Police to receive £30m funding boost for Covid-19 patrols
Police forces across the UK will receive an extra £30 million for enforcing coronavirus lockdown rules, the Government has said.
The announcement follows talks between the Home Office and senior officers asking for more money to cover Covid-19 restrictions as crime levels rise back towards those seen before lockdown.
Last week, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Martin Hewitt, said he had asked for more funding for “specific Covid patrolling activity”.
NPCC figures showed that after a 28 per cent drop in crime at the height of lockdown, in the four weeks to August 30, levels were now at three per cent below those in the same period last year.
The 43 police forces in England and Wales will be granted a share of the £30 million according to the existing police funding formula.
This formula has been criticised in the past as being unfair on forces that cover rural areas.
The Home Office has also launched a loss recovery scheme for police forces that have lost out on income, including charges for policing sporting fixtures or airport security.
They will be able to reclaim 75p per £1 of the budgeted income lost, after they have themselves absorbed five per cent of the losses.
Mr Hewitt said: “Individuals, households and businesses all have a responsibility to ensure the virus is suppressed, and police will continue to play our part in supporting the public to navigate the range of measures in place for our safety.
“Our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging people to follow the rules remains. But we must be clear that we will take enforcement action against the minority who refuse to comply.
“Chief constables have increased patrols in high-risk areas and are proactively working with businesses, licensing authorities and local authorities to ensure the rules are being followed.
“This additional funding will go some way to covering the cost of this at a time when crime and demand on policing is almost back to the levels seen before the pandemic.”
John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers must keep their discretion about how best to use resources.
He said: “Policing is overstretched, and colleagues are already doing all they can during this pandemic. Any suggestion that this extra money would take away the discretion which permits police officers to do their jobs to the best of their ability would be counterproductive and damaging.
“Alongside this announcement must be an effective public information campaign. This must make it crystal clear what is expected of the public.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The vast majority of the British public has come together, followed the law and helped prevent the spread of this virus. But we’ve been clear that, with infections rising, we will not allow a small minority of people to reverse our hard-won progress.
“This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”
Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Finance Lead, Roger Hirst, and Deputy Lead, Paddy Tipping said: “We have been working with the Home Office to secure additional funding to support the service through the COVID pandemic, and we welcome the announcement of an additional £30m. We are in dialogue with the government to secure the full COVID cost recovery for the service for the period up to now and in terms of future additional resource requirements during the current challenges.
“On a broader level police and crime commissioners, chief constables and the Home Office have been working together on a Spending Review submission to Treasury that articulates the resource requirements of the Service over the next few years. Our submission is backed up by robust evidence and we are confident that we have provided the best possible case for a funding envelope which will allow us to deliver the service the public expects and deserves.”
Local councils will also receive £30 million to fund measures such as so-called ‘Covid marshals’ to make sure rules are being observed.
Nesil Caliskan, from the Local Government Association, welcomed the funding, but said that in many areas regulatory services were “at tipping point”.
He added: “As local authorities continue to lead local work to tackle Covid-19, the Government needs to use the Spending Review to ensure councils have enough funding to maintain vital trading standards and environmental health services over the next six months and beyond.”
For Labour, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the funding was not enough for forces and councils already under pressure even before the pandemic.
“They have come under huge strain, not least as they went into this crisis weakened by a decade of cuts that saw officer numbers fall and council funding slashed,” he said. “While any extra funding is welcome, this re-announcement of money does not do enough to support our officers.”