Police Finances - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The current confusion about what constitutes the front line in the police service is unhelpful, especially given the frequency with which this term is used by those involved in the debate about the service's future. Police forces are being asked to prioritise the front line; it is only reasonable that the Home Office specifies what it means by this term. We urge the Home Office to work with the police service to produce an agreed definition of front line, middle office and back office police roles as soon as possible. (Paragraph 11)

2.  Although data collection from all 43 police forces in England and Wales is not yet complete and there is still uncertainty about the precise figures involved, it is expected that there will be significantly fewer police officers, police community support officers and police staff as a result of the savings being required of police forces over the next four years. We accept that there is no simple relationship between numbers of police officers and levels of crime. The reduction in the police workforce need not inevitably lead to a rise in crime. However, the loss of posts will have an impact on the range of services that the police provide and the way in which they are provided. The primary mission of the police is to prevent crime and disorder. In order to fulfil this mission in the immediate future, police forces will have to cut back on some of the activities that they currently undertake. In the context of reducing police numbers, it will clearly be crucial that police forces manage the time of police officers and police staff in the most efficient and effective way possible. In particular, we would like to see an end to unnecessary bureaucracy and encourage the Government to continue taking urgent steps to achieve this. (Paragraph 13)

3.  Given that the vast majority of the police budget is spent on the workforce, the proportion of savings that can be made through better procurement will necessarily be relatively modest. However, even a modest contribution is better than none and we remain interested in the idea that more co-ordinated procurement offers scope for forces to save money. We are disappointed that the National Policing Improvement Agency, which has as one of its statutory objectives the provision of support to forces on procurement, has not already got to grips with the issue of procurement, although we accept that in some important areas, such as the procurement of IT systems, it is as important to achieve integration of systems and consistency of approach as it is to cut the direct costs of equipment. We will return to this in detail when we look at the new landscape of policing. As the National Policing Improvement Agency is due to be phased out by spring 2012, we urge the Home Office to clarify as soon as possible who will be responsible for driving better procurement in its absence. (Paragraph 16)

4.  It is clear that some witnesses were concerned that reductions in the police budget are being front-loaded in the first two years. The greatest savings are being required when the transition from Police Authorities to Police and Crime Commissioners is scheduled to take place and when police forces nationwide will be under the additional pressure of policing the Olympics. We urge the Home Office to acknowledge that there are risks involved in this transition. Police and Crime Commissioners will have to deal with budgetary decisions that they have inherited rather than made. The Home Office should, as soon as possible, set out how the transition should be managed. (Paragraph 21)

5.  The complexity of the formula leads to fragility which in turn makes the outcome unpredictable. Ministers in successive Administrations have sought to improve the formula, but with limited success. Each year there are cries of pain from the losers while, unsurprisingly, little is heard from the winners. Police forces need a system that offers long-term predictability in order to be able to plan more effectively, especially at a time of reduced income. (Paragraph 25)

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Prepared 23 February 2011