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Bedfordshire PEEL 2016

Efficiency

How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 03/11/2016
Requires improvement

Bedfordshire Police has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force is improving its understanding of current and likely future demand for police services and is reorganising its operations to use its resources better to meet demand, particularly through collaborative working with other forces. However, HMIC found that overall, it needs to do more work to understand demand fully, ensure best use of its resources to meet demand and plan for future demand. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Bedfordshire Police was judged to require improvement.

Bedfordshire Police has low levels of funding compared with other forces. It needs to do more to match its very limited resources to the challenging demands it faces, especially since the volume and complexity of crimes it deals with in some parts of the county, for example Luton, compares with the crime profile of a London borough. The force requires improvement in its understanding of current and likely future demand on its services and the force recognises it needs to improve its understanding so it can make best use of its resources. The force has explored good practice nationally and through the College of Policing to help it develop a more sophisticated understanding and it is developing an action plan. HMIC has seen some positive progress, but more work is needed.

The force acknowledges it could do more to understand where inefficient internal processes are leading to unnecessary demand on police time and resources. It is reviewing its governance processes to identify how it can reduce this unnecessary internal demand. The force is at an early stage in developing its understanding of likely future demand. In a strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Constabularies, the tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore options for effective policing in the future.

The way Bedfordshire Police uses its resources to manage its current demand also requires some improvement. It has recently invested additional resources in areas of increasing demand, such as the public protection directorate, to increase its capacity to investigate serious sexual offences and safeguard vulnerable children and adults. It is closely monitoring performance to ensure that the new policing model is working effectively. It is introducing a new shift pattern for frontline officers, which aims to make sure more police officers are available at times when demand is greatest. However, the model will not be fully functional until this work and the recruitment of additional officers is complete, particularly within community policing. As a result the force cannot yet evaluate how effective it is at meeting demand.

Bedfordshire Police is to be commended for its strong commitment to joint working, clearly demonstrated by its mature and well-established collaborative work with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Constabularies. The forces in this strategic alliance have an ambitious and innovative plan to work collaboratively in all policing functions, except local policing, by 2017. Further collaborative work is planned with four other forces and Bedfordshire Police is also in the early stages of developing strategic partnerships with other emergency services and local government organisations to share resources and manage future demand together. While the force can demonstrate how collaboration and joint working is improving outcomes, reducing costs and building resilience, it does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of costed outcomes.

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in the way it is planning for demand in the future. The lack of a comprehensive understanding of future demand and workforce capabilities limits its ability to plan for the future. The force does make prudent assumptions about future income and costs. However, despite better than anticipated government grant for policing in 2016/17, the force still faces financial risks and uncertainties. The savings plans remain austere and continuing workforce reductions are planned through to 2019/20.

In HMIC’s 2015 inspection, the force was assessed as requiring improvement in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime, and this year’s inspection has led to the same judgment.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How well does the force understand the current and likely future demand?

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in its understanding of current and likely future demand. It fully recognises that it needs to improve in this area and some positive progress is evident but more work is needed.

The force is committed to developing a more sophisticated understanding and it has recently begun work to do so. This includes exploring good practice from other forces and the College of Policing. It also recognises it could do more to understand where inefficient internal processes are leading to unnecessary demand on police time and resources. It is reviewing its governance processes to identify how it can reduce this unnecessary internal demand. It is also making progress in better understanding those demands that are less likely to be reported.

The force is at an early stage in developing its understanding of likely future demand. In conjunction with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Constabularies, the tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore a range of options open to the forces for providing effective policing in the future. This research has led to a proposed model where future change will be weighted heavily in favour of joint working with blue light service providers and local authorities within existing county boundaries. There are also some good examples of joint working with partners to reduce demand locally, but this is not replicated across the force, nor are the benefits fully understood.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • Bedfordshire Police should develop its understanding of current and likely future demand, ensuring that it has analysed appropriate information and intelligence from wider sources.
  • Bedfordshire Police should ensure its understanding of the demand for its services and the expectations of the public are up to date by regularly reviewing its evidence base. This should be conducted alongside local authorities, other emergency services and partner organisations, to ensure that the force takes the necessary steps to meet current and likely future demand, including hidden demand.
2

How well does the force use its resources to manage current demand?

Bedfordshire Police needs to improve how it manages its current demand. While it recognises that it needs to develop its understanding and it is taking steps to do so, it has recently invested additional resources into areas of increasing demand, such as the public protection directorate to increase its capacity to investigate serious sexual offences and safeguard vulnerable children and adults. There is more work to do to ensure that areas of highest risk are adequately resourced to meet current demand, such as Public Protection, and ensure that the force is capable of increasing its community function to develop effective problem solving.

There is a strong commitment to joint working and this is clearly demonstrated by the mature and developed collaborative work already completed in the strategic alliance. Further partnership development on a seven force scale is in progress, together with developments in working arrangements with blue light and local government organisations.

While Bedfordshire Police can demonstrate how collaboration and joint working is improving outcomes, reducing costs and building resilience, it does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of costed outcomes. This is also true for all of the strategic alliance partners. However, there is a commitment to ensure that the costs are fully understood and resources are dedicated to further develop this understanding.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • Bedfordshire Police should ensure that it has adequate plans in place to show it can provide services, while also making the necessary cost savings.
  • Bedfordshire Police should undertake appropriate activities to fully understand its workforce’s capabilities, in order to identify any gaps and put plans in place to address them. This will enable the force to be confident in its ability to efficiently meet current and likely future demand. This work should be completed as part of the strategic alliance partnership work.
3

How well is the force planning for demand in the future?

Bedfordshire Police requires improvement in the way it is planning for demand in the future. The force faces some future financial risk and uncertainty; and the lack of a comprehensive understanding of future demand and workforce capabilities limits its ability to plan for the future.

The force does make prudent assumptions about future income and costs. However, despite better than anticipated government grant for policing in 2016/17, the force still faces financial risks and uncertainties. Savings plans remain challenging, with further workforce reductions planned through to 2019/20 as part of the force’s plans for further collaboration across the strategic alliance.

Bedfordshire together with its strategic alliance partners has a strong track record of joint working arrangements that bring about efficiencies, although not all of the cost benefits are fully understood. It has considered a range of approaches, working collaboratively to maximise purchasing power, increase ICT interoperability and share systems and infrastructure. The alliance forces have an ambitious and innovative plan to work collaboratively in all policing functions, except local policing, across the whole alliance, by 2017.

In order to bring this to fruition, the force and its collaborated partners need to ensure that their strategies and plans are consistent with each other and mutually supportive. For instance, its ICT strategy is not yet aligned with workforce and service plans. Therefore, while HMIC found evidence that this approach is enabling the force to both carry out its existing work more efficiently and to improve the way it provides services, this is not yet clearly understood. However, the alliance is currently working to address this and other gaps.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • Bedfordshire Police should develop its workforce plans to fully identify its future workforce capabilities and align improved analysis of future demand and emerging priorities. This work should be completed as part of the strategic alliance.