11 June 2024

Fact check: More than 20,000 police have been hired since 2019 – but not 2010

11 June 2024

To promote the launch of the Conservative manifesto, Rishi Sunak’s account on X (formerly Twitter) posted a rapid-fire video that asked “What’s changed since 2010?” Among the achievements listed is “20,000 extra police officers on our streets”.

This echoed another post on X, on June 10 by Home Secretary James Cleverly, who wrote: “We’ve delivered 20,00 new police officers and cut crime.”

Despite missing a zero in his figure, the accompanying graphic makes clear that the Conservatives are touting their record on crime by claiming the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers.


Since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the number of police officers has risen by fewer than 3,200.

However, during the last election in 2019, the Conservative Government pledged to add 20,000 police officers to the workforce across the country, an ambition which has been achieved as levels had fallen in the preceding nine years.

The facts

The Conservative Party opened its 2019 manifesto with a guarantee of “20,000 more police”.

The Home Office releases statistics on the police workforce twice a year, in March and September, which cover both the headcount of the workforce and the number of full-time equivalent (or FTE) police officers. The Home Office uses headcount number as its target.

Although police headcount was recorded as 127,381 in September 2019, the Home Office established a baseline figure of 128,433 officers against which success of the ‘Uplift Programme’ would be measured.

Following this latter number, the most recent disclosure of police headcount in September 2023 shows a figure of 149,164 – an increase of 20,731, narrowly exceeding the pledge.

This represented a slight fall from the previous figure of 149,566, in March 2023, which was the highest number of police officers on record “since comparable records began in the year ending 31 March 2003”. 

When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, the police employed 146,030 officers, according to the unadjusted figure for March 2010. That is 3,134 fewer than today.

The headcount of police officers decreased over the following few years, hitting a low of 125,094 in March 2018 — thanks partly to a scheme of austerity cuts brought in during October 2010’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Announcing the cost-cutting measures, Chancellor George Osborne cut police funding by 4% every year for five years — 20% in total.

Mr Osborne hoped to “avoid any reduction in the visibility and availability of police in our streets”.

Nevertheless, in a report concerning the Metropolitan Police Service in July 2012, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary noted the impact of these austerity cuts on the largest force in England and Wales would see a planned reduction of 1,410 officer posts, out of 33,370 “people in post”.

The statistics for FTE officers also show the same trends as headcount, starting at 143,734 in March 2010, hitting a low of 121,929 in September 2017 and climbing back up to 147,098 in the most recent disclosure.


Original post by Rishi Sunak on X (archived post and video)

Original post by James Cleverly on X (archived)

Conservative Party manifesto 2019 (archived)

Home Office: Departmental overview 2022-23 (archived)

Police workforce, England and Wales: 30 September 2023 – GOV.UK (archived)

Gov.uk – Graph of police officers headcount (archived)

Hansard: Comprehensive Spending Review, Volume 516: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2010 (archived)

Policing in austerity: year one, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary [PDF] (archived)

Gov.uk – Graph of police officers FTE (archived)

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox