North Wales PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that North Wales Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has managed its finances well. It has faced smaller than average reductions in its budgets and has therefore faced fewer job cuts, but it needs to do more work to plan how it will manage future reductions. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, North Wales Police was judged to be good.
HMIC judges North Wales Police to be good. The force has managed its finances well and has been able to minimise the impact of budget cuts on frontline policing. There has been only a small overall reduction in the size of the workforce. The force is working constructively in collaboration with other forces and with local partners. It has set itself a clear vision to improve policing and staff are working well to achieve improved services.
North Wales Police has recognised the importance of having a better understanding of demand in order to ensure that resources can be most efficiently used to prioritise and respond to the needs of the public. It needs to do more to ensure that police officers can work as efficiently as possible, through using new technology.
The current workforce model is aligned to the financial plans and the savings from workforce reductions to date are sustainable. However, the force has adopted a policy of employing more police officers than its budget allows and is using its reserves to balance the budget. This approach is not sustainable. North Wales Police is at the early stage of determining how the policing model may need to change to enable further cuts in staff numbers and provide sustainable and efficient levels of policing across North Wales.
The force has planned a balanced budget throughout the spending review and has ended each year until 2014/15 with an underspend. This has meant that it has been able to build up a high level of reserves, some of which it plans to invest in the cost of future change.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
North Wales Police has recognised the importance of having a better understanding of demand in order to ensure that resources can be most efficiently used to prioritise and respond to demand. It has improved its understanding of demand and is managing demand better at the first point of contact.
There are clear and rigorous governance structures in place which enable the force leadership team to maintain an overview of performance and progress across all business areas and savings plans. However, there is no overarching change programme for all those involved to understand the interdependencies between all work streams, savings plans, reviews and other projects already implemented, currently in train, and planned.
The force has been slow to develop an approach to investing in new technology to maximise efficiency through for example providing access to mobile data for frontline staff. This may slow the pace of change and is a potential barrier to enabling the force to manage workforce reductions with minimal impact on service.
HMIC recognises the complex challenges that North Wales Police faces in developing effective partnerships both locally and regionally. We have been impressed by the clear efforts made by the force to pool resources as much as possible to achieve greater efficiency and more resilient services.
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
North Wales Police has faced smaller reductions in its spending than most forces in England and Wales. It has been given extra income from council tax to partly offset government grant reductions. The force has therefore achieved its savings with below average cuts to the workforce and only limited change to the operating model. The force is currently employing more police officers than it has budgeted for, enabling it to meet all demands and it has been able to put extra resources in areas that are priorities. However this is only affordable because the police and crime commissioner is funding the cost of additional police officers from the currently high level of reserves; this is not sustainable.
The force is anticipating that it will need to reduce the workforce numbers to achieve future budget reductions, albeit still by a much smaller percentage than most forces.
The force is at the early stage of designing a new operating model that can provide effective policing with fewer staff. It has not yet linked the design with the work on demand reduction or the future use of mobile data and agile working. North Wales Police is not therefore able to make decisions about the future model until more progress has been made in developing and co-ordinating a number of linked areas of work.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that its new operating model has a clear link to demand reduction and mobile data work and is able to provide effective policing with a smaller workforce.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
North Wales Police has a good track record of managing its finances, with a small reduction in police officer numbers. It has achieved its total savings requirement of £17.9m over the last spending review period. Throughout this period it has faced lower budget cuts than most other forces. The force has planned a balanced budget throughout the spending review and has ended each year until 2014/15 with an underspend. This has meant that the force has been able to build up a high level of reserves in earmarked funds for the cost of future change. The force has set a balanced budget for 2015/16 making savings of £4.5m.
More money was saved than was needed and this enabled the force to have one of the smallest reductions in police officer numbers nationally over the spending review period.
The extent the force collaborates with others is comparatively limited. It has made some use of external funding but was unsuccessful in a recent bid for investment in new technology.
The force works closely with the police and crime commissioner and financial plans reflect the priorities in the police and crime plan. The detailed plans in place provide confidence that the force can deliver most of the savings required through to 2016/17. It is now developing further plans to reduce spending after 2016/17.