Police have made a good start, but need to transform their efficiency

Published on Thursday, 21 July 2011 13:02
Posted by Scott Buckler

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, ‘Adapting to Austerity’, found that authorities and forces have made a good start in developing plans for the next four years, but they need to transform their efficiency if they are to succeed in sustaining services while cutting costs (July 21st)

HMIC inspected the 43 police authorities and forces in England and Wales to look at how prepared they were to make savings over the four years of the CSR.

The data available to HMIC suggests that police authorities and forces have made a good start:

 

  • They have all set an ambition to reduce crime.

 

  • Average figures for England and Wales indicate they appear to be protecting the frontline this year (2011/12).

 

  • They are using a wide variety of means to improve efficiency.

 

  • A small number are looking to go further through radical joint ventures.


However, HMIC found that protecting the frontline will be very challenging over the next eighteen months as two thirds of the cuts to central government funding fall within the first two CSR years (2011/12 and 2012/13). Forces will have to transform their efficiency if they are to protect frontline services.

On average, authorities and forces are planning to cut their expenditure by 14% by 2014/15 compared with 2010/11 in real terms. However, the cuts vary significantly between forces: from 8% to 19%.

Forces have estimated how much they need to reduce their workforce to live within their means:

  • They plan to reduce their workforce by approximately 34,100 by March 2015 compared with March 2010.

 

  • This comprises 16,200 police officers, 1,800 PCSOs and 16,100 police staff - a reduction of 14%.

 

  • Nearly a third of this 34,100 cut has happened already – the workforce reduced by 11,200 between March 2010 and March 2011 as forces made cuts in preparation for the financial challenge ahead.


Estimated data at this stage from 42 police forces shows that they plan to cut frontline numbers by 2% between March 2010 and March 2012 with the rest of the workforce reducing by 11% over the same period. This suggests forces are making efforts to protect frontline roles. Data available limits assessment beyond March 2012, but if the cut to frontline numbers is to remain modest, the non-frontline efficiency would have to be transformed.

Of the 38 forces that provided workforce data for March 2015, 22 forces would have to cut more than 30% of their non-frontline workforce in order to protect frontline numbers, and:

  • Ten forces face a workforce cut that is greater than 50% of their non-frontline workforce.

 

  • Eight forces face a police officer cut that is greater than the number of non-frontline officers in their force.

 

  • Five forces fall into both of the above categories.


Those forces that have, in comparison to others, a large proportion of their resources on the front line and a large cut, will find safeguarding or improving service to the public while cutting costs the most challenging.

The inspection provided a snapshot in time, all force plans continue to be developed and HMIC anticipates these figures will continue to be refined.

Seventeen authorities and forces had plans setting out how they intended to make these cuts. But 26 had not yet worked out how they were going to make all of the savings they needed; this amounted to £0.5bn. All 26 aimed to complete these plans during 2011/12.

HMIC found that the police service will need support in order to succeed in transforming efficiency and identified that there needs to be:

  • The sharing of information between authorities and forces on the cost benefits of different decisions about workforce, improving processes and economies of scale to enable forces to make informed choices for the public;

 

  • The sharing of information on how best to make changes to the service and in which order;

 

  • The sharing of information on the potential benefits of private and public sector joint ventures;

 

  • A broadly agreed set of ideas about transformation so that decision makers have a common language;

 

  • Consideration given to how forces and their local governance bodies will be supported in the future from the centre with skills development.


Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Mr Roger Baker, said;

“We found authorities and forces are planning relatively modest cuts to frontline numbers this year 2011/12) and they had all set an ambition to reduce crime. But whether they achieve and sustain this is yet to be seen. To sustain this, most forces will have to transform their efficiency. Those forces that start the CSR period as the most efficient and those forces that face the greatest cuts will find this the most difficult.”

Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary said;

“Authorities and forces must share information with each other about what does and doesn’t work to provide the best economies of scale. The police service must adapt to these changing times in order to deliver the best deal for taxpayers and they will need some support in this.”

Source: HMIC

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