Amid all the talk and speculation on what will be contained in today’s Autumn Budget, the Chancellor Philip Hammond must set clear direction for police funding to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to keep the public safe. This is the view of Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, who believes the current year-by-year approach to police budgets is inefficient and gives Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and chief constables little ability to effectively plan ahead.
“Chiefs and PCCs need to know what they’re going to get, not just next year, but in years two, three, four and five in order for them to properly plan,” said White. “The Government is already clear that policing needs to be even more efficient, but reform with at least a five-year funding strategy is needed for it to be sustainable.”
White echoed many in policing who have challenged the Government’s view that police budgets have been ‘protected’ between 2015 and 2020. “It’s all very well for politicians to say that funding is being protected, but the reality is there for all to see,” urged White. “The amount of money that police forces have to play with has gone down because inflation has gone up. It’s simple maths.”
The Police Federation’s chairman also challenged the idea that forces can simply tap in to reserves to plug the gap following recent comments made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Joint Summit.
“Of course forces have to keep something in reserve because they don’t know what’s around the corner or coming down the line in the next 12 months.”
However, White does appreciate the need for chief constables and PCCs to make clear to Government how additional funding would be spent, not just why it’s required. “There’s an opportunity for police leaders to provide a credible, evidence -based argument about why these additional resources are needed and where they would go.”
Finally, White made clear that PCCs, alongside chief constables, must challenge the Government for clear direction on police funding if it’s not forthcoming.
“If the Chancellor doesn’t set out any clear direction for police funding, PCCs and chief constables must put the pressure on Government to address this in the immediacy. If this doesn’t happen, officers and police staff will suffer with continued uncertainty and, ultimately, the public will suffer as well.”