Chancellor George Osborne has today published the results of the Government’s comprehensive Spending Review, including details of the Home Office’s security and policing budget allocation over the course of this Parliament.
The Spending Review and Autumn Statement sets out a four-year plan specifically designed to tackle the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the existing debt.
By ensuring Britain’s long-term economic security, the Government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next four years. For the Home Office, this means that overall police spending is protected in real terms over the Spending Review period to enable the police service to continue to adapt to emerging crime threats and train more firearms officers while at the same time taking further steps towards improving efficiencies.
There will be £500 million of increased funding for the counter-terrorism budget and over £1.3 billion of capital investment to 2019-2020 in order to deliver state-of-the-art security at the border and a streamlined core department, as well as an additional £1 billion for overhauling the Emergency Services network.
Resource savings of 5% are planned by 2019-2020 thanks to a fully self-funded borders and immigration system, with total reductions of 30% in the Home Office’s administration budget when compared to 2015-2016.
Focusing on security
As stated, the Government will protect overall police spending in real terms over the Spending Review period, representing an increase of £900 million cash by 2019-2020. This provides funding to maintain overall police force budgets at current cash levels.
The Conservatives will allocate additional transformation funding to those forces which have strong proposals to support efficiency and reform and to help transition towards new funding arrangements in the future. Again, as stated this funding will also allow forces to train more firearms officers to ensure the country extends its capability around protecting its citizens from today’s myriad terrorist threats.
The Government will also protect the National Crime Agency’s budget as it leads UK law enforcement’s fight to cut serious and organised crime. In addition, the Government is set to provide new capital investment of over £200 million to “transform” the National Crime Agency into a world-leading law enforcement body, with new digital and investigative capabilities designed to tackle cyber crime and the distribution of criminal finances.
The planned £500 million investment in counter-terrorism funding increases the capability of the police service to pursue terrorists, counter poisonous ideologies on home shores and ensure that the UK is properly prepared in the event of an attack. Additional capability includes a new National Digital Exploitation Service, upgraded border intelligence systems, enhanced intelligence coverage in prisons, an improved ability to share biometrics data with the UK’s counter-terrorism partners overseas and increased aviation security both at UK and international airports.
Over £460 million of the overseas aid budget will be used by 2019-2020 to resettle up to 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, covering the full first year costs to ease the burden on local communities. The Government has also pledged to provide around a further £130 million to local authorities by 2019-2020 by way of contributing towards the costs of supporting refugees beyond their first year of residence here in the UK.
Efficiency and reform
The Conservative Government is going to invest nearly £1 billion in new mobile digital technology through the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme. The eventually enhanced network will enable officers to access key police databases, take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements and stream live body-worn video also while on the move.
This new network is going to cut costs for the taxpayer (saving an estimated £1 million per day when fully operational), free-up police officers’ capacity and connect all Emergency Services on the same broadband network for the very first time.
The Government will also support police forces to adopt a more collaborative approach towards purchasing common items such as police uniforms and vehicles on a regional or national level so as to secure a better deal through economies of scale which themselves are forecast to save a significant £350 million over the course of this Parliament.
Around £600 million of overall border, immigration and citizenship system costs are currently funded by the Exchequer (in addition to customs and asylum support costs). By investing in streamlined and automated processes, saving time for immigration officials and border officers alike, this funding requirement will be more than halved.
For example, the Government is to invest over £250 million in enabling passports and visas to be processed online. The remainder will be funded through targeted visa fee increases which will remove the burden on the UK taxpayer while at the same time ensuring the UK remains a competitive place in which to work, travel and study on the international stage.
At the same time, new investments such as £130 million more for automated passport E-Gates, ‘Watch List’ and intelligence technology development will tighten security while also keeping queuing times to a minimum.
Importantly, spending on maritime security will be protected, in turn maintaining the UK’s strong defences against the importation of dangerous goods.
For its part, the Home Office will continue to drive down overall administration costs, with a 30% reduction equating to over £100 million of departmental savings by 2019-2020.
Devolution for the police service
The Government will offer Police and Crime Commissioners “greater flexibility” in their local funding decisions by rewarding areas which have historically kept council taxes low, working all the while with police leaders to ensure the police have the necessary powers to maximise workforce flexibility and capabilities.
Speaking about George Osborne’s detailed plans, Home Secretary Theresa May explained: “Over the next four years, this Government will increase the counter-terrorism budget by £500 million and invest £130 million in state-of-the-art technology at the UK border. A further £250 million investment will be used to transform the immigration system by making passport applications digital, streamlining the visa process and better identifying those who are here on an illegal basis.”
May continued: “The Chancellor and I have agreed what we believe to be a fair deal for the police service. This settlement gives chief constables and Police and Crime Commissioners immediate certainty that police spending will be protected in real terms over the Spending Review period when local precept income is taken into account. This includes extra investment to continue the job of police reform which we began during the last Parliament.”
The Home Secretary added: “We will invest £1 billion to link up the Emergency Services and provide new funding to drive closer collaboration between police forces on specialist capabilities like firearms and cyber crime. The public should be reassured that the police will have the resources they need to respond to new threats on a rapid basis.”
In conclusion, Theresa May said: “Police reform is working. Crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010 – to the lowest level ever recorded – even as budgets have been reduced by one fifth. There can be no doubt that, with continued reform, the police service will be able to drive more efficiency and ensure even less crime over the next five-year period.”