Home Office oblivious to impact of cuts, according to new National Audit Office report
The Home Office’s decision to take a light touch approach to overseeing police forces means it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable according to the latest report from official public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO).
This confirms concerns raised by Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, that Conservative Ministers have their “heads in the sand” on police cuts.
The report also finds that total funding to police forces, a combination of central government funding and council tax, has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010-11. The main way police forces have managed financial pressures is by reducing their workforce size. The total workforce across forces fell by 18% from a peak of 244,497 staff in March 2010 to 199,752 staff in March 2018.
The NAO says way the Department chooses to distribute funding has been ineffective and detached from the changing nature of policing for too long. Since 2010, funding has been reduced equally across all forces, with the Department failing to consider the full range of demands on police time, the efficiency of forces, levels of financial reserves and the ability of forces to raise funds locally through council tax.
Mr Morgan has previously written to the Home Secretary requesting a review of the distribution of police budgets, suggesting Portsmouth and Hampshire have been treated unfairly for too long.
The Home Secretary has said today that he doesn’t accept parts of the report.
Stephen Morgan MP, said:
“The Tories’ ignorance is no bliss for our dedicated police officers.
That the Home Secretary’s response to this report is effectively to dismiss it as fake news typifies the complacency rife in this Government. Hampshire has lost 1,000 officers and had the Constabulary budgets cut by millions. Our bobbies are disappearing and the ones left underpaid and overworked.
The report says the Home Office hasn’t properly measured the impact of these devastating cuts, but to be honest it’s no mystery as to why we’ve seen a rise in crime and fall in police morale in Portsmouth – as I’ve said to the PM directly, cuts have consequences and our communities are less safe as a result.”
Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing and Crime Minister, said:
“As violent crime surges and police resources are stretched to the limit, the Home Office has been relying on guesswork. Ministers haven’t got a clue whether or not forces are financially sustainable, if they are meeting their demands effectively or what the risk is to the public.
The Tories have long claimed that the police have the resources they need, but today’s report reveals that the Conservatives have been making this up all along. It is symptomatic of the utter contempt the Government has shown for the safety and security of the public throughout.”