Cumbria PEEL 2016
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Cumbria Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
The constabulary has a proven track record of sound financial management and there is a well-managed change programme to oversee the continued development of services. There are plans for further investment in buildings, new technology and vehicles. While there are scalable plans to ensure that the constabulary can continue to provide an effective police service across Cumbria, these plans could be further developed to ensure that the constabulary has greater clarity on how it would continue to provide services with fewer resources, given the uncertainty of its future funding position.
Improving the way technology is used and developed is an important feature of the constabulary’s plans and it has made a significant investment in information technology to enable more flexible working. The constabulary has plans to share resources with Lancashire Constabulary and to collaborate with other blue light services, although it recognises that there is more work to do in strengthening partnership working arrangements across Cumbria. An existing collaboration with the National Health Service to introduce a multi-agency assessment and crisis centre is encouraging and has the potential to improve services for people with mental illness.
In responding to the winter 2015/16 flooding crisis across the county, the constabulary showed that it had learned from previous flooding events in 2005 and 2009 and as a result worked more effectively, including with partners.
There is a clear focus on ‘managing demand better’ as one of the most important business areas within Cumbria Constabulary’s new ‘Big 6’ framework of priorities. The constabulary has made changes to the way it responds to demand for its services by placing a number of police officers in the control room to manage calls and assess risk more effectively. The effects of this change will be considered in September 2016, as part of an ongoing review. Work to understand more complex demand within the constabulary’s crime command is still being developed. Until the results of this work are known, the constabulary cannot have a clear understanding of its demand.
How well does the force understand the current and likely future demand?
Cumbria Constabulary does not yet have a full understanding of the current and likely future demand for its services, but is taking some steps to address this.
The constabulary has a reasonably up-to-date understanding of reactive demand. It conducts an annual assessment, which is updated quarterly, and has additionally conducted a review of calls for service, which has led to changes in the staffing and practice within the control room. In the light of this learning, work is underway to look again at other reviews, including the study of demand in the crime command, to inform understanding of the time taken to investigate more complex crimes and to keep vulnerable people safe. This will enable the constabulary to understand some aspects of hidden demand better, but this is an area in which the constabulary’s understanding is otherwise very limited.
In terms of future demand, the constabulary recognises that it needs to make improvements, and managing demand better is one of the significant enablers identified within its framework of priorities. The constabulary has developed good links with academia at national and local levels to help it to enhance the capability of its technology, to develop its policing techniques and to enable staff to work more efficiently and thereby reduce future demand. It has also shown that it can use learning to plan effectively for future demand and to develop responses in relation to issues such as flooding.
Areas for improvement
- Cumbria Constabulary should continue to develop its understanding of current and likely future demand for its services, ensuring that it has analysed appropriate information and intelligence from wider sources.
How well does the force use its resources to manage current demand?
Cumbria Constabulary is good in the way that it uses its resources to manage current demand. The constabulary faces an uncertain financial future, due to the lack of clarity around the police funding formula, which is unlikely to be resolved until April 2017. Although it has considered a range of different scenarios for policing with fewer resources, its ability to make firm plans is hampered by this uncertainty.
Despite the uncertainty, the constabulary is continuing with a well-managed and ambitious change programme. It has introduced a business improvement unit to co-ordinate and track action on priorities within its ‘Big 6’ framework.
The constabulary has already improved its efficiency, making substantial savings. It aims to continue to improve the productivity of the workforce, principally through organisational change and ICT. All frontline staff have been provided with hand-held devices, and this means that officers are now more productive and able to stay out in their communities, providing visible policing. The constabulary considers skills requirements routinely within all change programmes and includes relevant actions in business plans so that, during the implementation of change, sufficient focus is given to ensuring that the right staff with the right skills are available. There is also a high-level force-resourcing panel and a strategic workforce-planning group to ensure that staff are deployed to those departments requiring additional resources at the right time.
The extent of collaborative working in Cumbria is limited compared with other forces. However, the constabulary does share a learning and development function with Lancashire Constabulary and has plans to extend collaboration to other services. It also has plans to improve the way it works with other local agencies, including an innovative mental health multi-agency assessment and crisis centre, which has the potential to reduce demand on the constabulary significantly and, importantly, to improve services to some of the most vulnerable victims.
The constabulary has made savings by rationalising its buildings, including closing down some police stations and building new ones where they will be needed in the future.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
Cumbria Constabulary has a good track record of prudent financial management and a thorough understanding of its current financial position. However, it is not yet in a position to align its workforce model fully to demand, because it does not yet have a complete understanding of all the demand it faces.
The constabulary sees better community engagement and problem-solving work as crucial to reducing demand in the long term. It has therefore placed teams of police officers and PCSOs in each area, who will not be redeployed to deal with responsive work. The constabulary considers this model to be scalable, so that, as the funding available reduces, so too can the size of the teams.
The constabulary has made significant investments in ICT to provide all frontline officers with mobile data and technology to enable them to be more efficient and to increase their productivity. These are working well, with further developments planned to enhance their usefulness.
The constabulary is expanding its change programme, which is enabling both savings and investment for the future. A further £2.5m of savings are planned for 2016/17. However, there is uncertainty around the constabulary’s future financial position, and it could do more to develop more detailed plans in preparation for different funding scenarios arising from future change in the police funding formula.
It currently holds reserves of about £21m and plans to invest a substantial proportion of these reserves in estates, ICT and its vehicle fleet to further modernise the service.
A strategic alliance is being developed with Lancashire Constabulary, which will build on the success of their learning and development collaboration and look at specialist policing assets in the first instance.
Areas for improvement
- Cumbria Constabulary should ensure that it has adequate plans in place to show it can provide services, while also making the necessary cost savings.