Police press offices and ‘media relation teams’ have remained ‘virtually immune’ to police efficiency cuts, which have shaved a fifth off budgets since 2010, leading campaigners to ask how important spin doctor spending can be to police forces.
Forces in England and Wales have been praised by the government for presiding over a fall in many types of crime, even as budgets have fallen and officers have been cut back, but some peculiarities of spending are unlikely to draw positive comments. New figures show the £32 million spent by forces on public relations a year is now only slightly lower than the £34 million spent in 2010, and could fund an extra 600 front-line police every year.
The Express reports the remarks of Taxpayers Alliance chief Jonathan Isaby, who campaigns for tax money funded organisations to deliver value-for-money for the general public, as he said: “Very few criminals have been apprehended by a well-targeted press release.
“Taxpayers want bobbies on the beat, not an army of propagandists, and they’ll be furious at this wasteful spending. These spinners spend most of their time complaining about necessary savings being made across the police force, but taxpayers would rather see their money prioritised on the frontline”.
Actual spending on PR operations varies from force to force. The Metropolitan police is the worst offender, spending a remarkable £5.9 million a year on its media ops team. In contrast, DyfedPowys police in Wales spent only £198,000.
At £1.18 million, Greater Manchester police is one of the biggest spenders outside of London. The force has had a PR disaster on its hands over the past couple of years as revelations of its failure to investigate child grooming gangs in towns like Rochdale. Attempts by the force to cover up its own incompetence and allowing the industrial-scale grooming, trafficking, and sexual abuse of children as young as 11 under its watch has added a taint of corruption to what was already an unpleasant affair.