Police expenditure, 1999-2009

Helen Mills, Arianna Silvestri and Roger Grimshaw
Thursday, 13 May 2010

Spending on the police in England and Wales grew by nearly 50 per cent between 1999 and 2009, according to a report published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. Police expenditure 1999-2009, the first independent study of police authority spending over the last decade, found that police expenditure grew in real terms from £9.83 billion in 1998/1999 to £14.55 billion in 2008/2009. It also found that much of the burden of this rise fell on local council taxpayers, rather than the Home Office.

The report will be required reading for policy makers, chief constables, police authorities, local government officials, journalists and anyone with an interest in public finances and the proper use of taxpayers' money.

Police expenditure 1999-2009 highlights the following:

  • Police authority expenditure since 1998/1999 has grown by 48 per cent in real terms.
  • This spending increase has been sustained by significant increases to council tax precepts. From 2003/04 onwards council tax has met around a fifth of police revenue expenditure.
  • Capital expenditure, though only about five per cent of total spending, more than doubled in real terms over the decade.
  • By far the major portion of the increased spending - just over three quarters - has been devoted to staffing expenditure, with rising numbers across the different staff sectors.
  • Overtime payments have risen by approximately 90 per cent.
  • In 2009 there were a record 142,151 police officers; 15,337 more than in 1998. The proportionate growth in civilian staff, including police community support offices, has outstripped that of police officers.
  • Influential MPs as well as chief constables have expressed doubts about the wisdom of ever-rising officer recruitment when the value gained from past increases remains uncertain.

Dr Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and co-author of the report, said:

'Central government has favoured increased recruitment of police officers but at the same time civilian staff have grown even more. When chief constables query the value of police officer recruitment, how can we be sure about the right balance of spending on employees? Will politicians' pledges to protect the `frontline' mean cuts in the back office functions? What role will police community support officers play in the future?'

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said:

'Spending has gone up by nearly a half but the value of this huge increase is much harder to pin down. We now have the largest police service ever. Yet there seems to be no clear rationale behind this incremental growth, nor a clear measure of its success. Is there a point in having a `reserve army' of this magnitude? Now more than ever we need a public debate about priorities and choices'.