George Osborne accused of 'shameful U-turn' after police grants slashed


Chancellor George Osborne has been accused of a "shameful U-turn" after police grants were slashed by more than £200 million just weeks after he promised to protect funding for forces in England and Wales.

Figures from the House of Commons Library show that Government grants to the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales have been cut by 2.7% overall compared to last year - equivalent to 4.1% once inflation is taken into account.

And policing minister Mike Penning told Parliament that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will have to increase council tax levels by the maximum permitted amount if they are to maintain forces' funding at existing levels.

In his Autumn Statement to the Commons on November 25, Mr Osborne told MPs: "There will be no cuts in the police budget at all. There will be real terms protection for police funding. The police protect us, and we're going to protect the police."

But the provisional police grant allocations for 2016/17, released amid a welter of Government announcements on the last day before the Commons broke for Christmas, showed that all but seven forces are facing a grant cut in cash terms compared to this year.

Overall, the grants for England and Wales fell from £7,630,719,732 for 2015/16 to  £7,421,588,629 for 2016/17.

The lion's share of the cut related to the Metropolitan Police, which saw a reduction of almost £183 million in its £1.9 billion grant - equating to 9.6% in cash terms or 10.8% once inflation is taken into account. 

Other forces facing large grant reductions were South Wales, which lost almost £1.9 million (3.5% in real terms), Gwent, which lost £827,000 (3.3%). West Midlands Police was given a £2.5 million cash cut, or 1.9% after inflation is taken into account.

Announcing the grant allocations to Parliament, Mr Penning said that each force would have the same funding in cash terms in 2016/17 as this year, so long as the amount of cash raised through council tax - known as the "police precept" - was increased to the maximum available.

The policing minister released figures showing that funding provided to police forces by central government is forecast to fall by 1.4% in real terms over the period to 2019/20, while the precepts will rise by an average 3.8%, leaving overall spending power unchanged after inflation is taken into account.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman and former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Lord Paddick described the allocations as a "shameful U-turn".

Lord Paddick said: "Just weeks after George Osborne said he backed the police he has snuck out a cut of £200 million.

"Resources are already stretched. This is George Osborne outsourcing his cuts and putting political pressure on PCCs to do his dirty work for him.

"It is now clear George Osborne's promise to protect police funding rings hollow. With a cut of more than £200 million he is expecting PCCs to make up the difference."

Mr Penning said: "This police funding settlement represents a fair deal for the police and reinforces this Government's commitment to protect the public. No Police and Crime Commissioner will face a reduction in cash funding next year."

The policing minister added: "On top of this protection of overall police spending, counter terrorism police funding will increase in real terms to £670 million in 2016/17 and transformation funding will be used to develop specialist capabilities to tackle cyber crime and other emerging crimes and to enable a major uplift in firearms capability and capacity.

"The settlement also includes extra investment to continue the job of police reform. But it is not a reprieve from reform, it does not let forces off the hook or allow them to slow the pace of change. Every force will still need to make savings years on year by putting an end to wasteful and inefficient spending."

London's deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, said: "Keeping London safe is the Mayor's number one priority, and while we are still working through the details of today's settlement, it does mean we can continue to protect the Met's frontline by maintaining police officer numbers high at around 32,000, and safeguarding neighbourhood policing.

"This includes keeping our commitment to at least one PCSO and one PC dedicated to each London ward for the next year. Our ongoing ambitious programme of efficiency reforms will help us continue to bear down on costs, putting bobbies before buildings to equip our frontline officers with the best possible new technologies such as police body cameras, as we continue to drive down on crime and keep our capital safe."