Assembly to debate Police funding 2019-20

Published 08/02/2019   |   Reading Time minutes

On 12 February, the National Assembly for Wales will debate Police funding for 2019-20. This follows publication of the Welsh Government’s Final Police Settlement 2019-20 and the Home Office’s Police Grant allocations on 24 January 2019.

All police forces in England and Wales will receive a 2.1% increase in funding in 2019-20 (when compared to 2018-19 on a like for like basis). In real terms this is an increase of 0.3% (in 2018-19 prices).

This means Welsh police forces will receive an increase in central government support of £7.3 million, with a total of £357.3 million available next year. This is the first cash increase in government funding this Assembly term (the last increase in central government support for police was 2013-14). In addition to central funding, Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs) also set a council tax precept each year and have access to special and specific grants.

Table 1: Total Central Support

The majority of central funding for Welsh Police forces comes from the Home Office (approx. 60%), the Welsh Government is responsible for the element of funding that was previously provided by the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government (approx. 40%).

Funding is distributed on the basis of a formula, however, the formula operated by the Home Office contains mechanisms that ensure all police forces receive the same change in funding, year on year, known as ‘damping’.

Whilst a review and proposals for changing the formula have been explored, those proposals are not currently progressing. The National Audit Office recently recommended in its report ‘Financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales 2018’ that the Home Office should review the funding formula and at the time of the 2018-19 provisional settlement, the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd MP, stated the Government’s intention that the funding formula be “revisited” at the next Spending Review (expected in 2019). During the debate on funding in Parliament, Nick Hurd was asked about the funding formula, to which he replied:

…there is a serious set of decisions to be taken about how funding is allocated across police forces; there is a very serious issue around the fairness of that allocation, and I have indicated very clearly that this settlement is the final stepping stone on the journey towards that work in the CSR [Comprehensive Spending Review], which is the appropriate strategic framework in which to settle police funding for the next five years.

Last year all Police forces received a cash-flat settlement, changes to central support are outlined in table 2 below:

Table 2: Change in Total Central Support since previous year

Police funding is agreed as part of a two stage process, with the Welsh Government and Home Office publishing provisional figures in December 2018. There is no change between the provisional and final figures.

As well as core funding for police forces, there have also been changes to other areas. As part of the UK budget 2018 the Chancellor announced an increase in counter-terrorism funding of £59 million (8%) compared to 2018-19 (the total counter-terrorism budget for 2018-19 is £816 million). Funding is also being made available to cover part of the costs associated with the increase in public sector pensions contributions in 2019-20.

One of the other key elements of Police funding is council tax. PCCs set a precept each year, in 2018-19 this accounted for between £224.56 and £258.12 of an Average Band D council tax Bill. The change last year in the Police element was an increase of between 3.6% (North Wales) and 7% (South Wales). Police were budgeting for council tax to make up around 45% of their funding in 2018-19 (£290 million of £640 million, excluding special and specific grants). You can watch the debate on the Final Police Settlement on from around 15:45 on 12 February.

Article by Owen Holzinger, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales Research Service