In Brief

Home Office told to ‘get a grip’ on police funding

Damning National Audit Office report criticises department’s ‘ineffective and detached’ approach

Police forces are struggling to deliver an effective service as a result of excessive cuts in Home Office funding that have led to 45,000 job losses in less than a decade, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has warned.

According to a damning new report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Home Office “does not know” whether the police system in England and Wales is “financially sustainable”. The current approach to police funding is “ineffective and detached” from the “changing demands faced by officers”, the watchdog adds.

The report says that overall funding to forces has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010-11. Arrest rates and victim satisfaction levels have also declined dramatically, alongside reductions in the percentage of crimes resulting in charges or summons, falling from 15% in March 2015 to 9% in March 2018. Meanwhile, gang violence is rising.

And the time it took to charge an offence increased from 14 days to 18 days between March 2016 and 2018, the NAO found.

Sir Amyas Morse, head of the independent parliamentary body, said: “There are signs that forces are already experiencing financial strain and struggling to deliver effective services to the public.

“If the Home Office does not understand what is going on it will not be able to direct resources to where they are needed, with the risk that the situation could get worse.”

Meg Hillier, chairman of the Commons Committee of Public Accounts, added: “The Government does not seem to understand the impact of this on local policing. The Home Office needs to get a grip on police funding to make sure it is not only sustainable, but also that funding is getting to where it is most needed.”

The Times notes that recently released “figures showed that hundreds of thousands of domestic burglaries, vehicle thefts and shoplifting cases are closed without a suspect being identified”. An internal Home Office report in November “concluded that the police were facing increased pressure in meeting demand for their services, fuelled partially by the terrorist threat and a rise in sexual offences, which are more costly to investigate”, the newspaper adds.

Responding to the NAO report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Our decision to empower locally accountable police and crime commissioners to make decisions using their local expertise does not mean we do not understand the demands on forces.

“The report does not recognise the strengths of PCCs and chief constables leading on day-to-day policing matters, including on financial sustainability.”

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