According to a new report published today by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, police expenditure grew in real terms from £9.83 billion in 1998/1999 to £14.55 billion in 2008/2009. It also found that much of the burden of this rise fell on local council taxpayers, rather than the Home Office.
By far the major portion of the increased spending - just over three quarters - has been devoted to staffing expenditure, with rising numbers across the different staff sectors. Overtime payments have risen by approximately 90%.
In 2009 there were a record 142,151 police officers - 15,337 more than in 1998. The proportionate growth in civilian staff, including police community support officers, has outstripped that of police officers.
The report also found influential MPs as well as chief constables have expressed doubts about the wisdom of ever-rising officer recruitment when the value gained from past increases remains uncertain.
Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and co-author of the report, said: "Central government has favoured increased recruitment of police officers but at the same time civilian staff have grown even more. When chief constables query the value of police officer recruitment, how can we be sure about the right balance of spending on employees? Will politicians' pledges to protect the frontline mean cuts in the back-office functions? What role will police community support officers play in the future?"
And Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: "Spending has gone up by nearly a half but the value of this huge increase is much harder to pin down. We now have the largest police service ever. Yet there seems to be no clear rationale behind this incremental growth, nor a clear measure of its success. Is there a point in having a reserve army of this magnitude? Now more than ever we need a public debate about priorities and choices."
Two more briefings - on prison and probation expenditure and on courts expenditure - will be released in the coming months.