Surrey PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Surrey Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. The force has a good track record of effective financial management and understands the savings it has to achieve up to 2019/20. However, it does not have a thorough understanding of the demands for its for services and is not able to match its resources to these demands. The force has recognised this and is currently identifying a new way of organising itself (its operating model) that is designed to help it to meet demand within its future budget. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Surrey Police was judged to be good.
HMIC judges Surrey Police to require improvement. Since 2010, it has had to cut its spending by 14 percent, which is significantly lower than the England and Wales average. It has achieved the savings needed and is planning for future savings while looking to maintain officer numbers over the next three years. It has balanced its budget for this financial year.
When HMIC inspected Surrey Police, it was in transition. It recognises that its current workforce model is not affordable and is reviewing part of its operating model through the ‘policing in your neighbourhood’ (PIYN) programme. The force plans a new way of providing neighbourhood and emergency response policing by April 2016 and, to prepare for this, is maintaining high levels of vacancies in frontline posts. The existing operating model therefore has to deliver the same level of services with significantly fewer staff (although the force has decided to recruit to fill some vacancies). At the point of inspection, this approach was creating undue pressures on the organisation and on staff. HMIC found evidence of an adverse effect on the service to the public in some areas of policing. While this may be a temporary problem, HMIC judges forces’ performance at the point of inspection.
The force has some knowledge of demand for its services but, five years into the period of austerity, this is not thorough enough for it to properly match its resources to its demand. Its IT systems provide limited information, hampering its ability to match resources to demand. It has plans for a new IT system to address this but it is not yet in place. Until the new operating model (relating to the PIYN programme) is in place, it cannot know that its resources are being used efficiently to meet the demands being made of it.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
Surrey Police has only assessed demand in a limited number of areas and it does not have a comprehensive understanding of all of the demands for service placed on it. Although it has started work to address this, it is not helped by its IT systems, which are currently only able to produce limited information.
Resources are not matched to demand and the force does not have a system to easily know which staff are on duty and where they are located. A force deployment procedure which provides for the nearest available resource to be dispatched to emergency and priority calls does not work effectively and resource location software which identifies officers’ geographical location is not fit for purpose.
The policing in your neighbourhood (PIYN) review, which is planned to report in September 2015, is intended to include a more in-depth and wide-ranging assessment of demand and resourcing, as well as making recommendations for a new operating model which should address these limitations.
Surrey Police has clear processes for managing performance but it does not fully understand how much different activities cost.
The force is working well with other emergency services to manage demand and looking at ways to ensure the most appropriate service deals with certain incidents. There is some good use of technology to help individual officers work more effectively.
Areas for improvement
- The force should review its response allocation and deployment to ensure it is making the most efficient use of its resources.
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
Surrey Police’s current operating model is not sustainable or affordable in the future. It is currently being reviewed through the ‘policing in your neighbourhood’ programme (PIYN programme) which is focusing on neighbourhood policing and emergency response. Staff and officer numbers will need to be reduced to achieve future savings.
Vacancies have been held to make the current savings, but this has placed pressure on the existing staff in being able to meet service demand. Although the force has decided to recruit to a number of vacancies to alleviate this pressure, it faces particular recruitment and retention problems. These include the cost of living in the area and its closeness to London which offers jobs with an additional London living allowance.
The current review of the operating model focusing on neighbourhood policing and emergency response (the PIYN programme) is likely to result in a new approach where staff will need a range of different skills so they can undertake a number of roles. The scale of this change will present a significant challenge, in particular the level of training and up-skilling that will be required for officers to undertake a range of different activities effectively.
However, as the review has not yet been completed, there is no evaluation as to how the workforce model will support the delivery of the police and crime plan.
Areas for improvement
- The force should provide HMIC with evidence that the new model for neighbourhood and emergency response policing to be introduced in April 2016 will support the police and crime plan in advance of implementation of the new model.
- In addition the force should assess the risks to service delivery during the transition period (up to April 2016) to the new model, and take appropriate steps to reduce and mitigate those risks.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
The force has achieved a balanced budget for 2015/16. It continues to benefit from its lower level of dependence on central government grants compared to other forces, which reduces the percentage of its savings requirement. It has maintained healthy levels of reserves and has been successful at achieving external funding, in particular from the Police Innovation Fund.
Surrey Police works well with the PCC’s office and shares planning assumptions with both the PCC and with Sussex Police. A new financial plan has been developed that allows for the use of reserves to enable the force time to fully implement a new operating model without holding excessive levels of vacancies.
Of the 2015/16 savings requirement target of £8.3m, business plans have been approved for savings the force assesses at £9.5m with a forecast underspend of £1.2m. It has also started to make plans for the savings that will be required in 2016/17.