Police and local councils given £60m funding boost for Covid-19 patrols

Police will receive an extra £30 million for enforcing coronavirus lockdown rules, the Government has said.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 7:11 am
Updated Thursday, 8th October 2020, 7:14 am
Home Secretary Priti Patel

The announcement follows talks between the Home Office and senior officers asking for more money to cover Covid-19 restrictions as crime levels rise back towards those seen before lockdown.

Last week, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Martin Hewitt said he had asked for more funding for “specific Covid patrolling activity”.

NPCC figures showed that after a 28% drop in crime at the height of lockdown, in the four weeks to August 30 levels were at 3% below those in the same period last year.

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The 43 police forces in England and Wales will be granted a share of the £30 million according to the existing police funding formula.

This formula has been criticised in the past as being unfair on forces that cover rural areas.

Local councils will also receive £30 million to fund measures including so-called Covid marshals to make sure rules are being observed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The vast majority of the British public has come together, followed the law and helped prevent the spread of this virus.

“But we’ve been clear that, with infections rising, we will not allow a small minority of people to reverse our hard-won progress.

“This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”

The Home Office has also launched a loss recovery scheme for police forces which have lost out on income including charges for policing sporting fixtures or airport security.

They will be able to reclaim 75p per £1 of the budgeted income lost, after they have themselves absorbed 5% of the losses.

Mr Hewitt said: “Individuals, households and businesses all have a responsibility to ensure the virus is suppressed, and police will continue to play our part in supporting the public to navigate the range of measures in place for our safety.

“Our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging people to follow the rules remains. But we must be clear that we will take enforcement action against the minority who refuse to comply.

“Chief constables have increased patrols in high-risk areas and are proactively working with businesses, licensing authorities and local authorities to ensure the rules are being followed.

“This additional funding will go some way to covering the cost of this at a time when crime and demand on policing is almost back to the levels seen before the pandemic.”

Nesil Caliskan, from the Local Government Association, welcomed the funding, but said that in many areas regulatory services are “at tipping point”.

He added: “As local authorities continue to lead local work to tackle Covid-19, the Government needs to use the Spending Review to ensure councils have enough funding to maintain vital trading standards and environmental health services over the next six months and beyond.”

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers must keep their discretion about how best to use resources.

He said: “Policing is overstretched, and colleagues are already doing all they can during this pandemic.

“Any suggestion that this extra money would take away the discretion which permits police officers to do their jobs to the best of their ability would be counterproductive and damaging.

“Alongside this announcement must be an effective public information campaign. This must make it crystal clear what is expected of the public.”

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the funding was not enough for forces and councils already under pressure even before the pandemic.

“They have come under huge strain, not least as they went into this crisis weakened by a decade of cuts that saw officer numbers fall and council funding slashed,” he said.

“While any extra funding is welcome, this reannouncement of money does not do enough to support our officers.”