Need for police funding reform recognised by police chief

Devon & Cornwall Police

The police spending is broken down in the council tax bill for the next financial year - Credit: Devon & Cornwall Police

If you haven’t had yours already, you should soon receive a council tax bill for the next financial year. This is not a piece of correspondence any of us look forward to but alongside it will be a leaflet explaining how we intend to spend the policing element of the bill, and I’d urge you to spend a few minutes absorbing this.

Since I was elected to office in 2016 my focus has been on resourcing more police officers for our communities. Research shows we have one of the lowest ratios of police officers to residents and ‘more police officers’ is something people around Devon and Cornwall had been calling for.

The good news is that our locally funded recruitment drive coupled with a central Government funded uplift means that in 2022/23 Devon and Cornwall police will hit record officer numbers of 3,610.

I attended a passing our service at headquarters on Friday, 11 March and it is always wonderful to witness the next cohort of dedicated individuals, complete with friends and family, at these events.

As last week ended with a high this week began with one as I headed to Westminster to promote my priority of tackling drugs with the Prime Minister. This will become increasingly important in the next year or so as the Government reconsiders the formula by which police forces are funded – and if we are to maintain officer numbers and bring new faces to policing teams it is vital to fight for our share of the pot.

I have argued for years that the current Police Allocation Formula (PAF) unfairly favours predominantly urban high crime areas, to the detriment of places like Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, where we might have one of the lowest crime rates but other significant challenges like rurality, a huge summer surge in visitors, and additional calls for missing and suicidal people are not properly recognised in the funding we receive.

The State of Policing Annual Report issued last Thursday by the outgoing Chief Inspector of Constabulary recognised that the formula had been a ‘persistent problem’ during his tenure. Part of the problem lies in the fact that different forces rely on different levels of central funding. In Devon and Cornwall in 2022/23 the Home Office grant will make up 59% of the £372m budget, in Cleveland this is 72%, so there is variation in how reliant on council tax payers we are, and this cannot be right.

The PAF works on a complex set of calculations based on population density and by ascribing a value to different crime types based on the impact they have on victims and the time they take to investigate. Almost everyone agrees that reform is well overdue but doing so is complex. The last time this was looked at, in 2015, Devon and Cornwall Police stood to lose out by approximately £13.5m a year. That is why it is essential that politicians, businesses and local government leaders are ready to make the South West’s case.