Hertfordshire PEEL 2016
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. The force needs to do more to fully understand both current and likely future demand for its services. It is good at using its resources to meet demand, and works well with other forces and organisations to improve efficiency and save money. The force is in a strong financial position to plan for the future. In last year’s efficiency inspection, Hertfordshire Constabulary was judged to be good.
As in HMIC’s 2015 inspection, this year Hertfordshire Constabulary has been assessed as good at working efficiently to keep people safe and reduce crime. However, it requires improvement in its understanding of all the sources of current demand and of likely future demand for its services. It recognises that this understanding requires improvement and that more work is needed to enable it to reduce demand, increase productivity and effectively plan for the future. The force has explored good practice nationally and worked with the College of Policing to improve its approach. It is at an early stage in developing its understanding of likely future demand. In a strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police, the tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore options for effective policing in the future.
The force uses its resources to respond to clear priorities; for example, it recognised growth in demand for protecting vulnerable people and has invested extra resources for domestic abuse and sexual offence investigations. However, it makes higher than average use of overtime and significant numbers of police officers are unable to use all their annual leave, suggesting that it is not always accurately matching its resources to the needs of the force. The force is seeking to increase workforce productivity using both external expertise and introducing new software to carry out demand assessment. It is also carefully monitoring the skills and composition of its workforce and has redistributed staff to better match demand following the reduction of custody centres.
The force has developed strong collaborative working arrangements, through the strategic alliance with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police. The forces in this strategic alliance have an ambitious and innovative plan to work collaboratively in all policing functions, except local policing, by 2017. Further partnership working is planned with a total of seven forces, and Hertfordshire is also developing strategic partnerships with other emergency services and local government organisations to share resources and manage future demand together. While Hertfordshire Constabulary can demonstrate how collaboration and joint working is improving outcomes for the public, reducing costs and building resilience, it does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of costed outcomes.
The force is in a strong financial position to plan well for future demand, although the lack of a comprehensive understanding of future demand and workforce capabilities limits its ability to plan for the future. It has a track record of careful financial management and achieving savings targets. The force has large financial reserves, some of which will be used in the next four years to support the revenue budget and ease immediate financial pressures. It will continue to meet savings requirements by increasing efficiency through collaboration and agile working, while also making a broad range of investments, improving ICT capabilities and increasing the size of teams that protect vulnerable people and assist victims of crime.
How well does the force understand the current and likely future demand?
Hertfordshire Constabulary does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of demand; it does recognise that more work is needed to enable it to reduce demand, increase productivity and effectively plan for the future. It fully recognises that it needs to improve in this area and some positive progress is evident, but more work is needed.
The force is committed to developing a more sophisticated understanding of all sources of current demand. The force has explored good practice nationally and worked with the College of Policing to improve its approach.
A demand and productivity strategy was presented to chief officers in August 2015 followed by a ‘Resource/Demand’ review paper produced in September. However, action plans have not yet been developed. The force’s high-level approach demonstrates a desire to understand demand fully but there is little detail about how tasks will be prioritised and what benefits will be realised.
The force is at an early stage in developing its understanding of likely future demand. It is in a partnership with Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Bedfordshire Police, and the tri-force ‘futures team’ has undertaken research to explore a range of options open to the three forces to provide effective policing in the future. This research has led to a proposed model in which future change will be weighted heavily in favour of joint working with blue-light service providers and local authorities within existing county boundaries.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s own work to assess how demand may change in the future is based upon changes in local demographics along with crime, incident and stop-and-search data. However, there is not a comprehensive understanding of the combined impact of these elements at the moment. There has been little impact from reduced resources amongst partner agencies, but diagnostic work is not underway to understand fully or alleviate possible future reductions across all partnerships.
The force has explored demand in terms of call-handling and taken steps to improve services as a result. The mobile devices used by frontline staff have been improved, giving them greater access to information and force systems to support agile working and match public expectations.
Areas for improvement
- Hertfordshire Constabulary should develop its understanding of current and likely future demand, ensuring that it has analysed appropriate information and intelligence from wider sources.
