Student blog. Spending on the police and justice in Wales over the last decade

This blog has been developed by Theo Bazett under the CUROP programme which provides summer placements for undergraduate students at Cardiff University. We asked Theo, under the supervision of Dr Nikos Kapitsinis, to look at public spending on the police, the courts and prisons in Wales over the last decade.

Policing and justice are currently non-devolved, with the exception of some tribunals, although the hybrid and decentralised nature of much of police funding sits at odds with this. The blog does not go into the detail of the arguments over devolution set out, for example, by the Silk Commission or the issues being currently addressed by the Commission on Justice in Wales. For an overview of the justice system in Wales, see Pritchard (2016).[1]

This blog outlines the change in real-terms spending of these three areas since the late-2000s, to track the impact of austerity. All figures for police are in 2017-18 prices (data was collected by Statistics Wales report on the budget requirement by police authority Data and was then verified against individual reports by each authority), for law courts in 2015-16 prices (figures collected by PESA accounts), and for prison in 2016-17 prices (data extracted from the UK Government official statistics), unless otherwise stated. We focus on the impact of austerity on the period since 2011-12 onwards, as budgets were relatively protected up to 2010-11.



Policing in Wales operates through four territorial forces funded principally through three main sources. There is direct funding from the UK Government through the Home Office Police Grant. The Welsh Government allocates funds through the local authority revenue support grant system and its non- domestic rates pool. Finally, each of the four Welsh police and crime commissioner sets a local police precept on the council tax collected by local authorities.[2] In addition, there may be specific grants and miscellaneous income and there are arrangements for capital financing.







Over the whole period (2007-08 to 2017-18), total funding declined by 4.6 per cent (£29 million), in 2017-18 prices. Council tax revenues increased, by 34 per cent (£69 million), while NDR contribution to police funding declined by 43.5 per cent (£41 million) between 2007-08 and 2017-18. Moreover, the Revenue support grant element remained almost the same in 2017-18 as compared to 2007-08, although it declined from 2007-08 to 2012-13. Finally, the Home Office police grant fell by 20.8 per cent (£55 million).

Looking at the change pre-and post-austerity, between 2007-08 and 2011-12, total police income increased by 4.3 per cent (£28 million).[3] Interestingly, the only funding source to decrease during this period was NDR which fell by 7.4 per cent (£7 million) over the period, while council tax funding rose by 14 per cent (£29 million).

However, once the austerity measures were implemented, there was a decrease in total police income by 8.5 per cent (£58 million) from 2011-12 to 2017-18, within the context of the wider cuts and staff reductions in the UK. The three most senior police officers in England and Wales (the Metropolitan police commissioner, the director general of the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs Council chairwoman) and the South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner spoke about how funding shortages were becoming a risk for public safety at both the national and local level.[4] NDR continued to fall by another 39 per cent (£34 million) from 2011-12 to 2017-18, while the Home Office police grant plummeted by 22 per cent (£60 million). Finally, council tax was the only component still rising, with a gain of 17.5 per cent (£41 million) between 2011-12 and 2017-18.

In 2007-08 the police grant made up the majority of total police funding with 40.8 per cent of the total police income. Council tax contributed the next largest amount, 31.2 per cent, while NDR and revenue support grant funded the 14.3 per cent and 13.6 per cent of total income. However, in 2017-18, council tax made up the largest share with 43.8 per cent, while the police grant contributed just 33.8 per cent to total police income. NDR contribution as a proportion of the total almost halved over the period, from 14.3 per cent to 8.5 per cent,[5] while the contribution of the revenue support grant remained the same.


Law Courts

Law courts in Wales are not devolved to Wales and are funded by the UK Government. Expenditure on law courts in Wales fell by 41 per cent (£142 million) between 2007-08 and 2015-16, in 2015-16 prices. The only year when expenditure did not decrease was in 2011-12, recording a 9.2 per cent annual increase. Interestingly, funding started to fall before the implementation of austerity measures. A possible explanation for expenditure’s decline could be the restructuring of Magistrate Courts.[6] However, the negative annual growth rates have been greater since 2011-12, thus highlighting the impact of austerity.







Moreover, the number of trials in Magistrate and Crown courts in Wales decreased by 17 per cent (1,774 fewer trials listed) from 2010 to 2017. This could be related to an increase in “out of court disposals”, where prosecution in court is not required to deal with offences. However, looking at the period between 2009-10 and 2015-16, expenditure fell by 35.8 per cent, while the number of trials listed dropped by 9.5 per cent. This suggests that the increase in out of court disposals is only part of the explanation and that there may be a decrease in law court expenditure caused by the budget cuts.



