Sussex PEEL 2016
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Sussex Police is good at working efficiently to keep people safe and reduce crime. The force has a good understanding of demand, which has been clearly reflected in the way it has designed its current and future operating model.
The force recognises that it needs to continue to improve its ability to seek out demand in relation to crimes that are less likely to be reported. HMIC is pleased to note that collaborative arrangements are planned which will enable the force to continue to direct resources towards reducing crime and to develop a greater understanding of this ‘hidden’ demand.
The force has reduced the numbers of officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) in its local policing programme over the last year, which has had a negative effect on the service the force provides.
While the overall assessment remains broadly consistent with last year’s finding of good, HMIC has identified some areas for improvement this year which the force will need to address.
Sussex Police has a robust and sophisticated operating model, supported by an understanding of demand. Collaborative arrangements are planned which will continue to direct resources towards reducing crime and developing a greater understanding of crime that is less likely to be reported.
The force has a detailed savings plan which predates the most recent spending review settlement. It still plans to make these savings, which are above those now required from 2016 to 2020. Although the level of savings may not change, the force still needs to revise the plan fully following the actual settlement. The force was able to demonstrate that it has some plans to invest these savings to improve its efficiency, but these had not yet been finalised at the time of inspection and will need significant further development over the next year.
HMIC’s PEEL inspection 2015 reported that Sussex had a current operating model that met the existing demands made of it, but that the force had embarked on an ambitious programme to reform how it would deliver local policing services. A fundamental aspect of this was the introduction of a ‘demand reduction’ programme and the roll-out of new mobile technology. The force recognised that future financial reductions would have an inevitable impact on workforce numbers. It carefully worked out numbers based on projected demand and using more efficient ways of working as part of the local policing programme.
Despite its detailed plans, the force has reduced the numbers of officers and PCSOs in its local policing programme over the last year to make savings. The inspection found evidence that the reduction of resources has had a negative effect on the service the force provides.
The effect of the reductions has been more severe than initial projections, as the force has high levels of vacancies compared with England and Wales averages. In addition, the force’s reduction in PCSOs (from 347 to 196 budgeted posts) led to more staff leaving the organisation on voluntary redundancy than was required and meant that the force now needs to recruit PCSOs to replace some of those who left. The force thus does not appear to have had sufficiently robust processes to control the level of resources in the local policing model or to enable it to understand fully the consequences of the changes to the local policing programme, in particular for effective crime prevention and problem-solving. The force has now realised that the resources for its local policing programme should be increased and is taking positive steps to do so.
The force has improved its understanding of internal inefficiencies and unnecessary demands on police time, such as officers responding to all calls for service when this was not necessary. This has led to the introduction of a resolution centre to reduce the times police officers are sent to incidents which do not require their attendance. The force has also introduced an investigation framework to ensure that decisions over whether investigations should continue or be concluded are consistent. The force has conducted initial surveys of members of the public who have had contact with the resolution centre and early indications are very positive.
The force has well-established arrangements to collaborate with other forces and agencies to maximise purchasing power, increase the ability to use each other’s technology and share systems and infrastructure.
Greater access to technology, including the use of online crime reporting, social media, track-my-crime, community messaging systems and police mobile devices, has increased efficiency, supported the force’s way of working and made improvements in the investigation of crime. The mobile devices currently used by frontline officers do not, however, have some functions, such as the ability to access all of the force’s investigative systems. This may be limiting increases in productivity.
How well does the force understand the current and likely future demand?
Sussex Police has a good understanding of current and likely future demand for its services and uses annual demand analysis to ensure it has sufficient resources in the right places to respond to calls for service and meet that demand. The new resolution centre and the investigative framework are critical in reducing demand, particularly for immediate police officer response and for neighbourhood policing, so that sufficient attention can be given to crime prevention and problem-solving. Sussex Police has a good understanding of potential future demand. In consultation with the public and with its partners, it has been able to analyse that demand through horizon scanning and academic partnerships and has started to raise staff awareness of crimes that are not readily reported.
Areas for improvement
- Sussex Police acknowledges that it has undertaken only limited work to understand and manage hidden demand (demand that is less likely to be reported to it). The force needs to do more to raise awareness both internally and externally of hidden crimes in order to increase recognition and reporting.
How well does the force use its resources to manage current demand?
The force requires improvement in the way it uses its resources to manage current demand. It has a good understanding of current demand and of the costs of its services. The force has set its priorities and determined the resources that are required in specific areas. The force has an incomplete understanding of the skills of its workforce. It is aware of gaps in this area and is developing plans to deal with these.
Sussex can demonstrate a commitment to joint working, works collaboratively with other police forces and seeks to extend its work with its public sector partners. It can demonstrate some of the benefits realised and efficiencies from its investment, particularly in its collaborative work with Surrey and the blue light programme.
However, in bringing in recent changes to improve efficiency under the local policing programme, the force has affected its ability to manage current demand within its community teams. There has been some redeployment of community staff to assist in other areas of police business. The force accepts that the plan cut too deeply in some areas, and it is being looked at again.
Areas for improvement
- Sussex Police should, while making its planned savings, ensure that there is sufficient capacity within its neighbourhood teams to improve the force’s understanding of hidden demand and the expectations of the public, in order to meet future demand for its services.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
The force is good at planning for demand in the future. It has developed future plans based on realistic and prudent assumptions about future income, costs and benefits. The force has made good use of information to identify future demand and workforce capabilities and has given some consideration to how its future workforce and ICT capabilities will integrate. There is a lack of clarity over future workforce numbers, but the force plans to realign financial resources to different ways of working in order to manage demand, using the financial savings from one area to reinvest in another. The planned workforce cuts appear to be putting unnecessary pressures on neighbourhood policing. The force has used outside experts to develop plans for investments. It submits these to external auditors for scrutiny to explore opportunities for working with others to reduce costs and make savings.