Publication of Police Funding Report
COMMITTEE QUESTIONS POLICE USE OF RESOURCE BOOST
Increased police funding does not appear to have impacted directly on crime levels, says a report from the Home Affairs Committee released today, Thursday 19 July 2007. Although there has been a significant decrease in crime (measured by the British Crime Survey) over the past decade, the Committee says it is âpuzzlingâ? that this occurred before any significant increase in funding or police officer numbers.
In the last decade the police have received a 40% real terms increase in funding. The Committee recognises that some resources have been diverted to major new tasks that have been effectively taken on by the police, but says this cannot fully explain the failure to improve conviction rates. The Committee says the Government's key crime reduction target, 'offences brought to justice', a large proportion of which has been made up of petty offences in the form of warnings, Cautions and Penalty Notices for Disorder, âis not a good indicator of success in relation to the types of crime which the public fear mostâ?. It recommends that âany revision of the target should place an emphasis on convictionsâ?.
The Committee questions the way police have used extra resources, saying it is âunacceptable that the significant recent increase in investment in the police is not being used to maximum effectâ?, with none of the 43 forces achieving the highest level âstrong performanceâ? rating in the recent Audit Commission assessment of police use of resources.
There is no precise or implemented framework of overall police productivity. This makes it difficult to judge the implications of any future shortfall in police funding following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), due to report later this year, which will determine Government spending for the years 2008-09 to 2010-11. The Committee recommends that the Government, with the police service and police authorities, place renewed effort into agreeing a comprehensive framework for assessing police productivity, allowing a clearer link to be drawn between investment and outcomes. During the CSR period the Government should allow the service to âdraw breathâ? and not introduce any non-essential new initiatives to allow police to consolidate and prioritise programmes, and should be specific about efficiencies it expects the police to make.
The Committee also recommends that the Government look again at whether it is appropriate for funding raised by police locally through the precept on Council Tax to remain âeffectively capped at 5% in line with other local authority budget increase limitsâ?.
While an accurate audit trail is obviously necessary, the Committee says the time police are spending on paperwork remains âunacceptably highâ?. About 20% of police officer time was spent on paperwork in each of the last three years, half of which was non-incident related. It recommends that Chief Constables urgently introduce technology such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) across all forces to save police officer time.
The Committee says the police have been slow to introduce shared services, which were identified in 2004 as a key element in improving police efficiency.
The great advantage of Police Community Support Officers is their visible and reassuring presence on the streets, dealing with lower-level crime and disorder. The Committee heard that in some cases PCSOs are being deployed in back office roles, rather than providing visible policing on the streets as was intended. It recommends that the Government conduct independent research into the scale of this problem as a matter of priority".
David Winnick MP, acting Chairman of the Committee, said:
âWe know the police have had a major increase in funding over the last decade but it is much more difficult to tell what they have done with it. Overall it doesn't seem to have been directly responsible for the reduction in crime or any increase in convictions. We can't judge properly whether these resources have been put to good use and therefore how great an impact a tighter funding settlement will have.
âIt does seem that the police are still spending too much time on paperwork and there is some evidence that Police Community Support Officers are being cloistered away in offices, when they should be out on the streets providing visible reassurance policingâ?.