PCC's Message to Hertfordshire MPs on Police Funding
Police funding has become a significant national story in recent weeks as we approach key decisions around a new funding formula for the national police grant and the Comprehensive Spending Review.  Unfortunately, it is my view that some of the pronouncements made recently have been alarmist and misleading as various forces have started to plead their individual cases and lobby for a better deal. I think this will risk giving the public an unnecessarily bleak picture of the future of policing.  Of course, I can only properly speak with authority for Hertfordshire but I thought it might be helpful to briefly set out what the picture looks like from our perspective.

Firstly, the review of the Police Allocation Formula.  This is the central government grant which police forces receive to support their work and is added to local precept income, other grants and other income sources to provide the total police budget for each area.  The proportion of the total made up of the government grant varies considerably between force areas because of historic local decisions around revenue raising.  In Hertfordshire’s case it makes up around two thirds of the total budget – which is around the national average.

I think there is unanimous agreement that the current formula is out-dated, opaque and unfair, so there is no real debate around the need for change.  The government has set out to create a new fairer funding formula and is currently consulting around this.  Whilst I have commented on various aspects of the formula, I have no quarrel with the process and, indeed, it has been one which has shown itself responsive to feedback.  However, to state the obvious, it is a process which by its nature was always going to produce winners and losers.  It is therefore unsurprising, if disappointing, that those who have lost out seek to reject the process or have it amended in their favour.  I believe it is important in these arguments to try to distinguish between genuine debate about the merits of the formula and straightforward special pleading.  I fear there is a danger of the argument being dominated too much by the latter at the moment.  Too many “special” cases will undermine the validity of the whole process.

In the case of Hertfordshire, we are projected to make a modest gain in the latest version of the formula but it is by no means certain that this will survive the further processes yet to be completed.

I turn now to the specific case of Bedfordshire, which has been the subject of considerable lobbying for a better settlement based on the unusual circumstances of the county and perceived weaknesses in its police force. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in too much detail about the situation in Bedfordshire but I understand you have been lobbied about the impact of crime on Hertfordshire, so I will make the following observations from a Hertfordshire perspective:
Hertfordshire has a number of neighbouring forces which have significantly greater challenges than we do in certain types of crime.  The Met is the most obvious one but Essex and Bedfordshire are other examples.  Both the Chief Constable and I are well aware of these challenges and the potential impacts and are well versed in managing them over many years.
We have a close collaboration agreement with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.  This provides resilience for all three forces and helps them cope with challenges and peak demands which would be beyond the capacity of any single force.
All three forces are part of wider co-operation arrangements within the Eastern Region which provide further resilience in key areas such as Counter Terrorism and Serious and Organised Crime.  We are working to further develop this collaboration.
The argument which has been made around the impact of Bedfordshire policing on Hertfordshire crime has some inherent dangers in it.  It may lead some to the obvious conclusion that transferring some of the Hertfordshire policing budget to Bedfordshire would be a reasonable solution.  As you will understand, for a great variety of reasons, that is not a conclusion I could support.
Any discussion about Bedfordshire, which focuses only on funding, risks taking attention away the question of whether there are any other fundamental reasons why the force is facing the difficulties it is facing – though this, in the end, must be a question for the people of Bedfordshire and their political representatives.
Finally, on the broader question of the funding formula.  As I pointed out earlier, the government grant for policing makes up only a part of the total police budget.  That is one of the reasons why the Comprehensive Spending Review will have a differential impact on police forces around the country – those who have historically chosen to raise a bigger proportion of their income locally will be less hard hit.  Some of those who have chosen to rely more heavily on the government grant may well have done so because of more favourable treatment in the previous formula.  I strongly believe that a process which is about rebasing central government funding for policing to better reflect demand should also allow for a rebasing of that proportion raised locally.  Under current capping/referendum arrangements this is simply not possible.  I would therefore seek your support in arguments currently going on with the Treasury for some greater flexibility to be allowed to PCCs in determining their local funding arrangements.  I believe the Home Office supports this position and it logically reflects the local democratic mandate of PCCs which is to be renewed again next May.

David Lloyd
Police and Crime Commissioner