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Nottinghamshire PEEL 2016

Efficiency

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

Last updated 03/11/2016
Requires improvement

Nottinghamshire Police has been assessed as requires improvement in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

Its understanding of current demand is good and it is developing its understanding of potential future demand for services. It has a good understanding of the extent to which internal inefficiencies create demand and continues to remove inefficient ways of working from its internal processes. However, there are significant concerns about the way in which the force has managed its finances and HMIC concludes that the force is at serious financial risk. The force missed its own efficiency savings target by a sizeable margin. HMIC has limited confidence that future savings can be achieved at the pace and scale required while maintaining a good service to the communities of Nottinghamshire. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Nottinghamshire Police was judged to be good.

Nottinghamshire Police’s understanding of current demand is good and it is developing its understanding of potential future demand for services. It has a good understanding of the extent to which internal inefficiencies create demand and it continues to remove waste from its internal processes. The force does not fully understand its current workforce capabilities and skill gaps, although it acknowledges it needs people with financial investigator and digital skills. The force is only beginning to assess what will be required in its future operating model.

The force recognises its operating model – how it is currently organised and provides services – is not sustainable and this situation has not improved since HMIC’s 2015 inspection. Its £12m efficiency programme for 2016/17 places additional reliance on the assurances needed from budget monitoring. Plans to cut the size of the workforce to affordable levels by 2019 are not advanced enough for the force to be able to understand fully the impact that reducing police officer and staff numbers will have on frontline policing for Nottinghamshire. The force’s future operating model means that the present structure, in which there is a separate command team for Nottingham City and the county of Nottinghamshire, will change. Although the force told partners about intended changes to the policing model, some city council partners feel that they were not properly involved or informed. This culminated in a public disagreement between the city council and the force that does little to bolster public confidence in policing. HMIC has limited confidence that future savings can be achieved at the pace and scale required while also maintaining a good service to the communities of Nottinghamshire.

The force is involved in a wide range of collaborative activity and demonstrates that this reduces cost and improves resilience. It works well with other forces to manage demand for services and continues to consider other options for further collaboration.

Nottinghamshire Police is at serious financial risk, which is a change from its apparently secure financial position in 2015. Its financial management has been inadequate because it did not have appropriate financial controls in place and failed to notice that substantial costs had been left out of its budgets until September 2015. These significant weaknesses in the force’s financial management present a risk to its future plans. Although this situation is now improving, it is too early to be sure that new financial leadership has stabilised the situation. The force also missed its efficiencies savings target by a sizeable margin and its very recent track record in achieving savings is disappointing. It used £9.4m of reserves to meet the budget gap and as a result it now has depleted reserves. The force has had to make significant and unplanned further reductions to its workforce because of its failure to close the funding gap.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Nottinghamshire Police’s understanding of current demand is good and this is helping to inform the way the force will organise itself and provide services in future. Its understanding of demand less likely to be reported is still developing. The force has a good understanding of the extent to which internal inefficiencies create demand and it continues to remove waste from its internal processes.

The force is developing its understanding of potential future demand for services and the effect of reduced resources in partner organisations. There are mechanisms which enable the force to discuss with partner agencies potential increases in demand as a consequence of reduced resources.

Good
2

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

Nottinghamshire Police uses its resources to manage the current demand it experiences and makes clear decisions on the prioritisation of resources in line with public expectations.

The force recognises that the way it is currently organised and provides services – its operating model – is not sustainable. The force’s future operating model means that the geographic structure is to be replaced with a different way of working. The force reports it is fully committed to this new model but at the time of inspection there is no detailed business case to examine. Although the force told partners about intended changes to the policing model, some city council partners feel that they were not properly involved. This culminated in a public disagreement between the city council and the force that does little to bolster public confidence in policing.

The force does not fully understand the capabilities and gaps in its workforce and does not fully understand the mix of officers and staff, with the right skills, which will be needed in the new operating model. The force has a better understanding in some areas, for example in investigations and armed policing, but it is only beginning to assemble these options in other teams and departments.

