New Research: Each ‘bobby on the beat’ costs nearly £800,000 a year
Dec 2012 30
We can today reveal that less than 12 per cent of police officers and Police Community Support Officers’ (PCSO) time is “visible and available” to the public. Because of this it effectively costs taxpayers nearly £800,000 for every constant ‘bobby on the beat’. While necessary spending cuts have to be made, this report reveals some forces are far better than others at ensuring officers are spending their time on the front line. A key priority for Police Chiefs and newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners must be to focus resources on frontline policing.



The key findings of this research are:
  • The total police budget for England and Wales is £13.2 billion, supporting the work of 149,000 police officers and Police and Community Support Officers. This works out as nearly £90,000 for each police officer and PCSO.
  • On average, fewer than 12 per cent of officers and PCSOs are “visible and available” to the public at any one time. That means each constant visible and available police officer and PCSO effectively costs £792,851 a year. £10 million a year buys an average of less than 14 visible and available police officers and PCSOs at any one time.
  • The forces with the highest share of police visible and available are West Yorkshire Police (16.3 per cent), Cleveland Police (15.8 per cent), Norfolk Constabulary (15 per cent) and Nottinghamshire Police (15 per cent).
  • The forces with the lowest share of police visible and available are City of London (7.2 per cent), Warwickshire Police Force (8.7 per cent), West Midlands (10.0 per cent), Derbyshire Constabulary (10.2 per cent) and the Metropolitan Police (10.2 per cent).
  • The City of London Police and Metropolitan Police have among the highest average costs per officer. For every £10 million spent, the City provides 86officers and PCSOs (5.5 “visible and available” on average) and the Met provides 98 (8.9 “visible and available”). The City of London Police spends£1,813,871 for every officer or PCSO visible and available while the Met spends£1,120,342. It is worth noting that the City of London police and the Met have specific responsibilities for financial crime and anti-terrorism respectively. This probably reduces the amount of time that officers are able to be visible and available.
Outside London, the police forces with the highest cost per visible and available officer/PCSO are:
  • Warwickshire: £1,224,102 (8.2 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Northamptonshire: £955,968 (10.5 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Wiltshire: £931,846 (10.7 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Derbyshire: £931,826 (10.7 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Surrey: £842,711 (11.9 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
The police forces with the lowest cost per visible and available officer/PCSO are:
  • Northumbria: £475,459 (21 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • West Yorkshire: £521,971 (19.2 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Cleveland: £539,186 (18.5 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Nottinghamshire: £607,041 (16.5 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)
  • Norfolk: £616,242 (16.2 visible and available for every £10 million spent on policing)

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  • blarg1987

    Somehow I do not think every police officer costs nearly 800,000 per year, as a large chunk of these budggets is for building maintenance / cars / equipment, training etc.

    Also I think you will find that if you include specilist departments such as firearms, dog handling units / Criminal investigation departmets etc, the number is much higher for a service that has to be provided 24 hours.

    So will the TPA do a detailed breakdown of budgets per department?

  • DBL07

    The major issue is that far too many police officers are not working shifts in the frontline. They’re the best on the planet an emergency, but, for the rest of the time their threshold of pressure is very low and many officers (of course, there are many exceptions) only do what they have to. Secondly, they want “white collar” recognition but expect “blue collar” things like overtime – most people earning what a PC earns do whatever hours they have to to keep their job and don’t expect overtime and allowances too. There are still a huge number of “uniform carriers”. Also, there is the point that recruiting high quality recruits is easy now – when there are the rare police recruitment campaigns they’re thousands of high quality applicants – elsewhere in the public sector the Govt would say that is a good case for reducing terms and conditions to suit the marketplace. Tom Winsor is saying that too I think.

    In the case of the Met don’t be fooled by responses to the question “how much does an officer earn?” – the answers normally only include basic salary – in reality the Met officers get the highest London Weighting/Allowance of any public sector organisation, travel concessions, plus, if they do more than their 36 hour week they’re “on the clock with overtime”. How many organisations are there where the majority of the most basic non managerial workers receive a reward package worth more than £ 45K a year? All of this plus retirement after 30 years on 2/3 pay pension?

