Budgets for police forces across England and Wales will be protected over the course of this Parliament, chancellor George Osborne announced in the spending review and autumn statement.
Osborne had widely been expected to announce further cuts to police force budgets – the central government funding grant was reduced by 20 per cent in 2010.
Instead he revealed that overall spending on police forces will increase in line with inflation – a rise of £900 million by 2019/2020.
“I’ve had representations police budgets should be cut by up to 10 per cent,” he said. “But now is not the time for further police cuts. There will be real terms protection for police funding. The police protect us and we’re going to protect the police.”
Speaking on behalf of all police forces across England and Wales, the National Police Chiefs’ Council chairwoman Sara Thornton welcomed the decision, adding that forces are committed to the need to transform and reform policing.
“Our officers will need to be better connected, better equipped and better informed in the future to cope with changing demand,” she said. “Better use of technology, more integration with other public sector partners and professionally qualified staff continue to be priorities. We will be doing things differently. There will be more collaboration among forces with more sharing of specialist units."
The chancellor also announced a new fund to help reform police forces back merging back offices and specialist expertise.
Earlier this week, the Police Federation warned that the "government must not sleepwalk into disaster by inflicting more cuts on the police service in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris”.
Commenting on the announcement, Steve White, chairman of the federation said: “This is clearly good news but it doesn’t mean that the problems we have been highlighting in recent years have miraculously vanished overnight. Officers are still hugely under pressure and many forces still have the final tranche of savings from the last set of cuts to find.”
“It is therefore imperative the government urgently revisits the outdated and antiquated 43-force structure which hamstrings the ability of the service to properly modernise.”
The chancellor did announce cuts to operational budgets across a number of Whitehall departments, with day-to-day spending across government departments to fall by 0.8 per cent on average each year until 2020.
The biggest budget cuts came for the Department for Transport which loses 37 per cent of its budget, followed by the Cabinet Office (26 per cent), the Department of Health (25 per cent), the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (20 per cent) and the Department of Energy (22 per cent). The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills’ budget will be reduced by 17 per cent and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ budget will be cut by 15 per cent.
Public spending in 2015 has totalled £756 billion, the chancellor said. It is forecast to rise to £773 billion next year, £787 billion in 2017, £801 billion the following year and reach £821 billion by 2019.
“We have committed to running a surplus,” he added. “Today, I can confirm that the four-year public spending plans that I set out are forecast to deliver that surplus.”