Suffolk PEEL 2014
How well the force delivers value for money
Suffolk Constabulary’s response to the financial challenge of the spending review to date has been good. The force is on track to achieve the savings required by the end of the spending review period in March 2015. The force has made good progress in developing its collaboration over the last four years with Norfolk Constabulary, although HMIC has some concerns about the effect that a recent decision by Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner may have on the force’s ability to meet its longer-term (three-to five-year) financial challenges while maintaining the service it provides to the public.
Suffolk is on track to achieve the savings requirement of the spending review period. An important element of the force’s plans has been collaboration with Norfolk, which has provided both operational and financial benefits. Suffolk has also worked hard to reduce its costs, both pay and non-pay, making it one of the lowest cost forces.
The force undertakes regular reviews of the demands and challenges it faces. This informs allocation of staff and helps the force structure how it provides policing. The force is clearly focused on improving outcomes by managing the quality of the service it provides to the public. It has improved its response to calls from the public, achieved a greater rate of crime reduction over the spending review period in comparison to other forces, and victims report higher levels of satisfaction.
However, with a material gap in its future budget, the financial outlook is less positive. For 2015/16, Suffolk expects to have a £2.8m gap in its budget with a worsening position in 2016 and beyond.
HMIC has some concerns about the effect of a recent decision by Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner not to support the introduction of a joint contact and control room at a single site, and the creation of a shared service partnership for the provision of some business support functions with Norfolk. While the decision taken by the police and crime commissioner has not been the subject of review by HMIC, HMIC is concerned about the effect it may have on the force’s financial position. Collaboration with Norfolk forms part of Suffolk’s future savings plan. HMIC’s concern is that the police and crime commissioner’s decision may have jeopardised efforts to extend that collaboration, which in turn may have an adverse effect on the chief constable’s ability to provide efficient and effective policing in the longer term. As such, Suffolk now needs to identify an alternative plan for achieving these savings and, in doing so, provide affordable policing in Suffolk while providing an effective policing service to the public.
To what extent is the force efficient?
Suffolk Constabulary undertakes regular reviews of the demands and challenges it faces. This informs the allocation of staff and helps the force to structure how it provides policing. With a material gap in its future budget, this work will be critical in developing an affordable structure for providing policing to the people of Suffolk.
Suffolk has undertaken a number of initiatives to manage and reduce its demand, working with partners the force has sought timely resolutions to improve service delivery through joint problem solving. Crime and demand profiles are analysed and staffing levels reviewed to ensure that the workforce is in the right place.
The force is clearly focused on improving outcomes by managing the quality of the service it provides to the public. It has improved its response to calls from the public, and achieved a greater rate of crime reduction over the spending review in comparison to other forces. In the 12 months to March 2014, victim satisfaction was higher than the figure for England and Wales.
To what extent is the force taking steps to ensure a secure financial position for the short and long term?
Suffolk Constabulary has plans in place to achieve all the £2.5m savings needed in 2014/15. However, at this time it cannot achieve the full savings required in 2015/16 and may have to reduce police officer and police community support officer numbers beyond its original plans. The further loss of staff, police officers and police community support officers is of concern to HMIC as it may affect the service to the public.
Suffolk has recently updated its financial plans and has identified additional savings in 2015/16. It is planning to achieve the majority of these savings in non-pay and corporate overheads, and is carrying out a detailed risk assessment of any police officer and police community safety officer reductions. The force has started to develop outline savings plans beyond 2016. However, as 2016 approaches, the impact of the loss of posts will make the current structures for providing policing no longer sustainable or affordable. HMIC is concerned about the size of the funding gap, given the scale of the challenge that Suffolk faces.
Although Suffolk is working to identify further savings from within the force, without exploiting further collaboration opportunities, it has few options to close the projected gap from 2016 without a considerable reduction in its police officer numbers. The force’s more up-to-date plans show options for reconfiguring local policing, ongoing collaboration with Norfolk and the eastern regional forces, and to explore opportunities for broader collaboration across the public sector in Suffolk. The robustness of these plans and the extent to which they address the issues that require improvement will be tested in our efficiency inspection next year.
To what extent has the force got an affordable way of providing policing?
Over the first three years of the spending review, Suffolk Constabulary’s workforce structure has matched the needs of the organisation successfully, improving policing outcomes and meeting its savings requirements.
Suffolk’s successful collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary continues to achieve financial and operational efficiencies. By extending this work over the period of the spending review, it has identified, or is developing, projects to achieve the majority of the planned savings.
The robust change programme, using business improvement tools, has resulted in efficiencies and savings, enabling the force to retain its operational front line throughout the spending review. This is commendable.