Understanding the value for money dashboards

This page sets out information about the data and terminology used in the value for money dashboards.

For general information about using PowerBI dashboards, please see the using PowerBI page.

Viewing and navigating the dashboards

Each section starts with a simple overview looking at long-term trends alongside how your force compares with its most similar group (MSG), and with other forces in England and Wales.

Most overview charts show three columns:

  1. the first is dark blue and shows the chosen force’s performance data;
  2. the second, in light blue, shows the MSG; and
  3. the third, in grey, shows data for other forces in England and Wales (including/excluding London based on the choice specified on the home page).

Individual force data is shown in ‘ski slopes’ (sorted column charts), with your chosen force and MSG indicated by blue triangles.

If force names aren’t visible, hover the mouse over the relevant column. This will bring up the force name for the data you are looking at.

Caveats when viewing the dashboards

Charts use different scales throughout the dashboard. So, some apparent differences may not be as significant as they first appear.

MSG and ‘all forces’ data are displayed as weighted averages, not as simple averages.

Data have been rounded to the nearest whole number or, 1 or 2 decimal places, as most appropriate for each data set. This may cause apparent discrepancies between figures for totals and the sum of the parts.

Most similar groups

Most similar groups are used throughout policing data to provide comparisons with similar forces rather than just comparing forces based on their geographic location.

While each force area has different types of population, some force areas have populations with similar demographics, so are more likely to have similar problems.

For each force, the Home Office has identified an MSG based on analyses of the demographic factors which are most associated with crime levels.

MSGs were designed to offer a fairer comparison of levels of crime between forces. But they don’t take account of some areas having higher costs than others.

Use the ‘Customise’ button on the start page to edit the default MSG and limit the forces included in reports (e.g. to compare forces within a region).

Caveats when using MSGs

MSGs were last updated for our 2013 VfM profiles, using data from the 2011 Census. They do not take account of changes that have occurred since 2011.

While most forces’ demographics are similar to the rest of their group, a few are less closely aligned (in particular the Metropolitan Police Service, Dyfed-Powys Police, Surrey Police and City of London Police). But, apart from City of London Police, all forces have an MSG.

Understanding the financial data


Some forces, particularly neighbouring forces, collaborate to provide common functions across their areas. Financial arrangements for these collaborations vary, similar to those for forces with regional responsibilities.

Forces involved in collaborations are the hardest to compare. You should interpret this information with caution.

In general, the net expenditure figures shown as part of the collaboration work between forces are more accurate, as the data collection form asks forces to record their income against relevant expenditure.

By contrast, workforce numbers can give a false impression, in particular where the function is being provided entirely by a lead force. The lead force might show all the staff and officers involved in the collaboration within its totals, even though they are providing services to other forces.

National and regional policing functions

Many forces have national responsibilities, for which they receive separate Home Office funding. For example, counter-terrorism policing. Some forces are also responsible for regional functions, with varied sources of funding.

These additional responsibilities can make a substantial difference to how a force is presented in the dashboard. We have tried to take these addition responsibilities into account in two ways.

First, in each force we exclude spending on national policing functions as identified in the Police Objective Analysis (POA) data collection.

Secondly, we try to show the net cost to the force of regional functions. This can be harder to achieve because funding can be a mixture of income sources. If all the relevant income is not correctly attributed to the lead force of the regional unit, the net cost to the lead force will be reported as more expensive than is the case.

In a large force, this may not stand out as significant but for smaller forces, with responsibilities beyond their force area, this can make a major difference. HMICFRS and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy aim continuously to improve how this information is collected and presented.

Police and crime commissioner costs

As police and crime commissioners (and mayoral equivalents) are outside our inspection remit, we also exclude their spending.

For further important information about the data in the profiles, and their limitations, see the about the data page.