Ten questions after the Spending Review…
Mark Sedwill, the Home Office Permanent Secretary, took the stage at the first Police Chiefs and PCC Conference in Manchester just after George Osborne sat down having delivered the Spending Review and Autumn Statement. The timing could not have been better: PCCs and Chiefs were ‘getting up from the floor’ following the Chancellor’s announcement that police spending will be protected in real terms ‘when local precept income is taken into account’.
The Government did the right thing to protect the police budget today – putting public safety first. George Osborne also demonstrated the power of managing expectations. As the details of the settlement are pored over, police leaders should do the same: guaranteeing real term budgets in the Home Office does not diminish the security threat that we face or the need for further reforms across the criminal justice system.
Here are 10 questions we are asking:
- What will the level of ‘transformational funding’ be? The Home Office say funding will be provided ‘to maintain overall police force budgets at current cash levels’, which suggests grant funding will fall in real terms, but be topped up by increases in ‘additional transformation funding’ and increases in the precept.
- What criteria will be used to allocate the Transformational Fund? In the past, government has tended to top-slice funds and then require forces and PCCs to bid for smaller pots of money, such as the Innovation and Knowledge Funds.
- How will demand from reduced MOJ budgets affect the role of PCCs? The MOJ budget is falling by 15% with resource savings needing to be delivered from courts and prisons. This will put significant pressure on (local) criminal justice systems and potentially strengthens the case for further devolution of powers to PCCs.
- What additional activity (and cost) will be pushed out to forces from the Home Office? This announcement may mean that Police forces and PCCs will need to fund increasing proportions of major infrastructure programmes, such as the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme.
- Can the Immigration Service bear the pressure it is under as a result of the Autumn Statement? The Home Office aims to halve Government spending on borders and immigration by increasing visa fees and £250m investment in new technology. A tough ask with immigration at record highs – and something that might be made more difficult by cuts of nearly 30% in administration functions at Marsham Street.
- What does the West Midlands devolution deal announced today mean for PCCs? Police Professional reports that the position of PCC in the West Midlands will be abolished and that current PCC David Jamieson will take over as interim mayor ahead of the 2017 elections, à la Tony Lloyd.
- Does the ‘new investment’ from the MOJ in prisoner education signal a further boost to the powers of prison governors? (At the moment, Governors don’t determine who provides education in their prisons)
- Will additional funding announced today for mental health and domestic violence help to reduce demand on the police? The Government will provide “£40 million for services for victims of domestic abuse” and “£600 million in additional investment for mental health services”.
- What will the new police precept raising power mean in practice for forces? It is described as an “extra facility for those areas which have historically kept council tax low”.
- The government has announced £350m procurement savings. This is a well-worn road – what makes the Home Office confident that this time will be different, and does it suggest a willingness to mandate changes if forces don’t cooperate?