Police forces wasting millions

Published on Monday, 05 September 2011 09:15
Posted by Scott Buckler

Police forces across England and Wales have wasted over half a billion pounds in the last four years by failing to “civilianise” thousands of back office posts – instead filling them with fully-trained police officers


A new report by leading think tank Policy Exchange shows roles in departments like forensics and control rooms are occupied by “sworn officers” instead of much-cheaper civilian staff. Some police forces have hundreds of sworn officers in back office roles. This includes over 600 officers in the Metropolitan Police control rooms and 44 police officers in the forensic department of Essex police – despite half of all forces having no officers in this area.

The study shows current plans to trim police budgets are manageable because there are large inefficiencies in the current police workforce. Despite big increases in officers and staff, in some forces civilianisation has gone backwards – with more officers filling back office roles than in 2000.
The authors call for fresh efforts to make the police more visible through innovations like encouraging officers to wear uniform on their way to work and making a shift to single-officer patrolling.

Policy Exchange’s new analysis shows that one in 20 police officers – or at least 7,280 of the total – are undertaking roles that could be carried out by civilians. Based on an average employee cost gap between officers and police staff of £20,239, this represents a waste of £147m a year – or £588m over four years in extra employment costs alone.

The report finds that in 2010, police resources and officer numbers were at all-time highs. Since 2000, police numbers have risen by 18,000 but taxpayers have not necessarily received value for money and the performance of the service – on crime and public confidence – has not been transformed.

An exclusive YouGov poll carried out alongside the research finds that just 5% of the public think that increasing budgets for the police is the way to make them more successful, while just a third think that spending on the police currently represents good value for money. Almost half the public – 45% – think that the police service as a whole has actually got worse over the last decade, not better.
Key findings in the report include: Since 2000, funding for the police in England and Wales has risen by 25% in real terms. In 2010, each household was paying £614 per year for policing, up from £395 in 2001. Policing in the UK costs significantly more than other developed countries including the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

By 2015, taxpayers in England and Wales will still be spending more than £12bn on policing annually – more than in 2004 and £100 per household more than was spent in 2001 when funding totalled £9bn. Extra funding should have delivered a big boost in performance – but it is not clear that it has. There is insufficient evidence that increased police numbers alone drove falls in crime – over two thirds of the fall in offences recorded by the British Crime Survey between 1995 and 2010 preceded increases in police budgets and officer numbers. Police visibility has remained low and there has not been a step-change in police performance on crime, especially as detection rates remain poor despite fewer crimes to detect and the cost of investigating offences rising by up to 50%. Significant numbers of sworn officers made no arrests at all last year. In some forces, the proportion was as high as half of all officers. The lack of workforce sickness management and proper fitness monitoring means that too many personnel are on sick leave or restricted duties, away from the front line.

Blair Gibbs, Head of Crime & Justice at Policy Exchange, said:

Since 2001 police funding has surged by a quarter in real terms but this investment has not transformed police performance. Costs have risen and detection rates have stagnated. Huge sums have been swallowed up by an inefficient and inflexible organisation.
“Too many sworn officers are hidden away in back offices. Some forces like Surrey and Suffolk became more efficient by hiring cheaper civilian staff but many did not. As a result taxpayers have spent at least £500m since 2006 in extra employment costs for over 7,000 police officers who have a uniform, but who aren’t policing.

“There remains a clear gap between additional police resources and the service delivered. As far as the public are concerned, the unprecedented expansion in officer numbers since 2001 may as well never have happened.
“The budget cuts in the years ahead will be challenging, but after such a massive investment there is real scope for the police to become more efficient and effective so that taxpayers receive the service they pay so much for.”

Source: Policy Exchange

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