West Mercia PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that West Mercia Police is well prepared to face its future financial challenges. It has achieved notable increases in efficiency and improved resilience through its alliance with Warwickshire Police, which has allowed it to minimise the impact of reductions in spending on frontline policing. It has also achieved more savings than required over the last spending review period. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, West Mercia was also judged to be good.
HMIC judges West Mercia Police to be good. The unique alliance with Warwickshire Police is the most extensive collaboration between forces in England and Wales. All resources below the level of chief constable and deputy chief constable are pooled and shared between both forces, with any savings also shared on a proportionate basis. This extensive collaboration has enabled both organisations to achieve budget reductions by operating more efficiently. Joint resources are used flexibly, providing added resilience that neither force could have afforded on their own.
The force is at an early stage of taking steps to better manage demand. Through its recent work to strengthen the alliance, it has carried out a comprehensive analysis of the changing demands on services faced by the two forces. This analysis also looked at the way the forces currently respond to demand. It has clearly shown that the current operating model will need to change to respond to both changing demands and reductions in budgets. The alliance is now well positioned to make progress in planning for the future.
Through the work in the alliance, the force has a good track record of controlling expenditure and achieving savings ahead of schedule. This has resulted in annual budget underspends, which have been set aside in reserves for future use. The longer term sustainability of the force’s finances is reliant upon a new model for policing being introduced across the alliance. Work is still underway to develop options for a future operating model.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
The alliance between Warwickshire and West Mercia Police is unique in England and Wales policing and has enabled both organisations to achieve significant cost savings by operating more efficiently. Their combined resources are being used flexibly to provide added resilience that neither could have afforded on their own. The forces share a continuing ambition to strengthen their alliance in order to achieve even greater efficiencies and resilience.
The force is at the early stage of taking steps to better manage demand. It has carried out a comprehensive analysis of the changing demands faced by the two forces and the way it currently deals with demands for services. The alliance is now well-placed to make progress in planning for the future.
In spite of some impressive work to analyse demand and current activities, HMIC is disappointed to find that the force has not completed a recent strategic assessment of the key threats and risks faced by its communities and there is no force plan through which resources can be directed at these risks. There is limited detailed understanding of the relationship between service outcomes and costs which means it is difficult for the force to be certain that its services are providing value for money. More work is needed to ensure that it is using resources as effectively and as efficiently as possible.
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
West Mercia Police has managed its savings to date with a slightly above average 16 percent reduction in the size of the workforce. It has worked hard to successfully maintain the proportion of staff working on the front line and increased the number of special constables.
The force has also targeted additional resource to priority areas such as offender management, protecting vulnerable people and tackling cybercrime. The current workforce plans have been closely aligned to the financial plans but the alliance recognises that the operating model needs to change to better respond to the changing demand it faces. It is well-placed to develop a new structure for policing based on its improved understanding of demand for services and areas where more efficient working can be achieved. This model should consider how future workforce capability can be developed to reflect trends in demand.
The new operating model for the alliance is currently being developed, so it is too early to assess the impact of any further cut in staff and police officer strength on its ability to sustain effective policing.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
West Mercia police has achieved total savings requirement of £36.9m over the last spending review period and has set a balanced budget, finding further savings of £10.4m in 2015/16.
The alliance between West Mercia and Warwickshire has enabled both organisations to achieve budget reductions by operating more efficiently. The two forces estimate that the total costs of achieving collaboration amount to £16.9m over the last four years.
The force has a good track record of controlling expenditure and has achieved annual budget underspends. In 2014/15 the underspend for the alliance was exceptionally high at £13.1m from a total combined budget of £290m, mainly as a result of not filling vacancies.
The financial plans are developed in conjunction with the OPCC and are designed to reflect the priorities in both police and crime plans. The alliance director of finance works closely and constructively with the single treasurer working for both PCCs.
The force recognises its longer term sustainability is reliant upon a new model for policing being introduced across the alliance.
The force has built up reserves to enable investment in initiatives to improve services and efficiency and to bridge future gaps by supporting the annual budget. This provides more time for the alliance to select the most appropriate policing model in order to achieve permanent reductions in spending.