Judgement on National Statistics Status
Police Funding for England and Wales statistics provide a valuable source of information on an issue that has been at the centre of public debate on policing for a number of years. The statistics, which are produced annually by Home Office, are a response to a user need for clear information about police funding.
We have identified several ways in which Home Office should develop the statistics in order to meet the highest standards of the Code of Practice for Statistics and achieve National Statistics status. These are described in chapters one to three of this report. As we identified improvements during the course of the assessment, Home Office began addressing them. Home Office has committed to further actions, which it expects to be carried out before the next publication of the statistics in July 2021.
Once Home Office demonstrates that these steps have been taken, we will recommend that the UK Statistics Authority designate Police Funding in England and Wales as National Statistics.
The level of insight and information provided by the police funding statistics are viewed positively by users, and for the users who regularly make use of them the statistics they are seen as very valuable. One of the main strengths of the Police Funding statistics is that they fill a gap in the available data on police funding; all the users we spoke to feel the statistics achieve this well.
The original OSR casework that led to the creation of these statistics focussed on real-terms increases in police funding over time, so it is a current weakness of the statistics that figures are not adjusted for inflation. One of our key requirements that Home Office is currently working to address is to publish real-terms changes so that users have greater insight into the effects of inflation on police funding.
The length of time series was also flagged as an area for improvement by users. Currently the time series only goes back to 2015. To better inform public debate, Home Office should provide data at an aggregate level going back to 2010. Users felt this would make them more comparable to statistics such as the Local authority revenue, expenditure and finance statistics produced by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The statistics are based on several financial data sources, which include the council tax uplift and Home Office Police Grant uplift. The statistics are broken down to police force level and reasons for variation in the distribution of funding at force level is highlighted where appropriate in the statistics. This helps users understand the local and national funding priorities more easily whilst protecting the privacy of any strategic police force investment, such as anti-terrorism funding.
The statistics currently lack associated information about data limitations and quality, and users told us that such information would be helpful. During the assessment process Home Office started developing a user guide to accompany the next publication. Home Office should apply our Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) framework to understand the limitations of all stages of the data process and assure itself and users of data quality.
Home Office is a trusted and respected producer of official statistics. Consequently, many users look to its website for up-to-date statistics on policing and data on what the police do. The team at Home Office is well managed and has recently been restructured; as a result of this restructuring the police funding statistics now have a permanent home within the Policing Analytical unit. The team had already been investigating avenues to develop the statistics before starting the assessment and it has been engaging well throughout the assessment process.
However, users told us that a discussion about the processes that take place before the statistics are produced would increase the transparency of the statistics. Home Office plans to provide details of the key events that take place before the statistics are produced in the new proposed user guide, to enhance their transparency.
To achieve National Statistics status, Home Office should meet the requirements set out in this report. Home Office is encouraged to:
a. develop an action plan to meet the requirements in Table 1,2 and 3
b. meet the requirements for the next annual release of the statistics in July 2021
UK Statistics Authority will take advice from OSR and decide whether to award the National Statistics designation.