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#029/2010 – Cumbria Police Authority is ‘performing adequately’

Cumbria Police Authority is ‘performing adequately’, according to an independent joint report released today by the Audit Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

On a scale from one to four the joint inspection team assessed the Authority’s performance as ‘two’, which represents adequate performance.

Cumbria Police Authority comprises 17 members (9 county councillors and 8 independent members) and employs 6 full-time and 4 part-time staff. The Authority is responsible for securing an efficient and effective police force for Cumbria and holding the Chief Constable to account.

Cumbria Police Authority is improving the way it works and challenges Cumbria Constabulary, but needs to speed up its improvement to provide greater leadership. A range of adequate policies and strategies are now in place, but many of the changes it has made are recent and only beginning to make an impact.

The Audit Commission’s David Hoole, spokesperson for the joint inspection team, said:

‘Relationships between the Constabulary and the Authority are good and based on mutual respect. Leadership of the Authority by the chair is open and inclusive. The chair of the Authority is well supported by a number of effective members. The Authority has been appropriately involved in all the recent major incidents within Cumbria where its concern for the welfare of both staff and the wider community has been welcomed.

Much of Cumbria lies within the Lake District National Park, incorporating small and isolated communities. This presents unique problems in terms of access and response, and Authority members understand the implications of this for policing. They recognise that public reassurance is important and have made public confidence a key target for the Constabulary. They do, however, recognise that Cumbria’s urban areas have their own issues and the Policing Plan reflects this.’

Strengths include:

  • The Authority makes effective use of the Independent Custody Visitor scheme and mystery shopping to improve the way in which it deals with people in vulnerable circumstances.
  • There are examples where the challenge provided by the Authority has improved performance, such as reducing sickness absence levels and tackling domestic violence.
  • The Authority has a good understanding of the need to balance local issues with regional and national concerns.
  • The Authority has a good understanding of future financial challenges and has improved its financial planning.

Areas for improvement include:

  • Police Authority members need to make it more clear publicly that they play an important role in the development of the Policing Plan.
  • Public consultation is improving, but feedback to community groups and other partners is patchy overall and could be improved.
  • The Authority needs to raise its profile across the full range of partners.
  • Members are focused on the two major change programmes underway – Sustainability & Excellence and the Structures Review – but do not use this oversight and involvement to ensure that the pace of change is accelerated.

Following today’s report Cumbria Police Authority will plan what it needs to do to improve its services to meet the changing needs of its communities.

Copies of the report are available from Cumbria Police Authority or from the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk and the HMIC website /Inspections/Pages/PoliceAuthorityInspections.aspx.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. Cumbria Police Authority is an independent body responsible for overseeing the Constabulary. It represents the community and, in partnership with the Chief Constable, ensures that an efficient and effective policing service is provided to the people of Cumbria.
  2. Police authority inspection provides a simple report in a straightforward way about how well each police authority is performing. It encourages police authorities to focus on continuous improvement and provides a robust independent challenge to stimulate positive change. Ultimately it is about working to improve the quality of services police authorities provide to local people.
  3. The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog, driving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services to deliver better outcomes for everyone.
  4. Our work across local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue services means that we have a unique perspective. We promote value for money for taxpayers, auditing the £200 billion spent by 11,000 local public bodies.

As a force for improvement, we work in partnership to assess local public services and make practical recommendations for promoting a better quality of life for local people.

  • Further information about the Audit Commission: www.audit-commission.gov.uk.
  • HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. For further information about HMIC: http://www.hmic.gov.uk.
  • For more information, or for an embargoed copy of the full report, contact David Rose, regional communications manager (North of England) at the Audit Commission on 0844 798 6654 or d-rose@audit-commission.gov.uk.