Tuesday, 12 July 2016 14:18

Rural police need fair funding – report

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural police need fair funding – report

RURAL police forces could lose out because government thinking is skewed in favour of urban areas, says a report.

The Fair Funding for Rural Policing study comes as the Home Office reviews how it allocates national funds across police forces.

It says the current funding formula is inherently unfair on rural forces, particularly those with sparse populations.

The government appears to favour allocating money based on the number of crimes recorded in a given area, says the report.

The document suggests this would mean funding is disproportionately influenced by volume crimes such as shoplifting.

By definition, far more volume crimes occur in urban areas than in rural areas, it says.

    See also: Cost of rural crime exceeds £800m - survey

The report argues that such crimes is an inaccurate measure of policing demand and fail to reflect the challenges faced by rural areas.

The study was published by the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN).

"The focus on counting reported crime skews funding towards areas with high volumes of theft," said NRCN chair Julia Mulligan, who is North Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner.

"As a consequence rural forces with fewer such crimes will miss out."

Ms Milligan added: "It's like allocating NHS money on the basis of the number of people in an area with a cough and cold.

"The more people, the more coughs and colds, but in no way does this take into account the complexity of serving the public properly.

"It is a crude way of looking at a complex issue and is clearly going to throw up an unfair result."

Ms Mulligan said the Home Office was currently reviewing the way policing is funded.

"Post-Brexit, the funding settlement we received last year is now in question. It's therefore more important than ever to put our case forwards.

"Along with other Police and Crime Commissioners from rural areas, I will be using this report to do exactly that."

Report author  Sheena Asthana said government thinking relied too heavily on population and crime counts which both favoured urban forces.

Professor Asthana said: "The government's approach appears to sacrifice fairness in pursuit of simplicity."

"We think a fresh start is needed and that any new approach needs to use a different methodology and draw on different data if it is to achieve a fair system for distributing funds."

The Rural Policing report also argues that rural areas face additional burdens that should be factored into funding.

These include often having to 'plug the gap' left by other services such as health and social care whose services can be stretched in isolated areas.

The report says additional responsibilities linked to people with mental health difficulties are particularly noticeable, especially with regard to dementia and missing person cases due to elderly populations.

Rural forces have to shoulder the cost of significantly higher round-trip distances when attending incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour as well as to road traffic incidents, it adds.

As rural forces tend to have lower officer numbers, the burden per officer is up to 65& higher than for forces nationally, representing an additional challenge for delivering services as well as posing risks to officer and staff welfare.

The report provides evidence of the underlying reasons why basing police funding on the number of recorded crimes is misleading.

It also stives to set out the extra challenges rural forces face in meeting the needs of communities typically under resourced by other providers too.

"Demands on rural forces differ to those on urban forces and a funding formula is needed that reflects that variation and provides for such differing requirements.

"Above all, the important thing is for all forces to feel confident that the funding they receive is fair and reflects underlying need rather than a crude calculation loaded in favour of urban areas."

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