#037/2010 – Police authorities must rise to the challenge of budget cuts
Police authorities have a crucial role to play over the next 18 months but few are well prepared, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found. Their responsibilities have grown since the 1970s to more than 150 separate duties, powers and discretions within 57 pieces of legislation.
They will be responsible for setting spending priorities over the next 18 months and the choices they make now will have an impact on policing long after the introduction of their replacement – elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
However, the report Police Governance in Austerity, found that few authorities are well positioned or prepared to provide proper direction and ensure value for money.
The Government announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review on the 20 October that their contribution to police budgets will reduce by 20%, with almost two thirds of this cut in the first two years.
Of the 22 police authorities inspected, HMIC found that 15 were performing adequately and seven performed well overall. But only four of these authorities were judged to have performed well in both setting strategic direction for policing in their area and ensuring value for money.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, urged police authorities to focus their efforts on four key areas which characterised good performance.
HMIC found authorities that performed well:
- were clear that their role involved both setting the direction for the force and challenging the force on the progress it was making.
- maintained a dividing line between governance, which is their role, and leading and managing the force, which is the job of the chief constable.
- benchmarked costs, challenged what the police were doing with their money in both the short and long term, and actively enabled collaboration with other forces.
- struck a balance between local issues and national responsibilities such as tackling terrorism, drugs, gun crime, people trafficking and fraud.
HMI Ms Billingham said: “Police authorities have a crucial role to play over the next 18 months as it is their job to decide what the priorities should be for the police and to secure value for money.
“But, of the 22 authorities we looked at, only four were good at this part of their job. HMIC has identified the characteristics that made these four authorities stand out. All the other authorities need to take a hard and honest look at how they might improve in these areas and transform their approach.
“I recognise that in the face of abolition, this won’t be easy for the police authority members and staff. But what I do know is that there are many people there that are committed to doing a good job for the public.
“While it is too soon to consider all of the issues that might arise from their replacement by Police and Crime Commissioners, the characteristics of good governance that we are publishing today might usefully inform the new design.
“HMIC have real concerns about how police authorities will change their approach to deal with the cuts while minimising reductions to public services.”
Notes to editors
- To bid for an interview with Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, please contact the HMIC press office on 020 7802 1824 or email HMICPressOffice@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.
- There are 43 police authorities in England and Wales. They are responsible for securing an efficient and effective police force for the area and holding the Chief Constable to account.
- In response to the Policing Green Paper consultation, police authorities have been jointly inspected by the Audit Commission, HMIC and, in Wales, by the Wales Audit Office.
- Police authorities have been inspected against four assessment themes: setting strategic direction and priorities; scrutinising performance outcomes; achieving results through community engagement and partnerships; and ensuring value for money and productivity.
- The 22 police authorities that have been inspected are: the Metropolitan Police Authority, Avon & Somerset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Gwent, South Wales, Sussex, Warwickshire, Humberside, Merseyside, Hertfordshire, Cleveland, West Mercia, Cumbria, Surrey, Gloucestershire and Bedfordshire.
- The four police authorities judged to have performed well in both setting strategic direction and ensuring value for money are Gwent, Hertfordshire, West Mercia and Surrey.
- The Government announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review on the 20 October that their contribution to police budgets will reduce by 20%, with almost two thirds of this cut in the first two years.
- 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. Further information about HMIC can be found on the website www.hmic.gov.uk