Theresa May risked misleading the public by claiming the Government is boosting police funding by £450m, according to the UK’s official statistics watchdog.
The Prime Minister was criticised by Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, for an answer she gave Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons last month.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May claimed the Government is “not just protecting police budgets, but increasing them with an extra £450m”.
However, Sir David stated this “could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central government is providing an additional £450m for police spending in 2018/19”.
Citing an earlier written statement by policing minister Nick Hurd, Sir David pointed to how £270m of the funding settlement will come from local council tax, if Police and Crime Commissioners and mayors choose to raise the cash.
Sir David also criticised a Home Office tweet for implying the £450m sum is “guaranteed”.
It stated: “This year the government is providing a £450 million boost to #police funding”.
In addition, Sir David noted how Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, wrote in February the £270m that can be raised locally was on top of the overall settlement of up to £450m.
Sir David said: “Complex funding arrangements are difficult to explain particularly in the time-compressed context of Prime Minister’s Questions.
“Written communications, including tweets, do not face this constraint.
“We recommend that the Home Office’s Head of Profession for Statistics speak to communications colleagues about the importance of clear public statements about police funding and ensure they understand the structure of police funding.”
Sir David wrote in reply to a letter from Labour’s shadow policing minister Louise Haigh.
She said: “The Tories are not being straight with the public on police funding and now they have been found out.
“You would hope this embarrassing slap-down would now shame the Conservatives into being honest about their dismal record on policing.
“With 21,000 officers gone and billions cut in real-terms, it’s time the Government stopped taking the public for fools.
“The Prime Minister should apologise for trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes on Tory cuts to policing.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We endeavour to provide the facts on police funding as clearly as possible.
“Our chief statistician will carefully consider the suggestions the UK Statistics Authority has made.”