Value means that the statistics and other numerical information are accessible, remain relevant and benefit society; helping the public to understand important issues and answer key questions.
Value is a product of the interface between the statistics or other numerical information and those who use them as a basis for forming judgements.
The Police Funding for England and Wales statistics are important for public accountability and are generally well thought of by those who use them. For example, one user highlighted that before this statistical series was published, they had to request information from police forces about their funding and complete their own analysis on police funding. The users we spoke to told us that the statistics were a great improvement, and an increase of transparency, on the opaque data sets that were published before.
Enhancing insight and understanding by providing more-detailed information about police funding
A key area for improvement identified by many users we spoke to is the timeliness of the statistics. The statistics, released each July, are the finalised set of funding figures and as such are dependent on decisions tied to the completion of the budget at the end of the financial year. However, many users said they would prefer to make use of the preliminary figures arrived at in the previous December in the Police Grant report. The team receives the data for the statistics at the start of each financial year; the time taken to quality assure and verify the data is the reason the statistics are published in July, at the start of the second quarter of the financial year. To enhance the timeliness of the data for users, Home Office should publish high-level preliminary funding figures at the start of the financial year. This will give users access to the data more quickly before publishing a more granular breakdown of the data in July.
The statistics currently report changes only in nominal terms and many users told us they convert these to real-terms changes (adjusted for inflation) as part of their own analysis, because they find real-terms changes more informative. To enhance the usefulness of the statistics, Home Office is examining how best to publish real-terms changes alongside the nominal changes. We have shared OSR’s blog on Statements about public funding with the team and we welcome its commitment to producing the statistics in both nominal and real-term prices.
Some users we spoke to noted that the value of the police funding statistics would be enhanced if they covered both the period before and after the spending review in 2015. The spending review resulted in a change to the resources used for police funding and how funding was allocated to police forces, but not the total funding figure. As the current statistics cover the period only from 2015 onwards, the team should expand the analysis to cover the period from 2010 onwards to enable users to compare the funding totals over a longer time period and understand the impact of the most recent years’ spending review on police funding. There may be complications with aligning funding sources across this time period, in which case some of the more detailed breakdowns could continue to be from 2015 onwards. However, user feedback highlights that there should be no issue with providing a high-level funding figure for each year going back to 2010 because the changes to allocation and resource have no impact on the total figure.
In the statistics publication the changes in funding from the previous year are expressed in percentage terms and some users felt having a percentage change for individual forces within the data tables of the statistics would add value as well; users are currently calculating this themselves, so while it’s a small change it would be of great benefit to users. We encourage Home Office to provide this analysis in the statistics publication to enhance the insight and the convenience of the statistics for users.
The statistics provide overall figures for funding and a breakdown by different funding sources, as well as overall figures for individual forces. Some users indicated that having a breakdown of funding sources at a more granular geographic level would be useful. Users acknowledged that there were reasons (such as counter-terrorism funding), why this could not be provided at an individual force level, but also told us that a Welsh and English split would be useful, particularly for users in the Welsh Government, for understanding what available funding forces have available to them and what they may not be taking advantage of.
Both the level of central government funding provided, and the level of local funding raised are in part dependent on local populations. Some users flagged the value that figures controlling for population levels could add to the statistics. This would allow users to identify where an increase in funding is offset by an increased population for the police to oversee and help inform debate around adequate police funding. This could be based on the number of households or number of band D council tax households as this tax band is the highest part of the council tax contribution to police funding. We encourage Home Office to investigate the possibility of including this type of breakdown in the statistics to take account of changing populations.
Information about the different sources of police funding is published separately. In particular the Police Grant report sets out provisional figures for central funding in December prior to the police funding publication and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) provides figures on the council uplift that informs the local precept funding. We encourage Home Office to link to both these sources to increase user awareness of these timelier accurate sources of information, as well as the wider funding environment. In addition to this we it would also be good for Home Office to link to the Police Officer Uplift, England and Wales Quarterly Update statistics, also published by Home Office, which report on progress on recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers in England and Wales. The Police Funding statistics directly relate to these statistics and linking to them will enhance the coherence of information about different policy initiatives relating to policing.
Home Office also publishes a Fact Sheet on the funding settlement for the coming year in December. The Fact Sheet provides headline figures of the government funding proposals which are to be agreed by the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) along with the Funding settlement, which is agreed before the beginning of the financial year. To ensure the continued coherence about the decision making and data collection process, we encourage Home Office to also provide a link to the Fact Sheet on the police funding statistics landing page.
Maximising accessibility and reuse of the statistics and data
The publication is currently a single PDF document that contains various tables detailing the funding breakdowns. We recommend Home Office publish an HTML report as well as PDF, as per the recent Government Statistical Service accessibility guidance. Additionally, many users told us they are copying data manually from the tables in the publication into Excel to allow for reuse. Home Office intends to upload a set of accompanying tables in Excel format alongside the statistical publication and this will save users time, ensure there is less risk of error where these figures are reused, and maximise opportunities for reuse.
Understanding and engaging with users
Home Office does not yet have a good understanding of the wider user community of these statistics and has little engagement with users; we welcome its commitment to growing and better understanding the user base. Many of the users interviewed for the assessment indicated that they were happy for Home Office to get in touch. We expect the team to use these users’ details as a start to expanding the user base. As part of the long-term growth and development of these statistics Home Office should develop a user engagement strategy and collect user feedback, to understand the range of users and uses of the statistics. Our recently published guidance on user engagement might be helpful in thinking about and planning user engagement activities.
Summary of Findings and Requirements
Users felt the timeliness of the publication could be improved.
The statistics are currently published in July, but users would like preliminary figures before July.
It is not explained why the statistics are not published at the start of the financial year.
To enhance the timeliness of the statistics, Home Office should:
a. publish preliminary figures at the start of the financial year
b. be clear what the constraints are to the timeliness of the statistics
Users told us that presenting funding changes only in nominal prices did not help provide an understanding of the effects of inflation on police funding.
We found that users convert the figures to real-terms figures to understand the impact of inflation on funding.
Home Office should publish real-terms as well as nominal prices to provide greater understanding of the effects of inflation on police funding.
Users highlighted that the value of the statistics would be enhanced if the time series went back to 2010, like other related statistics, such as MHCLG’s Local authority revenue expenditure and financing England statistics.
The current statistics go back only to 2015.
To bring these statistics into line with other similar statistics, Home Office should provide a high-level total funding figure for England and Wales going back to 2010.
Users would like a breakdown at England and Wales levels to understand policy interventions such as Safer Streets.
The statistics currently do not provide a breakdown for England and Wales.
Home Office should provide a breakdown of funding for Wales and England.
Home Office does not publish data in a reusable form.
To use the data, many users manually input the numbers from the statistics publication into their own spreadsheets.
To allow easier further analysis, Home Office should provide the data tables in Excel or ODS format.
The team does not yet have a good understanding of the wider user community of these statistics.
Our assessment has found that these statistics fill an important gap. However, they could be enhanced by effectively engaging with users.
To build its understanding of users and ensure the statistics meet user needs, Home Office should develop and implement a strategy for engaging with users. As part of this Home Office should consider preparing an action plan of how the statistics team intends to grow its user base.