It must be a brutal blow for the Coalition government, after announcing that crime has dropped by a respectable amount, to then have to admit that a large chunk of fraud has been omitted from the figures.
“Crimes recorded by police in England and Wales have fallen by 7 per cent in the year ending March 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics,” stated the BBC, proudly acting once again as the Coalition’s mouthpiece.
At around the same time Jeremy Browne, the Minister of State for Crime Prevention, was telling us about mistakes at Action Fraud, which now receives all reports of fraud on behalf of all police forces in England and Wales: “Between November 2012 and July 2013, 2,490 reports (of which 1,738 were reports of crime) were not processed correctly due to a fault in the IT system,” he reported.
Oh dear – another cock-up.
By now, the people of Britain should be used to this sort of behaviour from an administration that once promised to be the most open government in history. Fraud is up, they say? How unsurprising – it seems one is being perpetrated on us right now.
The report from the Office for National Statistics estimated that “there were 8.6 million crimes in England and Wales, based on interviews with a representative sample of households and resident adults in the year ending March 2013”. This represents a nine per cent decrease compared with the previous year’s survey, and is the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981 – less than half its peak level, which was in 1995.
But there are several reasons we should treat this result with care. Firstly, we are told the survey began in 1981 – during the first Thatcher (Conservative) government – and the amount of crime it measured peaked 14 years later, in 1995 – during the Major (Conservative) government. In other words, during all those years of Conservative rule, crime just kept getting worse and worse.
Also, under the Labour governments of 1997-2010, crimes committed fell from around 17 million to around nine million – a drop of about 48 per cent. In the last year of that government alone, crime fell by nine per cent, according to the British Crime Survey. Today’s result could very well be building on Labour achievements and have nothing to do with the Coalition, which has been cutting police numbers (and logically police effectiveness).
Finally, recorded crime totalled 3.7 million offences in the year up to March 2013 – less than half the Crime Survey for England and Wales’ estimate of the total number of crimes. If they’re not recording crimes, they’re not investigating them – so this means more than half of the crimes committed in this country appear to be going unpunished.
That’s not a good record.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was quick to claim responsibility for the apparent improvement. She said: “Our police reforms are continuing to deliver results across the country with falls in crime in every police force in England and Wales.
“Recorded crime is down by more than 10 per cent under this government, and the independent survey shows that the public’s experience of crime is at its lowest level since records began. This is a significant achievement.
“Police forces have shown an impressive ability to rise to the challenge of making savings while still cutting crime. This government has played its part by slashing red tape and scrapping targets to enable the police to focus on crime fighting.
“We have encouraged chief constables to make savings in back offices to give renewed focus on the frontline and we are seeing the benefits of those efficiencies. We have also set up a College of Policing to ensure the police are better equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to fight crime.
“England and Wales are safer than they have been for decades, but we will continue to improve our national crime fighting capability when the National Crime Agency is fully operational later this year.”
Another national agency? Let’s hope it does better than the one dealing with fraud. Back to Mr Browne: “This issue came to light too late to notify the Office for National Statistics for inclusion in Crime in England and Wales for the year ending March 2013, published today.
“As part of routine revisions to the data, any corrections will be included by the Office for National Statistics in next quarter’s crime publications.”
He said: “Action Fraud has taken immediate action to process the affected reports and will be writing to apologise to everyone who submitted a report and to make clear that their report is now being dealt with.”
Vox Political‘s complaint against George Osborne was submitted in December 2012 and is therefore likely to be among the complaints that were overlooked.
It is alleged that he committed fraud by falsely claiming mortgage interest on a farmhouse, a neighbouring paddock, and other land in his Tatton constituency as an allowable expense, stating that he needed the house to perform his duties as an MP. Taxpayers’ money paid the interest on the paddock and the other land, even though they were registered separately with the Land Registry and went unmentioned in his expenses claim.
The apology letter is awaited with great interest. In fact, a letter may soon by winging its way to Action Fraud, just to make sure the matter is not forgotten again!