£12.4 bn budget for 2021/22
Yesterday (18 January 2023), the National Audit Office published its 2021/22 departmental overview for the Ministry of Justice. The 35 page report is full of fascinating facts and figures, including detailed sections on the priorities for prison, probation and court services. Most of these key areas will be familiar to regular readers of this blog, so instead I have focused on details about spending (present and future) and figures relating to demand and supply in the criminal justice system.
The Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ’s) total expenditure in 2021-22 was £12.4 billion. It generated income of £1.6 billion, reducing the overall cost to the taxpayer to £10.8 billion. The figures in the infographic reproduced below include resource and capital spending in Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL), which is the government budget that is allocated to and spent by government departments. Total Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) for the MOJ was £360.5 million and is not included in the figure.
AME budgets are spent on projects which are demand-led, unpredictable or not easily controlled by departments.
Breakdown of spending
The largest area of the MOJ’s spend is related to staff costs (£4,762 million or 42%). Staff costs include wages and salaries, social security costs, pension costs, early departure costs and the net cost of secondments.
The MOJ’s spend on its people increased by £660 million (16%) compared with 2020-21. This was partly driven by 7,000 staff joining from Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) due to probation reforms.
Future spending plans
The MOJ’s resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) for 2022-23 is £10,255 million. This is higher than the outturn in 2021-22 of £9,376 million because of the MOJ’s plans for:
- additional spending on prisons and probation services, including recruiting prison officers and probation staff, additional security measures, and measures to tackle crime and reduce reoffending;
- investment in externally commissioned services (for example, for victims) and other core justice services;
- investment across courts and tribunals to respond to demand, improve performance and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- additional spending on payments to legal aid providers; and
- an increase in non-cash budgets to cover depreciation costs, which have increased following additional capital investment.
The MOJ’s capital budget has increased significantly. For 2022-23, the MOJ has a capital budget of £1,760 million, compared with an outturn in 2021-22 of £1,421 million, which the MOJ reported was a record level of investment in its infrastructure. The MOJ’s capital outturn in 2021-22 was £354 million greater than in 2020-21, and greater than the combined total of the MOJ’s capital spending over the 2017-18 to 2019-20 period (£1,352 million).
The main changes in the MOJ’s 2022-23 capital budget are a significant increase in the prison estate budget and a reduction in the court reform budget to modernise the infrastructure for court users.
Demand and supply in the criminal justice system
There is growing disparity between the demand for criminal justice services, primarily driven by the police who make arrests and charging decisions, and the supply of services, primarily driven by both HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), which administers cases through the courts, and HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), which manages those in custody.
The NAO describes how the projected future demand on the CJS is dependent on a number of complex and uncertain factors, including future trends in reported crime and offences charged. However, there are a number of factors that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) expects will increase demand. It is estimated that the recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers could lead to an additional 729,000 cases entering the criminal justice system from 2020-21 to 2029‑30. The MOJ expects the prison population to rise significantly during the 2020s.
The implementation of tougher sentences. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (2022) Act introduced longer sentences for the most serious offenders and ended the automatic halfway release from prison for those convicted of certain serious sexual and violent offences.
In 2021/22, 7,520 permanent staff left HMPPS, a leaving rate of 12.6%. This included 3,387 prison officers in bands 3 to 5, representing a 60% increase in the attrition rate for these grades, compared with the prior year. Increasing numbers of operational staff leaving the prison service year-on-year could have a major impact on the stability of public sector prisons.
Pay is a principal concern in staff retention. The MOJ accepted all bar one of the recommendations made by the Prison Service Pay Review Body for 2022-23. But the review body noted that this was the fourth time independent recommendations regarding pay had not been fully implemented since 2018.
There has also been industrial action affecting the criminal justice system. Criminal barristers held industrial action in relation to fee rates between 26 June 2022 and 10 October 2022. Also, some Magistrates’ Court staff have voted to strike over Common Platform rollout.
The NAO also details the MoJ’s struggles in tackling the Crown Court backlog (see my chart here).
Readers who need official facts and figures on anything to do with spending and staffing in the MoJ are encouraged to download the NAO report here.