Northamptonshire PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Northamptonshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Northamptonshire was judged to be good. It has balanced the budget and has a good track record of achieving savings, although future plans beyond 2016 are still in the early stages of development. The force needs to improve its understanding of the demand on its services and will need significantly to change its structure and processes to meet demand and address this deficit. For this reason it cannot be judged as good.
HMIC judges Northamptonshire Police to require improvement. The force has started to analyse demand but does not yet have a clear picture of all the areas of demand that it faces; nor has it sufficiently assessed future demand. The force needs to develop how demand analysis is used to allocate resources and consider how to encourage joint working across Northamptonshire. While the force has started to assess the impact of demand from other public sector organisations, it has yet to work closely with them to jointly reduce this demand.
Due to its lack of understanding of demand, the force cannot be certain that its workforce model is designed efficiently or being developed to meet current and future requirements. The force faces a significant challenge in ensuring it can develop a more efficient and modernised workforce, while also sustaining police officer numbers at 1,220 and creating an establishment of 900 special constables. It will also have to consider carefully the skills of the different elements of its workforce so that in the future the force can ensure it meets the requirements of the public.
The force has a good track record of delivering savings. The force has achieved the savings it needed with an annual under-spend, which has enabled the force to establish a fund to support the cost of future change. The force also collaborates well with other forces in the region and beyond, as well as with non-police partners such as the fire and rescue service. This collaboration is helping the force to work more efficiently and to provide a more resilient service. However, the force’s plans for savings beyond 2016 are still at an early stage of development.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
The force does not fully understand the demand on its services, it recognises that it needs to improve the way it manages demand to make best use of police time. It is now taking steps to do so.
The force has undertaken limited analysis to evaluate whether the allocation of resources to different areas of the force is appropriate. It is encouraging that the force has undertaken activity analysis to inform its approach to resource allocation; however it needs to consider the accuracy of the information collected.
While the force has started to assess the impact of demand from other public sector organisations, it has yet to work closely with them jointly to reduce this demand.
The force does not have a detailed understanding of the relationship between service outcomes and costs, making it difficult for the force to be certain that its services are providing value for money. The force needs to consider how it can work better to reduce violent crime offences.
The force has demonstrated a keen commitment to working collaboratively. It has strongly established joint operational working with other services across Northamptonshire and with police forces across the East Midlands.
Areas for improvement
- The force should undertake further work to gain a fuller understanding of current demand for its services, and likely future changes in demand. This is so it can make best use of its resources by matching them to demand to meet the needs of the public
- The force should develop its understanding of the links between its outcomes, outputs and costs
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
Northamptonshire Police has reduced its overall workforce by a greater proportion than average for the forces in England and Wales. Its limited understanding of its demand means that it cannot be clear that its current workforce model efficiently matches demand.
The force has projected workforce reductions required to balance its budget over the next four years. However, it is unable to assess the impact of the planned reductions as it does not understand future demand. It needs to develop a future workforce model and is trialling new approaches to local policing. The force faces a challenge in ensuring it can develop a more efficient and modernised workforce, with the right skills across its different elements, while also sustaining police officer numbers at 1,220.
The force needs to ensure the rapid increase in special constables is supported by the provision of training and appropriate supervision.
The force has started to look at a more sophisticated resource allocation model so that it can plan for a sustainable workforce in the future. However, without a better understanding of current and future demand, the force is not yet able to make fully informed decisions and without this, it cannot evaluate the impact of planned staff cuts on its ability to maintain resilient policing and achieve the police and crime priorities.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop a future workforce plan that is aligned with its overall demand and budget. The plan should include future resource allocations, the mix of skills required by the workforce and behaviours expected of them.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
The force has achieved its total savings requirement of £22.9m over the last spending review period and has achieved an annual underspend in doing so.
The force collaborates positively and constructively with other forces in the East Midlands and with Cheshire Constabulary. These enable the force to build resilience and work more efficiently, though the business services collaboration has not delivered expected savings this financial year meaning short-term additional savings have had to be identified. Successful bids for funding through the Police Innovation Fund have, among other benefits, enabled the force to invest in mobile technology.
The force’s financial plans have been developed in conjunction with the office of the Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner (OPCC). This has helped ensure that the plans reflect the police and crime commissioner’s (PCC’s) key objectives and pledges.
The force has reduced its police officer numbers by less than the England and Wales average, while increasing its percentage of frontline officers. The force predicts that it will reduce its spending sufficiently to match its budget each year until 2019/20, using only a small amount of its reserves to bridge the gap. However, the plans for how these savings are to be made are at the very early stages of their development and there are a number of areas where there can be as yet limited confidence that they can be achieved.