The chancellor has been accused of exaggerating increased funding for counter-terrorism policing, after a leaked letter from a security official said the actual year-on-year increase was £59m rather than the £160m announced in the budget.
Philip Hammond’s budget speech contained the announcement of extra funds for counter-terrorism. He said on Monday: “We committed in 2015 to spend 30% more on counter-terrorism capabilities over the current spending review period.
“And today I commit an additional £160m of CT police funding in 2019-20 to protect CT police numbers and to allow future CT police funding to be considered in the round at the Spending Review.”
But a letter, seen by the Guardian, from a senior official from the Office for Security and Counter-terrorism said next year’s extra funding in fact amounted to £59m. It said: “It represents a £59m year on year increase in CT police funding…”, and was sent on Monday to the chair of the counter-terrorism policing strategic board.
The letter was written by the head of the OSCT’s capabilities, operations, policing and secretariat unit, whom the Guardian has been asked not to name for security reasons. The OSCT is part of the Home Office.
Government officials confirmed that the letter is genuine. Treasury officials said the chancellor was correct to use the £160m figure when he addressed MPs in the Commons.
His speech on Monday made no mention of the lower, £59m figure, and neither did the home secretary, Sajid Javid, who told a conference of police chiefs on Wednesday of the extra money from the chancellor and cited “the increase in funding for counter-terrorism policing for 2019-20, an increase of £160m”.
The government has been under pressure to increase police funding and has also been proclaiming that austerity is over.
A spokesperson for the Treasury said Hammond had been correct in the figure he stated on Monday and said: “£160m of additional funding is entirely the correct way to describe the counter-terrorism budget announcement.”
The Treasury argues that Hammond was correct to use the £160m figure because it is the difference between the annual amount contained in the 2015 spending review settlement (£656m) and the funding granted to counter-terrorism policing for 2019/20 (£816m).
But the this year’s funding was boosted by an extra £71m from elsewhere, taking the actual total for the year to £757m. That extra £71m was not included in the chancellor’s calculation.
Labour’s policing spokeswoman, Louise Haigh , said: “The government have been caught being misleading time and time again on police funding.
“They’ve slashed budgets for eight years at the expense of public safety and now they’ve been caught red-handed once again massively exaggerating the amount that is actually going into counter-terrorism policing this year. The public and the police deserve better.”