ICAEW chart of the week: Public order

The constitutional crisis of the last few days has raised the (theoretical) prospect of the Attorney General being imprisoned in the Tower of London for contempt of Parliament, which made us decide to look at crime and punishment.

Our chart of the week looks at how spending on public order and safety – i.e. on the police, courts, prisons and fire services – has changed over the last twenty years.

In cash terms spending has increased by 77% from £18bn in 1998-99 to £32bn in 2017-18, but of course this doesn’t take account of inflation, population increases or economic growth.

We have consequently adjusted for changes in GDP to make the numbers more comparable. On this basis, the 1.8% of GDP spent on public order in 1998-99 would have been £37bn if kept constant as a share of GDP.

The share of national income spent on public order grew by 23% between 1998-99 and 2009-10, before declining by 30% to 2017-18. Overall a drop of 15% from two decades ago.

We await the Spending Review to find out how much will be spent in future however we can only hope that this will start to bring crime levels back down again; an outcome that will no doubt be pleasing to the Attorney General as he stares across the yard at the White Tower.

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