NSW Police Force spending fell by more than $480 million in the past financial year, in an issue that’s opening up as a battleground between political rivals at Dubbo.
The figure is contained in the latest Australian productivity report, which also reveals the state has fewer officers per person than any other state.
Despite the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, NSW Police Minister and Dubbo MP Troy Grant insisted: “With record numbers, record infrastructure investment and a ground-breaking health and wellbeing program, our police force is the strongest it has ever been.”
The commission’s report shows real recurrent expenditure in NSW in 2016-2017 was $3.03 billion, down on $3.51 billion in 2015-2016.
NSW’s 239 operational staff per 100,000 people, was fewer than all other states and territories other than the ACT.
There were 228 operational staff per 100,000 people in 2015-2016.
Crunching the numbers, recurrent expenditure on policing in NSW in 2016-2017 was $388 per person, about $70 less than in the previous 12 months.
The report’s author notes “All else being equal, a low or decreasing expenditure per person is desirable” before warning “efficiency data should be interpreted with care”.
“High or increasing expenditure per person might reflect poor efficiency, but may also reflect changing aspects of the service or policing environment,” it said.
“Low expenditure per person may reflect more efficient outcomes or lower quality or less challenging crime and safety situations.”
Mr Grant defended his government, saying it had presided over a continuous year-on-year increase in police positions since 2011.
“We have committed to boosting authorised strength to 16,795 over this term and we are well on track to achieving that. This will mean almost 1000 additional positions delivered under this government,” he said.
The Daily Liberal was referred to the 2016/2017 NSW Police Force Annual Report which showed workers’ compensation expenses had fallen from $367.68 million in 2015-2016 to $173.59 million in 2016-2017.
Mr Grant pointed to the most recent data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
“In the 24 months to September 2017, 16 out of the 17 major crime categories were either stable or saw a decrease,” Mr Grant said.
“This government is spending $17.1 million over four years to expand health and wellbeing support for police officers, increasing the number of police officers returning to work, decreasing the volume of psychological injuries and time spent on workers’ compensation leave, and in turn boosting operational strength.”
Candidate for Labor preselection Stephen Lawrence weighs in
Candidate for Labor preselection in the seat of Dubbo Stephen Lawrence claims a new productivity report shows a significant cut in NSW Police funding in 2016-2017.
Mr Lawrence said the Productivity Commission report showed the Berejiklian government had slashed spending on police services by almost $500 million.
He’s criticised the performance of Mr Grant, but Mr Grant hit back, saying Mr Lawrence should “get his facts straight”.
The Labor candidate for preselection, who stood for Labor at the 2015 state election, said the productivity report showed real recurrent expenditure on police had fallen by $483.4 million in 2016-2017.
Mr Lawrence said a key role for any minister was to ensure funding for their portfolio area’s core services.
“It is no surprise that Troy refuses to even entertain the idea of Wellington receiving what it needs, a 24/7 police station,” he said.
“He is standing by while his portfolio budget is savagely cut by the Premier.
“Then he dresses it up as ‘re-engineering’.
“News of these cuts in spending will come as a real shock to the community, who expects police spending to at the very least stay constant.”
Mr Grant moved to refute Mr Lawrence’s comments, saying with record numbers, record infrastructure investment and a ground-breaking health and well-being program, the police force was the strongest it had ever been.
“I would advise Mr Lawrence to get his facts straight prior to making unsubstantiated claims in the Dubbo media,” he said.
“Our community deserves better, and our NSW Police officers – who work so hard to keep us safe – deserve better too.”