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Statistics watchdog rules Prime Minister's £450M 'extra funding for police' claim was 'misleading'

The Home Office has also been urged to publish a regular analysis of police funding on its website
Published - 21/03/2018 By - JJ Hutber- Police Oracle

Theresa May has been criticised for leading the public to incorrectly assume her government is providing a £450M funding boost for the police service.

On Tuesday, Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove rebuked the Prime Minster for comments she made during PM's Questions last month and for a tweet sent by the official Home Office account.

On February 7, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Ms May whether she regrets cutting 21,000 officers.

In response she said: “The right honourable gentleman can’t get away from the fact that what the government is doing is protecting police budgets.

“And in fact not just protecting police budgets but increasing with £450 million extra. What we are also doing is ensuring our police have the powers that they need to do the job that we want them to do.”  

Again on February 21 PMQs Ms May claimed the funding settlement for police forces would represent “an extra £450M.”

A Home Office tweet on February 7 stated: “This year the government is providing a £450 million boost to #police funding”. The tweet was still active at the time of writing.

Ms May was referring to £130 million top sliced from police budgets for national police priorities, £50m in counter-terrorism funding and a potential £270M that could be raised if all police and crime commissioners decide to raise local council tax precepts by £12.

Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove said: “The Prime Minister’s statement and the Home Office’s tweet could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central government is providing an additional £450 million for police spending in 2018/19.

“The Home Office tweet also implied that the £450 million sum is guaranteed.

“As the Minister for Policing’s statement outlined, up to £270 million of the funding settlement will come from local council tax, if Police and Crime Commissioners and Mayors choose to raise these sums.

“In addition, the Leader of the House of Commons stated that the £270 million that can be raised locally was on top of the overall settlement of up to £450 million. Complex funding arrangements are difficult to explain particularly in the time-compressed context of Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Written communications, including tweets, do not face this constraint.

“We recommend that the Home Office’s Head of Profession for Statistics speak to communications colleagues about the importance of clear public statements about police funding and ensure they understand the structure of police funding.”

He also urged the Home Office to produce a regular analysis of police funding to help mitigate “difficulty of understanding by all involved.”

His response was written in reply to a letter from Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh raising concerns about Ms May’s claims.

Ms Haigh said: "The Tories are not being straight with the public on police funding and now they have been found out. The Prime Minister should apologise for trying to pull the wool over people's eyes on Tory cuts to policing."

A Home Office spokesman said: “The police funding settlement for 2018/19 that we set out delivers an increase in overall police funding. We aim to be as clear as possible in communicating it to the public and have repeatedly said that around £270m of the up to £450m increase in police funding next year results from increased Council Tax precept income, which is dependant on PCCs’ decisions. 

“Since the funding settlement, almost all PCCs have decided to use this flexibility to raise extra precept income. 

"Our Chief Statistician will of course carefully consider the suggestions the UK Statistics Authority has made.

"The police funding settlement for 2018/19 involves an increase in overall police funding and the Prime Minister was right to highlight this to the Commons. As Sir David Norgrove says 'Complex funding arrangements are difficult to explain particularly in the time-compressed context of Prime Minister’s Questions'.”

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