    The isolation from economic reality was confirmed in my mind when, recently, the Met Commissioner argued on Radio 4 for improved pay for his officers and one of the reasons he cited was that their pension contributions and living costs were going up!

    Finally, despite being a uniformed service you wouldn’t believe how “democratic” the police service can be. Few officers end up doing what they don’t want too! And, if pressed there are a range of remedies such a as grievances, fairness at work processes etc.

    I say all of this with over 35 years insight from the grass roots to the highest reaches of the Service. Tough economic times have meant “Old Bill has been tumbled” – the Home Sec. and Winsor are, I’m afraid, right.

  • David Gale

    Interesting stats but, yet again, the real issue gets missed. Our police forces are bereft of the skills required to make real transformational change that will release more resource for front line policing. Many forces have completely inadequate key business strategies or none at all. As a consequence, most decisions are taken on a piecemeal basis with little or no reference to best practice in procurement, IT, or information management strategies. This is the un-sexy stuff that passes by unnoticed by both the media and the electorate. The vast majority of forces haven’t got close to delivering a business transformation strategy, with even fewer actually understanding the requirement.

    It’s interesting to note too that the PCC’s national IT company has disappeared from the news agenda. My concern is that unless proper scutiny and governance is put in place, we will see yet another Cabinet Office inspired supplier pig-fest that will suck in yet more budget with the net effect of a reduction in frontline officers. Already, one Chief Constable has reported to me of a doubling of proposed costs for one of the nationally rolled-out IT systems.

    Next to none of English, and I make the differentiation deliberately as the Scots seem to know what they’re doing, public sector IT is delivered in a truly strategic way with a consequent cost to the tax payer in excess of £2billion per annum. Follow the money and the lobbied interest gravy train to understand that there are people in Whitehall who know there is a better way, it’s just that real change is not in their interest.

  • Rex_imperator

    Of course the arithmetic with this type of exercise is crude, but it is both illustrative and informative. No, it doesn’t compute down to the cost per bobby per minute and nor should it. But why are the costs and rations in one county so much different from those elsewhere? All have the same challenges (Met/COLP excluded), albeit with some regional variations. Forces like Lincolnshire probably spend more on translation services than say Dorset, but petrol and diesel cost the same, Volvos and Fords are supplied on a national tariff etc.

    • blarg1987

      Area size varies (effecting petrol and diesel) also areas have different types of priorities, where you have areas with higher gun crime, more firearms units are required this all affects the number of visible bobbies on the beat.

      What is needed is a breakdown of department costs and types of crime they have priorities only then can real comparisons be made.

  • gildedtumbril

    What’s all this about police? I call them chocolate fireguards.

  • Avenger66

    I think the question that needs to be asked is why there is such a low visibility percentage. I think it may well have something to do with the amount of bureacrecy the frontline bobby has to put up with. The last thing we want is more ‘key business strategies’ ( whatever that means!!).
    Suggest you read this blog for a realistic view of what the frontline copper has to put up with

    Just for info I am not a copper nor do I have any relatives who are so there is no agenda here.

  • John Kenny

    Far more police performance league tables should be published in the national press to concentrate minds of chief constables on making far better use of scarce resources, a policy I’ve been provably advocating in print for many years in the face of vigorous opposition from ACPO.
    It’s also a great pity that traditional police boxes were abandoned..

    Had they been retained and updated with all mod cons then constables could have spent far more time in the heart of their beats.

    I first suggested this in 1989 in a formal report to Scotland Yard vide OG/15/89/181, only to see it rejected.

    See my letter published in last Wednesday’s London Evening Standard.

  • Colin L

    We are quickly learning that management in the public sector is hands
    off so to avoid incrimination – BBC ,The Met, NHS – you name it – don’t
    ask , don’t touch it, don’t get involved. BBC loser should have asked
    about accusations against that Tory lord, Met chief should have viewed
    the cctv image of Downing St incident and so on. Why pay the fabulous
    salaries, pensions, etc,etc if they are not up to hands on mgt. They
    have to be in any UK PLc and taxpayer paid managers, of all people,
    should be too. Needs sorting!!

  • injected

    I think this is a misleading headline and story. IMO it would be more helpful to work out the average hourly cost per policeman per hour worked (whether on the beat or in the office), once the total cost of their pension, overtime and shift premium is included. I’d love to know the answer