This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's the budget, stupid!

I know I may have paraphrased Bill Clinton a little here but it is my long held view that the place where there is most likely to be conflict between the new PCCs and their Chief Constables will be over the budget.

No one will challenge the right of the PCC to set the overall council tax precept and hence total budget. Where it will get interesting will be in how this budget is then divided up to match the policing plan owned by the PCC but prepared in partnership with the Chief Officer team.

The (and I mean THE) critical ingredient will be the Resource Allocation Formula. All forces have such a thing, although they may call it something different. It is the way that they decide whether one part (usually geographical) of the force gets more resources than another / last year etc.

Using the Freedom of Information Act (which I am now beginning to understand more and more - indeed I think all PCC candidates should have a FoI strategy in place now to extract useful information from the police before election purdah descends...), I have been inquiring into how Thames Valley Police (TVP) divvies out its resources.
I began thinking about this for a few months now - see Q4 here and more recently here. So I wrote to TVP in the middle of June asking them this question: What is the method by which different local policing areas are allocated resources to carry out their frontline duties? (Perhaps you call this the ‘Resource allocation formula”?)

The response I got was unexpected: Thames Valley Police allocates resources in consideration of the population of the area, recorded crimes and incidents over the last three years in each area. We are unable to provide more specific data as to do so may undermine law enforcement or assist criminals in assessing likely resources in any area at a specific time thereby engaging Section 31: Law Enforcement.

(Gosh: the police seem to use s31 a lot...! I now have an image of some hardened criminals studying the budget allocations of TVP to decide whether to target Bracknell or Newbury with their evil plans...)

So I replied: Under the terms of the FOIA, I challenge your decision as I fail to see how a generic formula, which calculates the allocation of resources to geographical areas, might undermine Law Enforcement at ground level. You say “we are unable to provide more specific data”. I have not asked for specific data about how much resource has been allocated but how the decision is reached. I look forward to a more detailed explanation as to how clarity over how resources are allocated might benefit the commissioning of crime. Furthermore, you say that you allocate “resources in consideration of the population of the area, recorded crimes and incidents over the last three years in each area”. May I conclude therefore that you do not take into account the British Crime Survey statistics and/or the relative harm generated by different kinds of crime?

So this week, I got some some further information:

The Resource Allocation Formula was introduced into Thames Valley for the allocation of resources across the Local Police Areas for the restructure in April 2011. A number of variables were considered. The decision was made to keep the process simple, with the result that only three variables are included in the model. A proportion of available resources are to be allocated to each of these variables. These are:

Population 30%
Recorded Crime 35%
Incidents (excluding Crime and Admin) 35%

The level of each variable is calculated by using three years worth of data, weighted such that the most recent year has the greatest impact and the most historic year has the least impact. The weightings used are Year 1 20%, 
Year 2 30%, Year 3 50%.

Hmm. Can you spot the big problem with this? And have you noticed they did not answer my latter couple of questions above? No reference to BCS, nor any specific reference to risk of harm / actual harm. There is no real measure of actual crime here.

And the problem? 

If 70% of your allocation is down to measures which closely relate to the number of officers on the ground, guess what will happen? The resources become a self fulfilling formula that will mostly reinforce/reflect existing resource allocation. And pure population does not take account of deprivation and other well known risk factors! Under this part of the formula the affluent parts of Thames Valley will get the same number of police officers as the more deprived parts if the population is similar... 

Is this correct? Is this a matter for a PCC? Does Labour have a different perspective on this to the Tories? The answers are yes, yes and you betcha! 

We stand for the policing for the many not just the few. Labour stands for the deployment of scarce resources proportionate to harm and risk of harm.

In my view, Thames Valley Police (with collusion of the Tory candidate for the PCC position - one Cllr Anthony Stansfeld, who is a leading member of the existing police authority) have over simplified the allocation of resources and created a formula that could well mean people living in parts of Thames Valley getting less support than they need while other areas get a bigger (but unfair) slice of the cake.

What is happening in your police area?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/8/12 13:37

    It's probably the boys at G4S more likely to compromise things through judicious reading of the RAF, rather than hardened criminals. ANY cuts to actual police numbers is going to be a problem - the riots last summer showed that people with criminal intent are more than capable of acting in a coordinated way to draw resources to one place in order to then leave somewhere else (the real target) vulnerable. Those directly involved knew this, and now many who were not will have seen how effective a strategy false flags can be.