Gloucestershire PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Gloucestershire Constabulary is efficient in the way it operates and its services are sustainable.
The force is good at working out what demand for its services might be like in future. It uses police data for this, but it would be better if it also used data from other agencies.
It has enough skilled and experienced people and the financial resources to meet current and future demand.
The force has invested in the skills and equipment it needs to protect the public from cyber-crime. It has invested in IT.
Frontline officers and staff use mobile working. Officers and staff like the technology and say that it is efficient.
The force has recruited specialist staff so that it can digitise as many of its services as possible.
It has made £33m of savings since 2011 and has invested in priority areas.
The medium-term financial plan has a good balance between savings and investment in important areas. It has identified savings which will balance the 2018–19 budget without using its reserves.
The force’s future plans are realistic. It understands how increased demand can affect an organisation.
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?
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.
Assessing future demand for services
Gloucestershire Constabulary is effective in assessing future demand for its services and has made extensive use of consultants to help with this process. Current work on demand is predominantly informed by police data and could be improved by using information from other agencies. We are pleased to note that the force has developed an in-depth understanding of some types of ‘hidden crime’, such as modern slavery and child sexual exploitation.
The force uses three years of data as the basis for demand planning and aims to adjust its resources accordingly. It has done work to predict the skills and capabilities which it needs now and in the future. It is well placed in terms of resilience, capability and capacity to meet existing demand effectively and to prepare for future challenges. The force is responding to the growing effect that cyber and digital crime is having on its communities. Its demand analysis predicts growth in the number of victims of digital crime and it has invested in the skills it needs to protect the public from harm.
The force has a clear vision and a realistic ICT strategy through which to address future demands. The force ICT lead is a member of the senior executive team which enables the lead to identify where ICT opportunities can improve productivity or efficiency. The frontline members of the workforce use mobile technology and speak positively about the quality of equipment they have been given. They see this functionality as a major contributor to efficient working.
Understanding public expectations
The force has a good understanding of public expectations and is committed to finding out about the experiences and opinions of local people. The force engages well with communities. Examples include the intensive survey work it has carried out to assess the effect of ‘strength-based policing’ in deprived neighbourhoods. All PCSOs have received intensive engagement training and those working in neighbourhood and community harm reduction teams work with partners to identify hidden harm and intervene. This gives a good insight into how the force, working in partnership with other organisations, can improve the lives of local people. For example, the force has collaborated with the Gloucestershire Association of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, the Syrian community, unaccompanied children to the UK and foster parents to support minority communities. The force and its partners have run face-to-face sessions to teach people how to avoid internet criminality. It has also provided cyber-crime prevention advice through live webcasts.
Although no longer a Home Office requirement, the force still runs frequent user satisfaction surveys and local community surveys. It also surveys the victims of domestic abuse. The force can describe how it uses feedback to improve its services. Examples include sensitive call-handling to reassure domestic abuse victims and feedback to investigators about the experiences of victims. Community surveys give the force an insight into levels of confidence, cohesion and wellbeing. These surveys have identified the anti-social use of motorbikes and drugs as local problems. We have also seen how the force prioritises the PCC’s objectives on projects designed to tackle bad and illegal driving.
Communication plans are ambitious, and the force shapes them to reflect the changing use of the web and social media as methods of talking to the public. The communications and engagement team works alongside the force control room to develop streamlined digital contact through online forms, webchat and social media. At present, most online contact is by email, which is inefficient. Often the force must ask for more information from members of the public who have sent emails.
The force manages numerous and competing priorities effectively. Its priorities are informed by its understanding of both future demand and changing public expectations. The priorities in the police and crime plan for 2018–21 are consistent with recent structural changes which the force has made, aligning policing to local public and partner needs. The force has costed these over the medium term and has prepared its change plans to meet public need. The deputy chief constable chairs a meeting that co-ordinates all change projects to ensure that they meet these needs.
The working ethos of Gloucestershire Constabulary is to ‘localise and digitalise’. The force has restructured its operating model into one which is based on local policing. This is supported by local investigation teams, centralised CID, public protection services and specialist major crime teams, well equipped to meet future demand. Gloucestershire Constabulary has made £33m of savings since 2011 and has used its funds to invest in priority areas. The force’s medium-term financial plan produces savings of about £1m each year, with additional funds raised through precept increases invested in priority areas.
The intended use of the force’s reserves represents a good balance between the general reserve, which is held to cover uncertainty over future funding and a contingency for major incidents, and investment in planned infrastructure upgrades. This supports the force’s ambitions well. The estates strategy supports the ‘localise’ feature of the force’s ambition. ‘Digitalise’ is supported by £5m of reserves funding which includes the next generation of mobile devices and body-worn video cameras.