How well does the force use its resources to manage current demand?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at using its resources to manage current demand. Hertfordshire Constabulary is meeting this demand but could improve the way it is using resources. The force makes a higher than average use of overtime and police officers are carrying significant amounts of unused annual leave. This is not sustainable and indicates that resources are not accurately matched to the needs of the force.
The force recognises the importance of continuing to improve its understanding of demand and it is taking steps to do so. It is developing a more evidence-based approach to meeting growing demand, for example with the re-investment of resources to the new DAISU and an increase in investment for the sexual offences investigation team to reflect the growing demand in these areas.
The force is seeking to increase workforce productivity, using both external expertise and introducing new software to carry out demand assessment. Frontline staff we spoke to felt confident that they had sufficient skills to use ICT systems to carry out their role. The force has also demonstrated an appetite for increasing ICT capability and support across the workforce and acknowledges that frontline staff skills to recognise and investigate cyber-crime need to be improved.
Hertfordshire Constabulary carefully monitors the skills and composition of its workforce. A new, collaborative HR unit is developing a sophisticated employee resource planning system and is aimed at achieving a consistent strategic alliance approach to all HR, workforce planning and leadership development.
The force is strongly committed to joint working and this is demonstrated clearly by the mature and well-established collaborative work already in place through the strategic alliance of three forces. It aims to develop this partnership working further with a total of seven forces as well as developing its working arrangements with blue-light and local government organisations.
Comprehensive benefits realisation plans are prominent in the business cases supporting change programmes, such as custody, criminal justice, ICT and human resources, and the force has redistributed staff to match demand better following the reduction in custody centres.
While Hertfordshire Constabulary can demonstrate how collaboration and joint working is improving outcomes for the public, reducing costs and building resilience, it does not yet have a comprehensive understanding of the cost of each outcome. This is also true for all of the strategic alliance partners. However, the constabulary is committed to making sure that the costs are fully understood and that it dedicates resources to develop this understanding further.
Areas for improvement
- Hertfordshire Constabulary should undertake appropriate activities to understand fully its workforce’s capabilities, in order to identify any gaps and put plans in place to address them. This will enable the force to be confident in its ability to meet current and likely future demand efficiently. To achieve a consistent strategic alliance approach to all HR, workforce planning and leadership development, this work should be completed as part of the strategic alliance partnership work.
How well is the force planning for demand in the future?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is in a strong financial position to plan well for future demand, although the lack of a comprehensive understanding of future demand and workforce capabilities limits its ability to plan for the future. It has a track record of careful financial management and achievement of savings targets. Since 2011/12, the force has reduced its net spending by £36m and has built up reserves of £48.3m to the end of 2015/16. The strong reserves position provides opportunity for the force to meet immediate spending pressures and develop comprehensive plans for investment.
Demand analysis and forecasting has taken place to support reviews of, and investment in, local policing, safeguarding and public contact, leading to planned investments of £4.2m in these high priority areas during 2016/17.
Hertfordshire Constabulary, together with its strategic alliance partners, has a strong track record of joint working arrangements that bring about efficiencies, although not all of the cost benefits are fully understood. It has considered a range of approaches, working collaboratively to maximise purchasing power, increase ICT interoperability and share systems and infrastructure. The alliance forces have an ambitious and innovative plan to work collaboratively in all policing functions, except local policing, across the whole alliance by 2017.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is following a robust ICT investment strategy in collaboration with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, to consolidate what is already a strong position compared to other forces. The alliance forces need to ensure that, as the understanding of future demand improves, the ICT strategy needs to be aligned better to workforce and service plans.
The strong financial context of the force allows it to plan investments on the basis that immediate financial pressures are eased via the phased use of earmarked reserves. The force and PCC are using reserves to support the revenue budget, which is not sustainable over the longer term but is considered to be an acceptable risk given the high level of reserves, the plans to increase efficiency through collaboration and agile working, and the PCC’s option to raise extra income from an increase to the council tax precept.