15 Apr FACT CHECK: When election promises don’t add up
Police numbers are really important.
We know that because we saw the impact it had when the number of officers nationally was cut by 20,000 – a figure that did not include the many support staff and other Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) also lost at that time.
Replacing them costs money and because paying for policing has shifted more towards local taxation through the council tax and away from central taxation in the form of Government grant:
I think it is important that anyone standing in this election
a) understands this and b) is honest with you before making promises that might not be as attractive as they appear on the surface.
True facts and figures (no spin)
All the numbers below relate to Gloucestershire and are taken from official records .
The story so far:
As of 12th April 2021 Gloucestershire Constabulary has 1254 warranted police officers.
- Between 2010 and 2017 Gloucestershire Constabulary was cut by 249 officer, 79 staff and 32 PCSO’s.
- Between 2010 and 2017 Gloucestershire Constabulary lost £32 million of annual funding.
- Between 2018 -2020 your council tax funded 79 additional officers.
- Between 2019- 2020 the Government funded 46 additional officers
- Between 2021 – 2022 the Government will fund 45 additional officers
FACT: For this financial year 2021-2022 the government has frozen its contribution to the police except for the recruitment of the 45 officers meaning all other cost pressures must be met by cuts elsewhere or by savings.
- Between 2022 – 2023 the Government has indicated they will fund an additional 60 officers, but this is not yet confirmed.
So, if all goes to plan, by 2023 the number of officers will have increased by 230, but it takes between 2/3 years to train them so that those recruited in 2023 would not be fully trained until 2026 – still 29 less than the Constabulary had in 2010 and 79 of which are now paid for by you not the government.
Some questions that need to be answered.
If you see claims by any PCC candidate promising that they will increase police numbers beyond these numbers you may want to ask:
What is your starting point? Does the number you are promising include those above or is it extra to those above?
How will you fund it and what happens to the important police staff? (Government advice is that for every three officers recruited you should recruit one member of police staff)
What will be the impact on my council tax? The annual cost of 150 locally funded officers would be an additional (circa) £13 million, the equivalent to an increase of 21.7% council tax (£55.80 increase on the current Band D). Double it for 300 additional officers.
(you then need to add in some extra for vehicles, radios and extra trainers…)
So, if you see a promise to recruit an additional 150 or 300 officers, you might like to know if these include the 151 already announced by the Government in 2018?
We’ve already got a fully costed plan
The officers currently in the pipeline are planned and budgeted for.
So any additional above and beyond the 151 again raises some more questions
- How will they be funded ?
- The Sabrina Centre is already at full capacity, so where will they be trained?
To make up the number could we recruit more special constables?
Maybe we could cut costs and recruit specials constables instead some might say?
Well, best practise suggests that the ratio of regular officers to special constable is 1:10 and Gloucestershire has about that ratio.
Here’s the current position with the Special Constabulary:
- Currently Gloucestershire has 124 Special Constables.
- In 2020 they gave 39,107 hours of service.
- They are highly trained and well equipped.
We already have a plan to recruit more Specials anyway…
For the year 2021/22 Gloucestershire has two intakes of twelve Special Constables scheduled.
In the years 2022 & 24 Gloucestershire each year has three intakes of 20 Special Constables scheduled each year.
Other possible questions for those people over promising ..
PSCO numbers, will they be maintained?
Will the Special Constables be under the direction of the chief constable with regards to duties and postings or will an incoming PCC seek a change in the law and take on this power?
Will there be redundancies in police staff – if so which posts?
Funding pressures coming down the track
If between £14 and £28 million is to be spent on new recruits how will these mandatory upgrades to police communication systems and IT be funded?
Without these the entire planned growth of the Constabulary will falter or catastrophically fail.
Gimmicks to grab headlines
So yes whilst headline figures like promising an additional 300 officers to concentrate on local neighbourhood issues might grab attention please be wary of unachievable promises this election.