Full database on police PR and FOI spending 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.
Police forces spending over £39m a year on ‘spin’
Forces employ more than eight PR staff for every Freedom of Information officer and spend nearly ten times more on PR than on FOI
Press Release: 23 May 2008
For Immediate Release
Research published today in The Times reveals that UK police forces are spending an estimated £39.4m on press offices, PR and marketing.
The sum is enough to fund an extra 1,400 full time police officers, or to give officers the full backdated pay rise denied to them by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
The research revealed significant differences in the level of spending between forces. At the top of the table is Police Service Northern Ireland, which spent nearly eight times more per person than Derbyshire Constabulary, the force with the lowest PR budget.
Spending on publicity and promotion has increased far above the rate of inflation, at a time when many police forces face serious budgetary pressure. Overall spending on press and PR has increased 13.3 per cent since 2005, but some rural forces had much larger increases: Cumbria constabulary more than doubled its PR expenditure since 2005, and Dyfed Powys went up 77.3 per cent from 2005 to 2007.
The study, carried out by James Ball and Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke, also showed serious shortcomings in the police’s attitude to Freedom of Information laws.
Ms Brooke said:
The police are paid to enforce crime not manage the public’s perception of crime. If police are serious about keeping residents informed they should put more money into freedom of information which deals with answering questions people actually want to know.
Also all crime incidents should be published, broken down by either street level or first section of postcode. Then we would all know precisely how safe or endangered we are. This information is already available to certain privileged people. That’s not right. Everyone should have access.
Only 19 of the 52 forces contacted responded within the legal time limit, and many forces provided incomplete or poor quality information. At least two forces revised their figures close to publication once their press office was contacted for comment.
On average, police forces employ more than eight PR staff for each FOI officer and spend nearly ten times more on PR than on Freedom of Information, leaving FOI officers struggling to deal with responses. One told the researchers: “I have been doing three people’s jobs for the past month and have been drowning with the workload”
The Metropolitan Police, which spent more than £6 million on public relations in 2007/8, included a £250,000 contribution to The Londoner, a free newspaper distributed to 2.8 million homes by Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, which Boris Johnson has labelled a “propaganda sheet” and pledged to scrap. By contrast, the Met spent only £25,000 promoting Crimestoppers and Neighbourhood Watch in 2005/6.
Thames Valley Police more than doubled its PR budget between 2005 and 2007 even though the force’s overall budget went up by just 5.8 per cent in that time and it anticipates a £9 million “funding gap” this coming year. The force said extra staff had been hired to develop its website and promote neighbourhood policing, while printing costs had also risen.
The research was conducted using the Freedom of Information Act. All 52 police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were contacted. Four forces – Cleveland Constabulary, North Wales, South Wales and Strathclyde – either did not respond or provided data too approximate to use. North Yorkshire Police refused to answer the FOI request.