UK

Call to end police funding 'shambles'

Police vehicle

An independent panel should assist the Home Office in devising a new funding formula for police forces in England and Wales, a committee of MPs has said.

A statistical error in October led some forces to wrongly assume they would be losing money for 2016-17, while others thought their budgets were to increase.

The Home Affairs Select Committee says it hopes its proposal will help remedy "the shambles we have seen so far".

The government said it would consider the recommendations carefully.

The amount of money each police force receives from the government is based on a funding formula, which assesses population size, social and economic factors, crime rates and other data.

Last month, the government delayed proposed changes to the way the money is allocated after acknowledging its plans had been based on flawed calculations.

It admitted the wrong set of figures had been used to decide deprivation levels within each police area.

In its report, the committee praises Devon and Cornwall Police and Andrew White, chief executive of the office of the force's police and crime commissioner, for exposing the statistical error.

Image caption The report said an independent panel should assist the Home Office with a new funding formula

Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said called it a "real David and Goliath situation".

"You have the might of the Home Office and all their economists, statisticians and senior civil servants - and there you have Devon and Cornwall, asking for data, paying for their own data and exposing the error," he said.

The Home Affairs Committee suggests a panel made up of auditors, accountants, statisticians and police policy experts assist the government to reach the new formula.

Out-of-date

Mr Vaz said the current police funding formula had become unfit for purpose, but the recent errors had "gravely damaged" the service's confidence in the creation of a new deal.

"Police forces found themselves on a rollercoaster, where at the stroke of a pen they saw their funding allocation plummet in some cases and rise meteorically in others, with nobody able to explain why," he added.

Chancellor George Osborne said in the Autumn Statement there would be no cuts to the police budget in real terms, and Mr Vaz said this gave the Home Office a "real opportunity".

"We hope the assistance and advice of external experts will deliver a fair and effective funding formula."

The committee said funding for police needed to recognise the "full range" of demands on forces.

It said this included specific local issues caused by policing airports and tourist areas; emerging offences such as cyber-crime, child exploitation and radicalisation; and counter-terrorism resources for all forces across the country.

Policing minister Mike Penning said: "The current model for allocating police funding is complex, opaque and out-of-date. That was why we consulted on principles for reform of funding arrangements...

"We have always said that we will only be successful in achieving our aim of building a fit-for-purpose and sustainable model with considerable input from policing partners. The government notes the committee's report and will respond formally in due course."

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