Lincolnshire PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Lincolnshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. It has balanced the budget and has a good track record of achieving savings. However future plans beyond 2016 are projecting a budget deficit, meaning that a commitment made by the force to maintain current workforce numbers will not be achievable. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Lincolnshire was judged to be good.
HMIC judges Lincolnshire Police to require improvement. The force has a good and growing understanding of current demand and the cost of the service it provides. It has entered into outsourcing arrangements, strategic private sector partnerships, and collaborative working. It is a low-cost force with a small workforce. A high proportion of the force’s funding comes from the police element of council tax. However, future funding beyond 2016 is uncertain and the current plan of maintaining workforce numbers is not achievable. It would result in a budget deficit, which could not be bridged by the use of reserves. Therefore, the force requires improvement in how efficiently it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
The force has robust financial management, accurate budgeting and a record of achieving planned savings. The savings requirement for the spending review period has been met. The force balanced the budget for 2014/15 achieving the £2.5m savings requirement. There is also a balanced budget planned for 2015/16 with clear plans in place to achieve these savings with no use of reserves.
However, the force and PCC has made a continued commitment to maintain current staffing levels and it is unclear how these levels can be sustained when faced with further savings requirements. At the time of inspection the force has no plans to use its general reserve to bridge the funding gap and the force reports a funding gap in 2016/17 and 2017/18. This means that the current plan to maintain workforce numbers is not achievable.
The force reports that it is developing its understanding of the possible impact that any further workforce reductions might have on the service provided to the communities of Lincolnshire. However these plans are not yet available to evaluate.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
Lincolnshire Police has a good and growing understanding of its current demand for its services and the cost of those it provides.
Work has begun to analyse in more detail how the force deploys its resources in line with demand. It made an early start on analysing activity and assessing the cost of this activity. This work is currently being updated.
The force is developing a revised operating model. Options and choices are beginning to emerge. It is investing in technology including a new IT infrastructure to improve productivity and better align with other forces in the region.
The force is actively exploring new ways of working, defining what will not be police business in the future, and engaging with communities and partners about what it has stopped doing.
Lincolnshire Police is a low-cost force, with a small workforce, and a high reliance on local funding. It has entered into outsourcing, strategic private sector partnerships and collaborative working. This means it saves money and brings a more efficient approach. However it also reduces the force’s flexibility in relation to future options for the provision of policing services.
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
The current workforce model matches known and emerging demand, and financial plans, but only in the short term. The force is developing its knowledge and management of the skills and capability within the workforce to fit current and emerging demand. There is a shortage of some skills and limited opportunities for progression in some areas of the workforce.
The force does not as yet have a revised operating model in place to meet longer-term changes in demand and organisational and financial requirements. Workforce planning is based on the continuing commitment by the PCC to maintain an establishment of 1,100 officers and 149 PCSOs. Financial plans show substantial deficits in future years as these are based on maintaining existing workforce numbers. The force states that it is starting to model different ways of providing policing for the future, but these plans are not yet available to evaluate.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop a future workforce plan that is aligned to its overall demand and budget. The plan should include future resource allocations and the mix of skills required by the workforce.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
The force has robust financial management arrangements, and a record of achieving planned savings. The savings requirement for the spending review period was achieved.
There is a balanced budget for 2015/16. The savings requirement is £2.5m and there are clear plans in place to achieve these savings with no use of reserves. The force has explored some options to increase income, and financial planning assumes a continued reduction of £300,000 in funding over the next two years that is provided by the County Council.
The police and crime commissioner’s (PCC’s) and the force’s operational and financial plans are clearly linked. The medium term financial plan (MTFP) shows an intention to maintain 1,100 officers and 149 police community support officers (PCSOs) to the end of March 2017. This means there is a budget deficit in 2016/17 of £4.3m and in 2017/18 of £7.1m.
At the time of inspection the force has no plans to use the general reserve and based on its forecasts the force reports a funding gap in 2016/17 and 2017/18. This funding gap will require the force and PCC to review the reserve policy. Despite this, the current general reserve will still not cover the anticipated budget shortfall for 2017/18. The plan to maintain current staffing levels until 2017 is therefore not achievable.
The force has not included forecast figures for 2018/19 or 2019/20 in its MTFP.
Areas for improvement
- The force should develop clear and realistic plans for achieving the likely savings required beyond 2015/16. The plans should include a review of its policy on the use of reserves, to ensure it can continue to efficiently deliver a policing service within future financial constraints.