Home Office staff 'made errors' over police funding plan

Police officers wearing hi-vis jackets in Manchester

"Structural and managerial changes" at the Home Office are being considered following botched plans to reform police funding in England and Wales.

Home Office Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill said several staff made "errors of analysis and judgment".

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 department has postponed its plans, admitting mistakes in its calculations.

In a letter to the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, Mr Sedwill said the internal review found that officials and analysts had "insufficient understanding" of technical issues, data, policy issues and context.

The errors will be addressed in the officials' performance appraisals, he added. He is also considering making structural and managerial changes as part of the modernisation of the department's central functions, he said in the letter.

'Beggars belief'

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.

The error stemmed from two separate sets of data being given near-identical file names.

In the letter, Mr Sedwill also apologised to Mr Vaz "for the error and its disruptive impact".

Mr Vaz said: "It beggars belief that a serious review of the police funding formula was foiled by the identical names of data files, and a complete lack of understanding among analysts and policy officials of the review process.

"Mark Sedwill is right to consider major managerial and structural changes after these serious problems, and we look forward to hearing further details in due course."

He has said the current police funding formula had become unfit for purpose, but the recent errors had "gravely damaged" confidence in the creation of a new deal.

Police grants cut

It comes as the Home Office said that government grant funding to police in England and Wales is to be cut by 2.2% in real terms in 2016/17.

Local police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are expected to make up the shortfall through council tax rises.

When all funding is taken into account, the actual cut to the £7.6 billion total grant amounts to 0.5% in cash terms, or 2.2% after inflation, the Home Office said.

However, PCCs will see a 0.5% increase in their overall cash budgets in 2016/17 if they take action to maximise the amount they receive from council tax in what is known as the "police precept", the Home Office said.

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