Country’s leading anti-fraud police force may be hampered by budget gap

Country’s leading anti-fraud police force may be hampered by budget gap
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The UK’s leading fraud-fighting police force has warned of pressure on its ‘ability to maintain officer levels’, after the Government’s provisional settlement left it with a potential funding gap of up to £3 million for 2023/24.

The City of London Police, which is the National Lead Force (NLF) for fraud, will receive slightly more funding than expected under the proposed settlement. However, due to the way the money has been allocated, it does not allow for any contribution to the increased costs of resources such as the force’s NLF work.

The provisional settlement, published by the Home Office on December 14 last year, promises up to £18.4 billion for policing in England and Wales for the coming financial year. Overall funding could rise by up to £922m compared to 2023/24, with Home Secretary James Cleverly saying the additional spend will ensure “every officer and community has the support and resources they need to cut crime, protect the public and build confidence in policing”.

In documents published ahead of a City of London Police Authority Board meeting on January 10, officers note that while the force will receive £0.3m more than anticipated, the provisional settlement “significantly increases the amount of ringfencing and therefore risk to realising all the funding opportunities”.

Officers continue to write that a gap of £2.5-£3m will be left for 2024/25 due to the proposed funding not fully covering ‘inflationary and other pressures’. “It should also be noted that the settlement does not provide for increased funding of City’s NLF work to offset pay award, pensions increase and other inflationary pressures. Engagement is taking place with Home Office on this matter,” they add.

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Cllr James Thomson, Chair of the City of London Police Authority Board, writes in his own update that he and Commissioner Pete O’Doherty have ‘raised concerns’ with Government ministers about the affordability of the NLF work if the provisional settlement is finalised. He added that due to the way the funding is allocated, “this is putting pressure on our ability to maintain officer levels ging [sic] forward”.

As the national lead police force for fraud, the City of London Police investigates some of the country’s most complex cases and sets the national strategy. According to its website, more than 40% of all crime reported in the UK is fraud-related, with the NLF serving “a crucial role in the coordination of the policing response”.

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “The City of London Corporation is looking at a range of proposals to bridge the funding gap, including those in consultation with the Home Office. These will be presented to the Police Authority Board and then to the Court of Common Council for approval in March 2024.

“The City of London Police ensures that the Square Mile is one of the safest places in the country, and combats fraud on a national and international scale. Its officers are trusted by the communities that they serve and deliver first class policing with professionalism, integrity, and compassion.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As part of our commitment to tackling crime and keeping communities safe, police forces in England and Wales will receive up to £922 million in extra funding in 2024/25.

“City of London’s police funding will be up to £85.6 million in 2024/25, an increase of up to £6.3 million when compared to 2023/24.”

The final settlement is due to be debated in Parliament ahead of the new financial year.

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