It’s a while since I examined the activities of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), that well known Astroturf lobby group that pretends to have “grassroots” while having no such thing, and all the while representing less than one tenth of one per cent of all taxpayers in the UK. But the temptation to fillet a particularly ham-fisted attack on the Police was just too tempting.
More guff from Tufton Street
“New Research: Each ‘bobby on the beat’ costs nearly £800,000 a year” trumpets the headline. And how exactly has this figure been arrived at? This is not told, but there is this magnificently contradictory gem: “While much of the work done by forces that isn't visible has value, the amount of frontline visible policing for a given amount of spending is still a good proxy for value for money”.
The TPA “report” talks of officers being “visible and available”, but where this information comes from we are not told. And “frontline visible policing” does not include, oh, surveillance, plain clothes officers, research, follow-up information gathering, liaison with other forces and agencies, court case preparation, specialist officers (dog handlers, firearms holders, drug squad, and no doubt many more).
And that’s before we consider the overheads of administration, maintaining vehicles, managing those in detention, training, and interaction with the public (for instance, school visits and road safety awareness campaigns). So that’s an awful lot of useful Police functions that the TPA is just binning for the purpose of getting a bigger and scarier monetary equivalence for that “bobby on the beat”.
But let’s look at the figure: the TPA claim is that each of those “visible and available” Police officers or PCSOs costs on average almost £793k. And then a thought enters: what is a reasonable length of time for an officer’s shift? Well, how about eight hours? And that’s a third of 24 hours, so that shock horror figure can usefully be divided by three. And, as the man said, there’s more.
Can it be reasonably expected than a Police officer be “visible and available” for the whole of their shift? What about dealing with offenders and suspects? What about those members of the public that officers need to interview, comfort and otherwise manage as they deal with crime? It’s equally reasonable to expect all of that to take up half of each shift. So that cost is actually £133k.
And when you factor in all those maybe less “visible” aspects of policing, it’s hardly any surprise that the numbers pan out as they do. There are variations between forces? That has to do with the areas concerned and policing priorities, so did the TPA bother to enquire about those? Did it heck – this is just another TPA FoI fishing expedition with the conclusion already written.
That’s not good enough. But, equally, it is utterly predictable.
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