“In addition, the leader of the House of Commons stated that the £270m that can be raised locally was on top of the overall settlement of up to £450m.”
He said the complex funding arrangements were tough to explain during PMQs due to the “time compressed context” - but suggested the Home Office and Ms Leadsom should have done better.
Ms Haigh fumed: “The Prime Minister should apologise for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes on Tory cuts to policing.”
She explained that on top of the council tax sums, some £130m of the £450m was for “national police priorities” rather than local forces while £50m was for counter-terrorism funding.
She added: “The Tories are not being straight with the public on police funding and now they have been found out.
“You would hope this embarrassing slapdown would now shame the Conservatives into being honest about their dismal record on policing.
“With 21,000 officers gone and billions cut in real terms, it’s time the government stopped taking the public for fools.”
'AS CLEAR AS POSSIBLE'
The Home Office said: “The police funding settlement for 2018/19 that we set out delivers an increase in overall police funding.
“We aim to be as clear as possible in communicating it to the public and have repeatedly said that around £270m of the up to £450m increase in police funding next year results from increased council tax precept income, which is dependent on police and crime commissioners’ decisions.
“Since the funding settlement, almost all police and crime commissioners have decided to use this flexibility to raise extra precept income.”