1.33 The statistics are timely: they are published less than a month after the end of the reference period. Due to this fast turnaround, the latest figures are published as provisional, with finalised figures presented in the subsequent bulletin. The team is aware of this data quality risk but told us it balances this against the need to get the data into the public domain in a timely manner, and the impact of revisions tends to be small. The bulletin is transparent about the scale and impact of revisions, in line with the Home Office revisions policy. It explains the change in police officer headcount compared to the previous publication, which helps users monitor revisions. Users told us the quarterly release of statistics meets their needs.
1.34 Pre-release access is closely guarded and well-enforced by the statistics team. All Home Office teams and policing stakeholders we spoke for this review understood their responsibilities under the Code of Practice in terms of handling and using the statistics. However, the pre-release access list is longer than we would expect it to be, even for a high-profile set of statistics.
1.35 In addition to pre-release access to the quarterly official statistics, policing stakeholders and Ministers (including those in Cabinet Office and No 10) receive a monthly management information (MI) report about the progress and performance of the uplift programme, produced and shared by the NPCC uplift team. The NPCC team assured us that the MI is shared in an orderly way and that access is tightly guarded, but the safeguards are less strict than those for official statistics.
1.36 We found an example of a Home Office policy or press statement that present the uplift statistics in an unclear or potentially misleading way. We have concerns about the way these statements discuss the expected impacts and benefits of the uplift programme. A January 2022 press release about the launch of new TV ads for recruitment assumed a causal relationship between the increase in the number of police officers and a supposed reduction in crime, although there is no evidence available to support this claim. This is poor practice from Home Office that undermines both the trustworthiness of the statistics and the efforts of the statistics team in releasing these statistics in an orderly way. Demonstrating trustworthiness is a fundamental pre-requisite to attaining and maintaining National Statistics status, and therefore it is essential that Home Office addresses this.
Requirement 3: To minimise the risks around the release of the statistics and data, and enhance public confidence in the integrity of the statistics, Home Office should:
- reduce as far as possible the number of individuals granted pre-release access.
- explain publicly who has access to the management information and how it is used, particularly where this differs from the official statistics, to inform the public of the different uses of the data.
- present the statistics accurately and objectively in all Home Office outputs, including policy or press statements.
1.37 Home Office has been transparent about the development of these statistics, including the baseline methodology. Users have been, and continue to be, informed about plans and changes. For instance, the January 2020 information note for users communicated the proposed methodology for calculating the initial workforce baseline and how progress will be reported on. Similarly, the first statistical bulletin explained the finalised methodology and outlined plans for reviewing metrics on the protected characteristics of new officers.
1.38 Home Office told us that analytical resource was a challenge in early days of the uplift programme, for both Home Office and NPCC. We are pleased that the statistics team is now fully resourced, having recruited two new analysts in the last six months. The larger team, combined with the resource freed up from the roll-out of a RAP, has allowed Home Office to undertake more planning and development work on the uplift statistics. Also, the statistics team told us how the recent restructuring of analytical teams within the Home Office has improved resource sharing across policing statistics (separate divisions are now responsible for policing statistics and crime statistics).
1.39 NPCC recruited a data analyst in April 2021, who has developed management information dashboards for police forces and provides other analytical support. This has eased the pressure on the Home Office statistics team. It is our understanding that after March 2023, the NPCC uplift data team will be disbanded and merge with the main NPCC workforce team. We encourage Home Office to reflect on how this will impact its ability to deliver long-term improvements to the statistics.Back to top