Dorset PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
We judge Dorset Police to be good in terms of its efficiency and sustainability.
The force has detailed plans for the future, based on its analysis of a range of data. There is a culture of continuous improvement in Dorset Police, which is supported by the right leadership and governance.
It could do more, however, to find out what the public’s priorities are in terms of policing, and use that information to shape its services.
Dorset Police has a balanced budget for the 2019/20 financial year. Its financial plans are realistic and have been scrutinised by external experts. The force has a strong record of making financial savings.
In 2017, we judged the force to be good at meeting current demands and using resources.
How well does the force use its resources to meet the demand it faces?
This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 efficiency inspection has been carried over.
How well does the force plan for the future?
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure that public expectation is sought and considered in the planning and design of future policing services.
- The force’s understanding of current demand is good. However, more needs to be done to understand future pressures and to work effectively with other organisations to address them.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Predicting likely future demand
The force analyses the demands upon its services on a daily, weekly and annual basis. It is investing in technology to understand patterns and predict trends. The force management statement (FMS) is a self-assessment that is required of every police force to be submitted to HMICFRS annually. It helps forces to identify current and predict future demand and plan accordingly. In the case of Dorset Police, the FMS makes a clear link between demand and how the force allocates its resources.
The force has an established joint restructuring programme with Devon and Cornwall Police. This aims to improve services across nine core areas of business, including:
- bringing together the IT operating systems used by both forces;
- using technology to improve public contact in the force control room; and
- increasing use of mobile technology by frontline staff.
These will be important developments in maintaining services to the public.
Assessing future demand for services
The force uses statistical trend projections to predict future demand for service. These indicate a potential 8 percent increase in demand over the next 12 months. The force has modelled the impact if this prediction is greater or less than anticipated. This assessment identifies geographical areas where there is a projected increase, together with the times of day that the force’s resources are most likely to be needed.
For example, the force expects that there will be more:
- calls concerning the welfare of people who leave hospital emergency departments prior to treatment;
- reports of missing people; and
- cyber-related crime.
It intends to increase staff training, develop specialist skills, realign shift patterns and work with partners, to manage this predicted change.
The force uses information held by other organisations – including ambulance and mental health services – to inform its current and predicted demand. A chief officer leads a demand management programme that co-ordinates a number of projects, led by senior officers, to improve the force understanding and management of demand.
The force has not yet formed a thorough understanding of hidden demand. This refers to incidents or crimes, such as human trafficking and modern slavery, that are less likely to be reported because victims are so vulnerable.
The force could also do more to share information with other organisations to develop its understanding of hidden demand. We saw examples of the force working with social care providers on cases of children who frequently go missing – these cases now have their own dedicated case officers. But more could be done to share information with other service providers, such as health and social care services, to understand and manage demand collectively.
Dorset Police is planning to use technology to manage some aspects of future demand. The force is exploring opportunities to use automation in some areas of its work, such as non-emergency call handling, and we will watch with interest as this work develops.
Understanding public expectations
Public consultation, led by the OPCC, gives the force an insight into what the public expects from its police force. OPCC consultation exercises form the basis of the police and crime plan, which sets the priorities for Dorset Police. However, we found limited evidence that the force has used the consultation to inform its plans for future policing.
Dorset Police’s communications team, which works jointly with Devon and Cornwall Police, is using a new customer insight programme to improve services. This includes interviews and focus groups with people who have needed help from the force, including those who have less confidence in the police. The team produces videos of these conversations and plays them back to the frontline workforce. But while the insight programme is encouraging, its reach is still limited. We will watch its progress with interest.
Making best use of resources to meet likely future demand
The priorities in the police and crime plan 2017–21 are clear, and they reflect the force’s understanding of its future demand and public expectations. They include protecting people at risk of harm, working with communities, supporting victims and witnesses, reducing reoffending, and internal restructuring. The plan sets out how resources will be allocated to support these priorities, for example by funding education and prevention programmes to keep young people away from knife or gang-related crime.
The force has a clear plan for collaborative working, co-ordinated through a programme with Devon and Cornwall Police called PRISM. The plans are comprehensive and subject to external scrutiny. They support the priorities in the police and crime plan.
The chief constable and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) have made an innovation fund available as part of the 2019/20 budget. The workforce has been encouraged to submit ideas and innovations that support force priorities. Successful bids have included a ‘Bobby Van’ to provide crime prevention services to vulnerable people, and schemes to support the homeless.
Technology has the potential to make the workforce more agile. The force plans to upgrade devices issued to the frontline workforce, and trials of new laptops will take place during 2019. The force’s IT strategy aims to modernise systems and procedures. It plans to automate its demand analysis by using a business intelligence software application called Qlik Sense.
