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  1. Government Computing
December 3, 2020

2020 Spending Review and implications to the UK police

Leonardo Bulgarelli Freitas, Senior Public Sector Analyst at GlobalData, explores the impact of the 2020 Spending Review on the UK police ICT landscape.

By Leonardo Bulgarelli Freitas

Credit: dagmarbendel from Pixabay

Last week’s 2020 Spending Review (SR20) was the accounting exercise many were waiting for. With big challenges ahead factoring the COVID-19 pandemic impact and the imminent leave of the UK from the EU, Rishi Sunak had the task to outline government spending plans for the next years. This first release of the SR20 may not be as detailed as expected, leaving a lot of the detail for a more complete funding revision planned for next year. However, the announcements in this spending review publication already shows some of the government’s investment initiatives that aim to support public services in tackling the crisis.

In this article we will summarise some of SR20’s implications to police forces in the UK, as well as possible consequences for the police ICT market and for technology suppliers. We have recently released articles from my colleagues covering Local Government, Central Government and Healthcare, so we would like to invite you to explore the SR20 implications for these other sectors after this analysis.

Good news for continued police recruitment

Following the SR19, in which £750m was provided to police forces with the objective of recruiting 6,000 new officers in 2020-21, a further £400m was promised to the recruitment programme. The extra capital comes on top of a longer term plan to have 20,000 new police officers on UK streets by 2023 (5,000 new officers have already been recruited to date), and will aim to cover the infrastructure required to support these new recruits, including equipment, training and benefits. The extra investment may come as positive news for ICT suppliers, as part of the £400m is likely to be used to the purchase of new ICT equipment such as computers, personal radios and key software licenses to the staff.

More flexibility on the police precept

SR20 have also provided Police and Crime Commissioners (PPCs) in England with more flexibility to adjust their funding through police council tax precept. The maximum allowable was increased from £10 in 2019-20 s (for Band D properties), to £15m in 2020-21. The measure, if applied by all PCCs, could translate into an extra available funding of £320m in 2021, compared to previous years of police precept revenues.

Key investments in EU police cooperation

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With Brexit’s transition period coming to an end, the UK government is planning allocate £363m in funding to continue law enforcement cooperation with EU member states, as well as recruiting more Border Force officers and deliver transit customs arrangements. The investment comes at a crucial time for the UK police, as most cooperation treaties signed with the EU may cease to have effect after 31st December 2020.

On the national police side, the resource allocation may help UK law enforcement agencies find solutions to continue exchanging data with EU police forces and investigate suspects before they reach UK soil.

A more detailed analysis of this is available in a recently published an article on the no-deal Brexit impact on police data exchange that further explains the possible consequences of less cooperation. On the ICT side, this could mean good news for technology suppliers. With the funding approved, the Home Office may soon start to engage with suppliers, looking for new analytical resources and screening for market capabilities to fill in the gaps in information exchange.

Funding for the tackling of specific crimes

SR20 also discloses specific funding for the prevention of a series of specific crimes. Resources aimed to improve counter-terrorism capabilities will be maintained at £70m in 2021-22, the same level as 2020-21. The same goes for the funding aimed to tackle child sexual exploitation crimes, at £30m in 2021-22. The government has also decided to increase funding to tackle economic crimes, with additional resources of £63m in 2021-22, including support for the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC). In addition, £695m is expected to be invested in R&D funding between 2021 and 2025 to support the development of cutting-edge crime prevention capabilities such as AI and Machine Learning in the government, which may boost public-private partnerships further.

The needed capital investments in these specific crime areas allied to more web screening, AI and machine learning technologies available in the market, could bring a pipeline of opportunities to the table for innovative ICT suppliers. In 2019, the Economic Crime Plan 2019-22, published by the Home Office, details the government’s plans to continue investing in new technologies to tackle financial crime in the UK, which the new £63m funding may bring an extra boost to.

To better understand further breakdowns of police funding and regional splits, we need to wait for further detail for the Government. For now, some of the promised investments may look good on paper and could bring a much-needed boost to UK police operations. We will, of course, continue to keep a close look at further publications.

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