Ministers have been accused of a financial sleight of hand over plans to allow a council tax increase to pay for extra police funding, in a move Labour said would hit the poorest hardest without providing enough extra funding. Forces across England and Wales were set to benefit to the tune of £450m, it emerged…
Ministers have been accused of a financial sleight of hand over plans to allow a council tax increase to pay for extra police funding, in a move Labour said would hit the poorest hardest without providing enough extra funding.
Forces across England and Wales were set to benefit to the tune of £450m, it emerged on Friday, and there have been suggestions the government could hand over a further £170m when it decides on police funding for next year. Police have been dealing with years of shrinking budgets and a pension shortfall of about £420m.
“This is nowhere near what our police need to deal with increase in demand,” said Stephen Doughty, a Labour member of the influential parliamentary home affairs committee.
He was joined by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who said the money would “represent a tiny fraction of the huge cuts to the police service made by this government since 2010”.
His spokesman said that the Metropolitan police alone had been forced to make £1bn of savings in that time. “Ministers will have to go much higher than this if they are to prove they are serious about tackling violent crime. It’s time for the home secretary to match his words with real money.”
Sky News reported on Friday that the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has convinced the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the local government secretary, James Brokenshire, to allow local police and crime commissioners in England and Wales to double the policing precept on the council tax bill from £12 a year to £24 to pay for the funding increase.
According to the report, Javid had been pushing for a significantly greater increase, but was forced to settle. He had previously hinted that he believed the police needed more resources, saying he was deeply worried about the need to deal with violent crime.
Khan’s spokesman, after news of the plan emerged, accused the government of placing the burden for finding the extra money disproportionately on poorer households, rather than central government putting up the cash.
Doughty said: “This Sajid Javid police funding announcement is obviously yet another sleight of hand.” He added that the Treasury had “found £455m extra in direct funding for Brexit in the last two years”, saying this would have paid for thousands of extra police officers.
The plan was confirmed to the Guardian by a Whitehall source after an announcement in December last year that the government intended to take such a step at some point in 2018-19.
The detail of the police financial settlement when it is officially announced will reveal how generous it really is.
Police forces needed at least £165m after the Treasury decided they needed to pay more for pensions this year, rising to £417m next year.
Police chiefs have decided to sue the government over the pension change unless they back down, a wholly unprecedented decision.
In the budget, a Treasury claim to have provided £160m extra for counter-terror policing, turned out to be a much less year-on-year increase of £59m.
Most police funding for forces in England and Wales has been provided directly by Westminster and about 30% comes from council tax precepts. Police funding is a fully devolved issue in Scotland and separate arrangements affect Northern Ireland.
The Home Office said: “We do not comment on leaked documents. We will be setting out the police funding settlement for 2019-20 to parliament in due course.”