The force has a good understanding of future demand, and prioritises its activities accordingly. As outlined above, predicted areas of increase include reports of missing people, calls concerning the welfare of vulnerable people, and cybercrime, and the force’s plans take these increases into account. This is particularly the case for local policing – the force has just finished a consultation on new shift patterns for frontline officers.
More could be done, however, to take public expectations into account when deciding on priorities.
The force has a good knowledge of the skills and experience of its workforce. It has done a skills audit, which identified some gaps in leadership and digital skills, and it is addressing these through tailored training programmes planned for this year. It also supports workforce development; for example, it has appointed digital champions, who provide support and guidance to colleagues who are less confident in using new technology. Digital champions have supported the rollout of Skype video conferencing across the force. There are plans for them to do the same for other software changes, including Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.
Dorset Police works hard to recruit experienced officers from other forces. It has been innovative in bringing new skills and talent into the organisation; for example, skilled interns from Bournemouth University have been seconded to the regional organised crime unit (ROCU) and undergraduates have worked with the force’s communications department to produce a domestic abuse video called #CutYourStrings. The force participates in the Police Now graduate entry scheme, and the College of Policing’s national programmes that recruit officers into senior positions.
Dorset Police has a balanced budget for the 2019/20 financial year. Both the budget and the force’s medium-term financial plan are based on realistic assumptions and they have been subject to expert scrutiny.
The force has a strong record of achieving financial savings. The 2019/20 budget includes anticipated savings of £0.25m from service area reviews and a further £0.4m of efficiencies from improved procurement procedures. In common with other forces, Dorset Police anticipates a shortfall in funding in the medium term; it estimates the gap to be £4.44m by 2023. The force is developing a plan to achieve these savings, focusing on economies associated with more efficient rostering, digital working and reviewing the use of police buildings.
By March 2023, the force forecasts that its reserves will have decreased from £10m in March 2018 to £5.5m. This predominantly reflects funds allocated to transformation and innovation to help the force meet its ambition for the future. It plans to maintain its general reserves at sufficient levels to meet unforeseen expenditure caused by major incidents or other operational pressures.
In 2016, following its 2010 consultation about revaluing public sector pensions, the government announced reductions in the discount rate it uses to set contribution rates for unfunded public service pension schemes. These include the police service pension scheme. A lower discount rate will require higher contribution rates from employers. The official notification of a lower rate in September 2018 did not allow PCCs and mayors time to include the impact in their financial planning.
In December 2018, the government announced a pension grant for 2019/20 for each PCC and mayor. It allocated funding to help forces pay for these increased costs in the 2019/20 financial year. In the case of Dorset Police, the extra annual cost is £3.1m, which is offset, in 2019/20, by a grant of £1.4m. PCCs and mayors must now plan for how they will finance the increased costs in the following years, assessing the impact on their officer numbers and their ability to provide effective and efficient services. The PCC for Dorset increased council tax precept funding to maintain the current level of service.
Leadership and workforce development
In our 2017 inspection, we found that the force needed to improve its understanding of leadership capacity and capability. We were pleased to find that it assessed all leadership skills in 2018. Staff were involved in designing the audit process and helped to shape how the force defined its leadership requirements. As a consequence, the force now has a good understanding of the leadership qualities it expects of its individuals and teams at all levels of the organisation.
This has provided a good baseline from which to introduce leadership programmes in the force. These are linked to the College of Policing fast track programmes and the Police Now graduate entry scheme. The leadership programmes include development opportunities, which makes sure that the key positions in the organisation are filled by talented staff.
Dorset Police is committed to the development of its officers and staff. It has a broad range of resources to help staff to progress, including toolkits, guidance and support. However, many that we spoke with were not aware of them. The force may wish to review this area to ensure that its resources are used effectively.
Ambition to improve
There is a culture of continuous improvement in Dorset Police, supported by appropriate leadership, governance and scrutiny. In addition to its close relationship with Devon and Cornwall Police, the force has good links with other police and other organisations, including health and social care, across the region. It has a clear understanding of the benefits of joint working and is open to new ideas and innovation to improve the way in which it operates. There are comprehensive arrangements in place to track the benefits of working with Devon and Cornwall police.
The PRISM change programme is comprehensive, ambitious and subject to independent scrutiny and challenge. The force designs future services to meet its priorities, and these plans are built on a firm evidence base. For example, Devon and Cornwall Police is setting up integrated resolution centres to deal with appropriate calls for service over the telephone. In doing so, it has learned from Dorset Police’s experience of implementing the incident resolution team.Summary for question 2