“we’re investing up to an extra 1.1 billion into policing.”

Home Office, Twitter

December 15, 2021

Facts

The Home Office’s claim that police funding was set to rise by £1.1bn may have been correct. However, there is a problem with the graph they attached showing a sharp rise in funding from £12.1bn in 2015/16 to £16.9bn in 2022/23.

The amounts of money detailed in the graph for each year are simply the funding figuresannounced at the time. This means that they don’t take into account inflation, reflecting the changing value of the pound. 

For example, the graph tweeted by the Home Office and Priti Patel shows a rise in police funding from £14.2bn to £15.4bn between 2019/20 and 2020/21. However, after adjusting for rising prices using the GDP deflator, £14.2bn in 2019/20 prices is equivalent to approximately £15.1bn in 2020/21 prices. In real terms, therefore, police funding increased by £0.3bn (from £15.1bn to £15.4bn). 

In 2015/16 police funding was £12.1bn in cash terms—representing the first and lowest point on the graph. However, if we apply the GDP deflator, this amounts to £14bn in 2020/21 money. 

A graph produced by the Institute for Government (IfG) demonstrates this more clearly, showing the change in gross police spending in England and Wales from 2009/10 to 2019/20. It shows a very different picture to the graph tweeted by the Home Office and Ms Patel, with a slight decrease in police spending in real terms between 2014/15 and 2016/17. 

According to the IfG analysis of government figures, gross police spending dropped sharply by more than 14% between 2009/10 and 2013/14. It remained below this level until 2019/20.  For an exemplary analysis, see FullFact

On 28th January 2022 Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistic Regulation wrote a letter to the Home Office. In this letter Mr Humpherson explains that using nominal values (values that do not account for inflation) has the “potential to mislead” and suggests that the tweet should be clearer. 

Mr Humpherson goes on to say that “presenting the data without showing the full axis from zero also contributes to the impression of a greater increase.” 

On 4th February 2022, the Home Office replied to their original tweet adding “These are the police funding figures in nominal terms. Real terms figures will be published in the annual statistics scheduled for publication in July.” Priti Patel, however, failed to offer any such clarification. 

Verdict

The Home Office was misleading its Twitter followers about police funding. This is an especially serious matter because civil servants should maintain scrupulous impartiality. When Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistic Regulation, wrote to the Home Office pointing out the error, the Home Office added extra context to its original tweet. Home Secretary Priti Patel, however, failed to offer any such clarification.  

Additional Note: When we reached out to the Home Office for comment they refused to provide an email address for us to send our analysis explaining over the telephone that "normally we probably only engage with legitimate news outlets". We are scrupulous in giving individuals and organisations cited on this website the opportunity to respond to criticism.

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