Prisons in Wales are also not devolved to Wales and are funded by the UK Government. There are currently five prisons in Wales: Usk/Prescoed[7], Swansea, Cardiff, Parc, and the recently-opened Berwyn, which opened in early 2017 and for which data are not available. The rest of the section focuses on the four prisons only, excluding Berwyn. From 2010-11 to 2016-17, total expenditure on prisons increased by 12 per cent[8] in 2016-17 prices, however, major differences were recorded across the four prisons. Only Parc prison demonstrated a significant rise in expenditure. Indeed, expenditure increased relatively more in Parc prison (34.2 per cent, up by £19 million) than in Usk/Prescoed prison (1.7 per cent, up by £240,000). Parc is a private finance initiative prison run by the private company G4S. That is, G4S handled the up-front cost of the prison; then, the project was leased to the public, and the government has been paying unitary payments for the contract. By contrast, expenditure declined by 0.9 per cent (£150,000) in Swansea prison and by 16.7 per cent (£5 million) in Cardiff prison. If Parc prison is not included in the calculation, total prison expenditure dropped by 8 per cent between 2010-11 and 2016-17.









This blog examines prison expenditure in relation to the Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA), which is “the prison service’s own measure of accommodation. CNA represents the good, decent standard of accommodation that the Service aspires to provide all prisoners”.[9] For instance, Parc prison’s CNA increased by 130 spots in 2012. At this year, the population of the prison also increased by 175 inmates and could explain the £9.8m rise in expenditure at the same period. In 2016, CNA increased by 387 spots and the population rose by 212 inmates, possibly related to a £11.4m increase in expenditure that year.

Total prison population rose by 19 per cent from 2010-11 to 2016-17. This is more than the 12 per cent expenditure increase, thus indicating a decrease in spending per prisoner. Noticeably, Usk/Prescoed’s prison population increased by 22 per cent, while its expenditure rose by 1.7 per cent. By contrast, in Parc prison, the population increase (38 per cent) was matched with a rise in expenditure of 34 per cent. This could be explained by the fact that Parc’s increase in population was due to a 50 per cent rise in CNA. Usk/Prescoed’s prison population increased by 22 per cent, while CNA rose by 12 per cent, thereby leading to overcrowding.

On balance, expenditure per prisoner fell by an average of 5.8 per cent (£2,400) across Wales from 2010-11 to 2016-17. The biggest reduction in expenditure per prisoner was recorded by Usk/Prescoed, where expenditure declined by 17 per cent (£5,800). Similarly, Cardiff expenditure declined by 12 per cent, from £36,700 to £32,200. Swansea and Parc didn’t see any large changes, with a decrease of 6.5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. In 2016-17, Parc’s expenditure per prisoner was 17 per cent higher than the next prison (Swansea). Overall, private prisons house 15 per cent of the UK’s prison population but spend 23 per cent of the prison budget.[10] Unsurprisingly, private prisons end up costing the taxpayer more than the public prisons.[11]


Reflection on data

The analysis of the paper brings to light some of the evidence and gaps in the data about the justice system in Wales. In conclusion, police and court budgets have declined, while prison expenditure increased, in absolute terms. Police expenditure fell by 4.5 per cent from 2007-08 to 2017-18. It is worth noting that crime in Wales increased by 12 per cent alone from 2016 to 2017.[12] While prison expenditure increased by 12 per cent between 2010-11 and 2016-17, the prison population increased by nearly 19 per cent at the same period, implying a decline in spending per prisoner. Finally, trial listings saw a decrease (9.5 per cent), but law courts recorded a much bigger decline in expenditure, with a 35.8 per cent drop from 2009-10 to 2015-16. Austerity measures have likely affected these three important areas of the criminal justice system in Wales.


Theo Bazett


[1] Pritchard, H. T. (2016). Justice in Wales: Principles, Progress and Next Steps. Wales Gouvernance Centre.


[3] Data has been collated primarily with Statistics Wales report on the budget requirement by police authority:

Data was then verified against individual reports by each authority:

[4] and



[7] HMP Usk/Prescoed is the amalgamation of HMP Usk and HMP Prescoed. These prisons are recorded as one in all data.

[8] and





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