Bedfordshire PEEL 2014
How well the force delivers value for money
HMIC is encouraged by the progress Bedfordshire Police is making in achieving its required savings. The force has ambitious plans for the future to improve policing in Bedfordshire and achieve good value for money. However, the force faces some significant policing challenges in the short term. The force now needs to implement its ambitious plans for improving policing in Bedfordshire in an affordable way more quickly, and in doing so it must ensure that policing services to the public remain effective.
Bedfordshire is on track to achieve its required savings of £20.8m over the spending review period. The force has faced a difficult challenge and is making progress towards achieving a secure financial position. HMIC is encouraged by the progress made in developing the plans for the alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary. This is a clear signal of the commitment to collaboration and to achieving future savings and improvements in policing across the three forces.
Recorded crime levels had been falling in Bedfordshire over recent years, but in the 12 months to March 2014, overall recorded crime went up in the force area. The force previously reduced its police officer numbers to a level that put at risk its ability to provide effective policing and this had a serious impact on performance. The force recognised this. Under the leadership of the new chief constable, with oversight from the police and crime commissioner it is now taking steps to increase its police strength to safer levels through the recruitment of 60 police officers.
HMIC is encouraged that the force leadership has a good grasp and understanding of the issues and areas that need to improve. HMIC found that the force is moving in the right direction and the pace of change is now increasing. Success depends on developing the required plans in detail and speeding up the pace in order to address HMIC’s concerns and to secure a more certain future.
Our reinspection found that the immediate areas of risk were being addressed as a matter of urgency by the force and plans were in place to develop and implement the longer term approach to policing Bedfordshire. The next steps are for the force move to more detailed plans and provide assurance on how these are delivered.
To what extent is the force efficient?
Bedfordshire Police is a small force with an unusually high level of serious threat including organised crime. It has to deal with a breadth of criminality not normally seen in a rural force. It understands this well but does not currently have the capacity to deal effectively with all the demand effectively.
At the same time as developing the tri-force alliance, the force faces challenges in continuing to provide an effective policing service. It needs to address these challenges in the short term while developing its long-term plans. HMIC reinspected the force in October and found that some immediate changes were planned in areas where service to the public required rapid improvement and that plans were in place to develop a longer-term approach for the whole force by early next year.
Recorded crime levels for the area fell over recent years but in the 12 months to March 2014 total recorded crime went up. The level of victim satisfaction has increased since the 12 months to March 2011, but remains lower than the England and Wales figure.
Over the spending review period, the number of emergency and priority calls responded to within the force’s own target had deteriorated and is of concern to HMIC. Our re-inspection found that additional resource and expertise has been put in to the control room and this has resulted in some improvements.
To what extent is the force taking steps to ensure a secure financial position for the short and long term?
Bedfordshire Police has faced a difficult challenge and made good progress towards achieving a secure financial position.
It is on track to achieve its savings requirement over the spending review period and has built up some reserves to ease the achievement of future savings.
The force has worked well with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Constabulary to develop an ambitious plan for a tri-force collaboration.
The progress made in the tri-force financial plans is a clear signal of the commitment to future collaboration and to achieving future savings across the three forces.
To what extent has the force got an affordable way of providing policing?
Police officer numbers were reduced to a level that put at risk the ability of Bedfordshire Police to provide effective policing. The force is now restoring its police strength to safer levels and our re-inspection found that a longer-term workforce plan has been developed to ensure the force has sufficient police officers in the medium term.
Ambitious plans are in development for a tri-force alliance with the potential to achieve savings, transform policing through ICT changes and provide a more effective and resilient police service. However, HMIC is concerned that a significant amount of work remains to be done, and that any delay in finalising or implementing the plans would seriously affect the force’s ability to provide effective policing in the longer-term.
The force leadership has a good grasp and understanding of the issues and areas that need to improve. The force is moving in the right direction and the pace of change is now increasing. The force rightly needs to move quickly to secure a more certain longer-term position. Our reinspection found that the force intends to develop and implement a new way of providing improved services to the public which is affordable and sustainable over the medium term. HMIC will continue to monitor these plans as they are developed, and is keen to see these changes implemented.