The Home Office does not have enough information to understand how funding cuts are currently impacting individual police forces, or how further funding reductions will impact service delivery, the National Audit Office has concluded.
A report by the public spending watchdog, published this morning, finds that while the Home Office has reduced funding to police and crime commissioners by £2.3bn since 2010, it does not know how the cuts have affected individual police forces, or how much further it can reduce funding “without degrading services”.
While the Home Office has overall accountability for the police forces, the department relies on HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to assess the effectiveness of police forces across England and Wales. Currently, HMIC provides thematic information on policing areas based on data provided by police forces, who decide what information to collect and monitor in their area.
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However, the watchdog says the current information provided is “insufficient” and does not “identify signs of the sector being unable to deliver services”.
"While forces and police and crime commissioners are responsible for demonstrating value for money locally, the department is ultimately responsible for overseeing the police, distributing funding and assuring parliament that forces are providing money. The department needs to be better informed to discharge this role," the NAO's report says.
"It needs to work with HMIC, the College [the College of Policing], commissioners and forces to fill the significant gaps in understanding, particularly around demand and on when forces may be at risk of failing to meet the policing needs.”
The report also points out that while the Home Office is reviewing its funding distribution system, the funding formula used up to 2013-14 does not take into account “all of the demands on police time, relative efficiency of forces, levels of reserves or the proportion of central government to police precept funding”.
This blanket approach has been branded “unequal” and “broken” by commissioners, the report says.
Responding to the report's findings, policing minister Mike Penning said the government's reforms were working and defended the state of police resources.
“There is no question that the police still have the resources to do their important work. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has made clear that the police are successfully meeting the challenge of balancing their books while protecting the frontline and delivering reductions in crime.
“The government has committed to a fundamental review of the police funding formula to ensure that allocations to local forces are fair and appropriate. We will consult police forces fully in due course.”