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Home Office urged to speed up forces funding review

Political leaders have urged the Home Office to get on with reforming how forces are funded.

Police and Crime Commissioners have been told that a new technical body is due to begin work on agreeing a new way of funding forces.

This will include analysis of a consultation with local government and Police and Crime Commissioners which closed this month.

But the Home Office has already warned the new system could be at least two years away from implementation.

Suffolk’s PCC, Tim Passmore, has been a persistent critic of the current system and spent years lobbying for the funding arrangements to be replaced.

He told Police Oracle: “I am pleased to hear the government has set a timetable for the review of police funding, although we have not been informed of the detail at this stage.”

Critics across policing and local government – which has to include the police precept in council tax bills – say changes in population and crime demands are not reflected in the annual Home Office grants.

Some forces are getting less than they need to meet new pressures.

Mr Passmore said: “I have made no secret of the fact that I find the current system extremely unfair and have pledged to fight for fairer funding. 

"Suffolk Constabulary polices the ninth largest county area in England, and while the population is small compared to some policing areas, the rurality of the area and sparsity of the population, present challenges for policing visibility and emergency response, and it is crucially important this is considered in the new funding formula.”

The government’s discussions are part of wider reviews of how funding for local services is raised and allocated.

Local authorities and education grants are also being re-assessed by Whitehall departments. Those reviews have also raised further problems.

Local government minister Kemi Badenoch told local government finance chiefs earlier this month the government wanted to ensure the unique circumstances of local areas “are fully understood”.

She said: “We’re not treating you as a homogenous block – that would be ridiculous.”

The other problem is that the funding formulas for both councils and police forces are calculated using information that in some cases is decades-old.

“We want to ensure that funding allocations are based on an up-to-date assessment of needs and resources,” said Kemi Badenoch.

“One challenge is that the data used to make this assessment has not been updated in several years – a lot of it is coming from 2013/14, nearly 10 years ago, and some even as far back as the turn of the millennium.”

Although the Home Office has accepted the problems, it isn’t hurrying to fix them.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse told the Commons: "We are committed to coming up with a new funding formula for policing. The formula we use at the moment is a little bit elderly, a bit creaky. We hope to be able to run formula before the next election."

Tim Passmore agreed the current process was no longer fit for purpose: “The funding settlement should properly consider equity between forces and reflect the pressures on forces and I will be ready to make our case for Suffolk.”

The next general election will be too late for forces and councils setting budgets for the 2022-23 financial year.

Responding to Mr Malthouse, Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, said the current system of topping up grants with single-year funding bids was no longer adequate.

Forces needed urgent help with a reality that includes County Lines and online offending.

He added: "We cannot police on the cheap, I think one of the errors that was made in the past was to think that you can keep chipping away at policing, frontline policing and expect crime to go down. It doesn’t work like that.”

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