The force uses volunteers productively. Over the last two years it has recruited 65 police support volunteers who work in areas such as rural crime prevention and digital crime. A Crown Prosecutor has volunteered to train officers so that they can improve file quality.
The force has worked innovatively to recruit specialists; it pays competitive wages for certain posts and works with both the British Computer Society and the Chartered Institute of IT to establish a competitive salary for ICT contractors. This has helped to recruit people who have the specialist skills needed for digitalisation, including ICT security, and a public-sector installation expert. These new recruitment methods have enabled the force to become an organisation that people want to work for. In turn, those new recruits support its vision of digitalisation.
To address the imbalance in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the workforce, the force has put recruitment ambassadors into neighbourhood policing teams to promote policing as a career opportunity. The force supports candidates well through the recruitment process and offers a mentor to each BAME recruit.
The force supports fast track and direct entry candidates and has made considerable efforts to improve the diversity of the workforce through external advertising and recruitment. It has used social media to target communities which are under-represented in its workforce. Messages include positive statements about the force’s recruitment policies and encouragement to apply for jobs. The force has had two candidates on the direct entry programme and now has two candidates on the College of Policing’s fast track programme for officers who are identified for progression to the rank of superintendent.
Following its 2010 consultation about revaluing public-sector pensions, the government announced, in 2016 and 2018, reductions in the discount rate it uses to set contribution rates for the unfunded public service pension schemes. These include the police service pension scheme. A lower discount rate will result in higher contribution rates for the employer. The official notification of a lower rate in September 2018 did not allow PCCs time to include the effect of this in their financial planning. In December 2018, the government announced a pension grant for 2019/20 for each PCC. It allocated funding to each force to specifically help the police pay for these increased costs in the next year. PCCs must now plan for how they will finance the increased costs in the following years, assessing the effect on their officer numbers and their ability to provide effective and efficient services.
The force’s medium-term financial plan strikes a good balance between required savings and investment in priority areas such as neighbourhood policing, public protection, estates and ICT reform. Assumptions about future funding settlements are cautious. The force’s proven record of savings since the beginning of austerity brings certainty to its financial position. There is a clear link between the PCC’s plan, the force’s medium-term financial plan and workforce planning. The force has identified savings to balance the budget for 2018/19 without using its reserves.
Leadership and workforce development
The force recognises the need to develop its workforce and retain specialist skills. It has set out a clear plan which concentrates on supportive leadership and wellbeing. A 12-month programme of work began in July 2018. The chief constable chairs a steering group which guides and monitors this plan. The supportive leadership and wellbeing activity group implements the plan. The group is made up of 25 staff volunteers who do this work in addition to their day jobs.
The force has recently established a programme to identify its most talented staff and to offer them career pathways. It has implemented and evaluated a trial leadership course. Officers said that when they returned to work after they had completed that course, they were able to use the new skills that they had learned. As a result, this course is now being extended throughout the force and is publicised widely. Many people we spoke to during the inspection had either already been on the course or were planning to take part. All leaders within the force, both officers and staff, are expected to take part in a leadership development programme to ensure that they have the right skills for the future.
The force gives officers and staff the opportunity to complete academic studies relevant to their roles, for example a master’s degree for collision investigators, or support to complete their accreditation for Chartered Management Institute certificates.
Ambition to improve
The force’s plans for the future are realistic. If the force implements these successfully, it should improve the service it provides to the public. The force identifies savings plans every year through the planning process and makes good use of benchmarking information, including identifying the benefits achieved from new technology. The force is planning to develop a greater understanding of where it needs to enhance workforce capabilities to meet future demand. For example, this year the budget for 2018/19 has increased by £1.7m, principally for neighbourhood policing and child protection. The plans are built on sound assumptions and resources are in place to achieve change to improve performance and meet public expectations.
The force understands how increased demand, financial constraints, and reduced resources affect other organisations. It has shown that it can improve efficiency and develop effective ways of managing demand. For example, the force has made a thorough evaluation of its joint working arrangements with the mental health crisis team. This has reduced the number of mental health detentions and has produced better outcomes for people who live with poor mental health.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has made considerable efforts to understand what its workforce needs to be digitally competent and capable. In collaboration with Durham Constabulary and Essex Police, the force is running a comprehensive digital transformation pilot scheme to develop a local operating reference model. The project’s purpose is to make digital investigations and intelligence methods part of day-to-day policing. It aims to ensure all that officers and staff have access to the latest digital capabilities, including the ability to examine digital devices, such as smartphones, for evidence.
The force has established several collaborations with neighbouring forces. These collaborations include work on serious organised crime, major crime, and counter-terrorism services. The force has recently withdrawn from the tri-force (Gloucestershire, Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire) collaboration (dog section, roads policing and firearms) and will now provide these services on its own. The regional firearms training centre will continue to provide training services but will need to adapt to ensure that it meets the individual requirements of all three forces.Summary for question 2