Newly-installed Policing Minister Mike Penning has announced bold plans to reform the current arrangements for allocating central Government funding to the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
The Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead since 2005 described the current police funding model – the Police Allocation Formula (PAF) – as “complex, opaque and out of date” as he launched consultation on the new proposals which would enable funding to be provided sustainably to, and divided fairly between, current Police and Crime Commissioners.
Following a comprehensive review of the PAF, which is now almost a decade old, the Home Office believes that the formula should be replaced by a simplified model as soon as it’s appropriate to do so. The proposed new model would use population levels, the underlying characteristics of that population and environmental characteristics in order to determine how monies are allocated going forward.
The prime intention is to create a fairer and more transparent method of allocating financial resources.
In 2015-2016, core Government grant funding to the police service will be in the region of £7.8 billion, which represents 90% of the overall Police Grant Settlement.
Mike Penning – whose full title in the new Conservative Government is Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims – commented: “Police reform is working. Over the last five years, front line services have been protected, public confidence in the police service has risen and, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales, crime has fallen by more than a quarter. However, if we want policing in this country to be the best it can be then we must reform further, and that includes putting police funding on a long-term and sustainable footing.”
Penning added: “The current model for allocating police funding is both complex and outdated. This Home Office consultation sets out proposals to deliver a police funding model for the future which is fair, robust and transparent. I would urge people to share their views.”
The Home Office consultation seeks views on the principles underpinning the proposed funding model, including what transitional arrangements would be needed if the new formula were to be implemented in time for the 2016-2017 financial year (subject to securing broad support).
The consultation does not consider the wider policy of reallocating money from the core Police Grant, for example to the Police Innovation Fund and central policing bodies, and neither does it take into account the overall total or allocation of the Counter-Terrorism Grant which the new Conservative Government has ring-fenced.
Government “must do more” to support the police service
In parallel with the consultation’s launch, Government ministers are now being urged to work with the police service as much as possible to make sure that adequate resources are in place to bolster public safety.
The Police Federation of England and Wales’ chairman Steve White has stated the Government needs to converse in detail with those who know and care about policing to ensure that resources are in place to tackle all types of crime.
White was speaking after the Home Office published figures showing that police numbers are down by 1.1% (or 2,222 officers) over the year to the end of March, while the Office for National Statistics’ own results highlight the fact that police recorded crime has jumped by 3% over the same period.
“The bottom line,” urged White, “is that police officer numbers are still falling while certain types of crime are displaying a somewhat worrying rise. Statistics suggest that more officers are on the front line but the danger is that forces are merely robbing Peter to pay Paul as other areas of policing suffer. If there are fewer officers it means that fewer crimes are going to be dealt with, fewer criminals are going to have their collars felt and fewer victims are going to receive the justice they deserve.”
White continued: “There needs to be a widespread and full debate about the shrinking numbers of officers and staff available to forces and how the service can best use the dwindling resources available. We’re particularly concerned about the slow death of neighbourhood policing that we’re seeing in forces across England and Wales. With dwindling resources, the link between officers and the public they serve is in danger of being broken. At a time of heightened terrorist threats and with pressures increasing on officers from across the spectrum of crime, it’s incumbent upon the Government to ensure that forces have adequate resources in place to meet these challenges.”
Responding specifically to the Office for National Statistics figures showing a rise in knife crime, sexual offences, assaults and violent crime, White added: “More needs to be done to capture the full picture of crime rates. Aside from the worrying rises in certain crime types, these statistics do not take account of all crime nor do they take account of all the other vital work that officers do including counter-terrorism work, monitoring sex offenders, child protection, policing football matches and much, much more.”
In conclusion, White explained: “Crime is changing and, for the first time, we’re seeing statistics that show online crime such as fraud is increasing. What about other online crimes such as identity theft and online child sexual exploitation? These are just a few examples of cyber crimes on the rise but that are vastly under-reported. More needs to be done to provide forces with proper resources to allow them to serve the public as effectively as possible.”
‘Re-imagining’ policing in the UK
Meanwhile, chief constable Sara Thornton – leader of the National Police Chiefs’ Council – has argued that the twin challenges of changing requirements and cost pressures necessarily mean that there’s a need to “think imaginatively and radically” about policing into the future.
Speaking to an invited audience at the Police Foundation, Thornton stated that the service must be focused on realising the right outcomes for the public which will inevitably entail better demand management, a commitment to evidence-based policing, further integration with other organisations and a constant emphasis on legitimacy.
It’s clear that very different workforce skills and a change in leadership culture will be needed.
In her speech that formed the Police Foundation’s 2015 John Harris Memorial Lecture, Thornton said: “The pressures of changing requirements and significant reductions in the policing budget demand different approaches. This requires fresh thinking and determined leadership. The establishment of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in April has realised an opportunity to reset the way in which chief officers work together. We have been asked to contribute our ideas and we are up for the debate involving members of the public, elected representatives and our staff such that we can inform the ‘re-imagination’ of policing.”
Dr Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation, responded by stating: “The police service is under unprecedented pressure, having to deal simultaneously with financial austerity and changing patterns of crime. The police service needs to better understand the changing nature of demand on its time. The rise of cyber crime and growing concern about child sexual exploitation in particular requires a wholly different kind of policing. This year’s annual Police Foundation lecture provides a timely opportunity to reflect on these challenges and consider how the police service, the Government and citizens can work together in order to meet them.”