Police funding consultation: an opaque sticking plaster?

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Police funding consultation: an opaque sticking plaster?

This week the Home Office published a new police funding formula for consultation, partly in recognition that the world has changed in the nine years since the current model was developed.

The Police Foundation has today published a paper that summarises the current and proposed models in clear terms and then critiques the latter.

The funding formula is a highly technical device that can be difficult (perhaps impossible) for a non-specialist reader to understand in its current and proposed forms, and indeed when trying to think about potential alternatives. The proposed model has the ambition to be simple and transparent while also ensuring that funding is disbursed equitably according to relative need, and at this stage it is far from clear whether that is a trick the Home Office can pull off. While the proposed model is simple, the evidence on which it is based is not.

In particular, the consultation is remarkably light on detail in some key respects, which means the reader is necessarily disadvantaged. This is arguably most notable in the way that the Home Office has not shown all of their workings’ in the analysis used to produce the proposed model, which is described in only high-level terms.

Furthermore, beyond noting that there would be some significant changes’ in funding for individual forces, the Home Office has not provided any information about what the proposed model would do to the current distribution of funding levels. This means that the consultation is an in principle’ exercise in which consultees are again disadvantaged, unless they can assemble all of the data necessary to conduct the calculations themselves. The reader could assume that the proposed model has been run and the results aren’t so far from the current arrangements as to be unworkable, but that is left unsaid.

There must be a particular concern about the way that the statistical analysis used to develop the model appears to have used police recorded crime as the dependent variable and to have ignored other sources of data on demand including the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded incidents. Given that police forces, with the support of the College of Policing and HMIC, are in the process of developing an increasingly sophisticated and consistent understanding of their demand (and given that at least ten have already developed a sophisticated understanding of their demand), it is worth asking whether this proposed new model is in fact the wrong model at the wrong time or perhaps at best an interim sticking plaster’ that will soon be replaced.