A three-month project by James Ball and I using the Freedom of Information Act to examine police spending on public relations, press offices and marketing concluded with two pieces in today’s Times:
We found that police forces across the UK are spending £39m each year on press and PR – enough to fund an extra 1,400 full time officers and more than enough to cover the annual police pay rise withheld by the Government. The force at the top of the league (Police Service Northern Ireland) spends eight times more per person on PR than the lowest (Derbyshire). Meanwhile, forces spend nearly ten times more on PR (what police want us to know) than on FOI (what we want to know).
Also while resources are pumped into PR, we found a distinct lack of interest in responding to our FOI requests. Only 19 of 53 forces responded to our requests on time. All the rest broke the law. They had a variety of explanations though some offered none at all. Police Service Northern Ireland had the most novel excuse – their FOI officer was on an advanced driver training course. It had no affect in speeding up their tardy reply which came more than a month late. If any of us were to break the law I doubt such excuses would carry much weight. Even those committing non-crimes such as parking get no leeway.
When we called the press offices for comment, however, it was remarkable how quickly forces found the time to re-examine their figures to decrease the amounts, often claiming the initial figures they’d given us were incorrect.
There is lot more detail than we could get in the newspaper so check out the summary or the full database for the full story on how your police force responded.
Full Database (Excel). Here you’ll find a sheet with the main findings, a summary sheet and finally the full detail of all our requests to 52 police forces.
|PR/Press spend per 100,000 people, per year|
|Police Service Northern Ireland||£99,501.01|
|Metropolitan Police Force||£85,629.10|
|South Yorkshire||£20,818 (ave 3 years)|
|Total PR spend increases|
|Dyfed Powys Police||77%|
|Devon & Cornwall Police||43%|
|PR staff spend increases|
|Thames Valley Police||146%|