Monthly column: Police funding formula is stuck in the past

Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye Image: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Bedfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye. Image: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

As I reach the end of my second year in office as your Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), one thing has become quite apparent to me aside from the heroism of our police officers, and that is, the wheels of government move so slowly, you can count its rotation while it moves.

The current central government funding formula for policing came into effect in 2006 using data from the early 2000s. This formula dictated how the funding cake was divided among the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales.

Since the inception of this formula in 2006, and despite any changes in crime demands, population growth or wider socioeconomic factors, this formula remains stuck in the past.

The most recent attempt to update the formula was in 2015. This soon proved abortive as it became clear that what was being proposed would not only result in winners and losers but a variance so wide between each force as to make them unworkable.

We are now in 2023, with Bedfordshire having one of the fastest-growing populations according to the 2021 Census estimate.

We also have Luton and Bedford which, as the two most densely populated parts of our county, also present significant crime demands ranging from being exporters of county lines gangs, host to organised crime gangs and striking levels of drugs and exploitation, among others.

It is clear that Bedfordshire, from a policing point of view, is no longer a rural policing area which it arguably was in 2020.

Nevertheless, changing this formula has not happened given that if unpicked, some forces know they will be worse off. I am almost confident that in Bedfordshire’s case, all evidence points to us being better off.

The fact that for the last few years, Bedfordshire Police has been provided with Special Grants to plug gaps which allow it to pay for specialised policing of the gun, gang, and knife crime threats we now face is proof of the recognition of our funding predicament as an area.

This is why we received a record £7.2 million last year towards this growing threat.

So, I heartily welcome the investment by the government towards our share of the 20,000 police officers nationally. At 1,455 we now have the highest-ever number of police officers in Bedfordshire. This is a 15% increase from the 1,265 police numbers in 2010.

I can report that though we have the highest proportion of trainee officers as a percentage of our frontline workforce, these new recruits are being retained at an improving rate and many are already working in our communities.

This uplift, and the government’s Special Grants, has provided me as PCC and our Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst the headroom to create a dedicated community police team, effectively ring-fence Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs), and further clamp down on the high harm crimes in our county.

That said, we are still 300-400 officers short of what we need in order to meet current demand, according to independent research.

I am assured of another round of Special Grants from the government for the 2023/24 financial year. But one thing is for sure, the current government’s commitment to finally address the funding formula by the end of this parliament couldn’t come quickly enough.

This is a monthly guest column provided by Festus Akinbusoye,
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner (Conservative).
It is published unedited and does not reflect
the views of the Bedford Independent.