Daily Telegraph: Police time spent on paperwork still rising

Monday, 16 February, 2009

POLICE are spending even less time on the beat and more on paperwork, despite Home Office promises to cut red tape.

Officers now spend less than one eighth of their time patrolling the streets, but a fifth on paperwork. This is despite the Government's promises to free up officers' time.

The Conservatives accused ministers of a "cover up'' after refusing to provide up-to-date figures on officer time spent on patrol or on paperwork.

Jan Berry, the former Police Federation chairman who has been asked by the Government to find ways to cut red tape, will publish her interim report today while the Home Office will unveil plans to halve the amount of data that forces must record.

But officers have already dismissed the moves as empty rhetoric that will do nothing to free police from their desks.

David Ruffley , the shadow minister for police reform, who unearthed the figures, said: "As Jan Berry's report Reducing Bureaucracy is about to be published, it is a disgrace that after several years of publishing data on the amount of time that police officers spend on patrol, Home Office ministers now refuse to publish these figures at all. It's a Labour cover-up.''

Home Office figures indicate that officers spent 18.4 per cent of their time on paperwork in 2004-05 but that had increased to 19.7 per cent by 2006-07, the most recent statistics available.

By contrast, time spent on patrol fell from 15.3 per cent to 13.6 per cent over the same period and at a time when the Government promised repeatedly to cut red tape and free up officers.

Simon Reed, the vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: "In the time of this Government, police numbers have increased by around 10,000 while police staff numbers have increased by nearly 50,000 - but we have seen no improvement in an officer's ability to spend time on patrol.

"The Government certainly does not seem to have eased the burden on officers and this proves that they have only paid lip service to it. Everything they have promised has come to nothing.''

Miss Berry was appointed by the Home Office last year as its first police bureaucracy "champion'' to examine how to free up officers.

She will publish her interim report today alongside a separate report by the permanent secretary for the Home Office, Sir David Normington, on how to cut data recorded by the police by 5 per cent.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Saturday that one measure already put in place by Miss Berry is a team of "red tape police''.

The panel of 18 frontline officers will review any new initiative or policing process that involves paperwork or recording of data to judge whether it will add to officers' workloads.