The force is able to demonstrate that its collaboration with other forces reduces cost and improves resilience. It generally works well with others to manage demand for services and continues to consider other options for further collaboration. The force works well with blue light services in the area and continues to be involved with the East Midlands collaboration and is developing further opportunities in its tri-force collaboration with Northamptonshire and Leicestershire forces.

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • By 31 May 2017, the force should ensure that it has a detailed understanding of its skill gaps and is implementing an action plan to address these gaps that aligns with the new way of working in the future operating model.
  • By 28 February 2017, the force should ensure that there are credible and achievable plans in place for the new police operating model and provide clarity on the effect the new model will have on the service provided to the public.
3

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

HMIC is concerned that Nottinghamshire Police has inadequate plans for the future. The force is facing serious financial risk. Inadequate financial management in 2015 meant that the force did not have appropriate financial controls in place and did not spot substantial cost omissions from budgets until September 2015. This situation is now improving but it is too early to ascertain if new financial leadership has stabilised the situation. The force also missed its efficiencies savings target by a sizeable amount and its very recent track record in achieving savings is disappointing. It was forced to draw on £9.4m from reserves to meet the budget shortfall and as a result has depleted its reserves.

The effect of the force having to make rapid further reductions in its workforce as a consequence of its financial position is particularly concerning, as these measures may affect the level of service the force is able to provide to local communities.

The force recognises that the way it is currently organised and provides services – its operating model – is not sustainable. It has a jointly owned medium-term financial strategy with the PCC, but needs to develop a medium-term plan linked to the PCC’s police and crime plan that brings together projections of demand, the workforce and assets (financial and otherwise) over a five year period.

The force’s £12.0m efficiency programme for 2016/17 places additional reliance on the assurances needed from budget monitoring but the force’s financial and workforce plans are not yet developed to understand the level of service it intends to provide in the future. The force do not have sufficiently accurate information to support good financial management, which means there are also challenges in ensuring accurate information for planning and reporting, for tracking any savings and managing effectively the strategic finances of the force. There is limited confidence that future savings can be achieved at the pace and scale required while maintaining a good service to the communities of Nottinghamshire.

Inadequate

Cause of concern

Nottinghamshire Police’s financial management arrangements have significant weaknesses, which present a risk to the force’s future plans. In 2015/16 it failed to account sufficiently for all its IT support costs when setting its budget. This omission was not spotted until September 2015. This led to a substantial overspend. In addition that year, the force failed to reduce its costs as planned and did not achieve its savings targets. These two issues resulted in the force having to take £9.4m from reserves in order to support the budget. The money held in reserves is now at the lowest level that might be considered prudent, leaving the police and crime commissioner (PCC) and the force with a limited cushion against any further unanticipated spending or any room for new future investment.

There is a jointly owned medium-term strategy with the PCC, but there is no plan that brings together projections of demand, workforce and assets (financial and otherwise), although the aim is to produce one. The plans to cut the size of the future workforce to affordable levels by 2019 are not advanced enough for the force to understand fully the impact that reducing police officer numbers will have on frontline policing for Nottinghamshire. Although there is a new management team, which is starting to provide stability, this work needs to be accelerated and appropriate resources put in place to achieve this.

Recommendations

  • Immediately, the force should ensure that it has rigorous financial controls and robust governance arrangements in place to ensure effective financial management. This should include appropriate oversight by the leadership team and sufficient capacity and expertise within the finance team to ensure that improvements are implemented and sustained.
  • Immediately, the force should build on the medium-term financial strategy and develop and work with an effective medium-term plan that aligns revenue and capital spending (over the next three years, as a minimum) with force priorities, taking into account future change and savings plans alongside prudent assumptions about anticipated income.
  • By 28 February 2017, the force should ensure that there are credible and achievable plans in place for the new police operating model. The plans should make clear how the reductions in workforce numbers are to be achieved and provide costed options for service provision and clarity on the impact on services of each option.