'Deplorable' errors in police funding formula

Monday, 14 December 2015

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has criticised the Home Office for serious errors made in the review of the police funding formula. In a report published on Friday 11 December, the committee said;

It is deplorable that Home Office officials made errors in calculating the funding allocations for police force areas. The Minister was right to apologise to the House for the mistake. However, the Home Office was wrong not to have made a Statement to Parliament and wrong to have suggested that it was not an Urgent matter to be dealt with on the same day in the House. 

The review is currently under a 'pause' and during this period, the committee has recommended that an independent panel is appointed to assist the Home Office in formulating revised proposals. The report also brings together perspectives on drivers of police demand. The Home Office, for example, has a somewhat narrow view on the drivers of crime;

The Home Office consultation identified six key drivers of crime: alcohol; drugs; character; opportunity; the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System (CJS); and profit.

Issues are raised about the significant 'non-crime' demands placed on the police, and the impact of cuts to other public services. 

We were told that the vast majority of police time is spent dealing with non-crime incidents, and received a wide range of figures for the proportion of demand that was related to this. West Yorkshire Police and PCC said 67% of their demand was other non-crime issues; for South Wales Police it was 89%; and others gave the range of 70% to 80%. The types of non-crime related incidents described to us included: public safety and welfare, such as dealing with vulnerable people, people with mental health problems and with missing persons; child protection and safeguarding; public reassurance and protection; anti-social behaviour; and transport and road related matters."

Vera Baird, Northumbria PCC, told us that there had been a “withdrawal and reduction in service provision, which in turn, is having an impact on police demand”, South Wales Police said this meant “the police are often regarded as the service of last resort”

The committee says that the Home Office must "demonstrate that it understands these wider demands on the police, and that they are not only 'crime fighters'", and recommends that an indicator for non-crime demand be included in the new funding formula. This is so that police forces can assess what their crime and non-crime demand is. This would also allow them to influence other Government Departments who should be responsible for helping to reduce these other demands on the police.

A copy of the press statement and the report is available from the Home Affairs Committee web page.