Theresa May has been criticised by the official statistics watchdog for wrongly claiming the Government was providing an extra £450 million for policing.
Sir David Norgrove, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said the Prime Minister’s comments in the Commons could have led the public to conclude “incorrectly” that central government was providing the additional funding for police spending in 2018/19.
In a letter to Labour shadow policing minister Louise Haigh, who raised Mrs May’s claim, Sir David said previous statements from ministers had made clear that up to £270 million of the settlement would come from local council tax – if mayors and police and crime commissioners chose to raise it.
He also criticised a Home Office tweet for making a similar claim, as well as implying the £450 million was guaranteed, and the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, for stating the £270 million which councils could raise was on top of the £450 million.
While he acknowledged that complex funding arrangements were difficult to explain in the “time- compressed context” of Prime Minister’s Questions, that did not apply to written comments, including tweets.
His comments came after Mrs May told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions on February 7, that the Government was “not just protecting police budgets, but increasing them with an extra £450 million”.
A Home Office tweet the same day stated: “This year the government is providing a £450 million boost to #police funding”.
In his letter, Sir David said: “The Prime Minister’s statement and the Home Office’s tweet could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central Government is providing an additional £450 million for police spending in 2018/19.
“The Home Office tweet also implied that the £450 million sum is guaranteed.”
He added: “Complex funding arrangements are difficult to explain, particularly in the time-compressed context of Prime Minister’s Questions. Written communications, including tweets, do not face this constraint.
“We recommend that the Home Office’s head of profession for statistics speak to communications colleagues about the importance of clear public statements about police funding and ensure they understand the structure of police funding.”
Ms Haigh said: “The Tories are not being straight with the public on police funding and now they have been found out. The Prime Minister should apologise for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes on Tory cuts to policing.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We endeavour to provide the facts on police funding as clearly as possible. Our chief statistician will carefully consider the suggestions the UK Statistics Authority has made.”