Hertfordshire PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Hertfordshire Constabulary is good at operating efficiently and providing a sustainable service to the public.
The force has a thorough understanding of demand, including growth in youth-related and cyber-based crime. It uses innovative models, drawing on a range of data, to identify current and emerging demand.
It has a demand management strategy and action plan to 2025 and has worked to understand the county’s current and future demographics. Its swift response to the rise in county lines criminality is noteworthy.
The change team carries out analysis to make improvements within the force. A recent change to shift patterns in the control room will ensure good response times during times of peak demand.
The force keeps a strong and visible local police presence and is active in community safety partnerships. A forthcoming IT project will see it gathering the public’s views about what matters to them.
Hertfordshire Constabulary continues to recruit to meet the optimum numbers of personnel for its policing model. Significant investments include the recruitment of 75 officers to local policing roles. These will include county lines, cyber crime and specialist safeguarding officers.
The force’s financial plans are based on prudent assumptions. Its tri-force strategic alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary results in significant savings and adds resilience to each force.
In 2017, we identified understanding of leadership skills and leadership development as areas for improvement. The force now has a plan for these. It has also shown a willingness to adopt new approaches to developing its workforce.
In 2017, we judged Hertfordshire Constabulary as 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 make sure that future recruitment and staff development are supported by a functional and adequately resourced human resources team.
- The force should develop a comprehensive skills strategy to identify what future capabilities its workforce will need.
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
Hertfordshire Constabulary has stayed focused on improving its understanding of demand. Senior officers lead and co-ordinate activity through strong and visible leadership. The force has developed a demand management strategy and action plan to 2025, to lead and co-ordinate its activity. It has carried out work to understand the growing and future demographics of the county. It is also developing plans to meet a significant rise in the under-25 age population. Its ability to predict and respond quickly to the rise in county lines criminality is another example of how it anticipates and works effectively with other organisations to shape services, tackle emerging demand and invest in preventing escalation of harm.
Its change team is well resourced, with skilled staff. It supports activity across the force and has analysed and evaluated its many change programmes. For example, as a result of the most recent analysis of demand in the control room, the force is introducing a new shift pattern. This change won’t only offer greater efficiency, but also make sure appropriately skilled staff keep good response times during times of peak demand.
Understanding public expectations
Hertfordshire Constabulary has worked hard, even throughout periods of greater financial challenge, to keep a strong and visible local policing presence. It has done this by sharing some back-office functions, better aligning its resources to demand and making more use of telephone investigations. Neighbourhood officers now spend more than 90 percent of their time on solving problems related to their areas, and less than 10 percent supporting response work.
The force’s demand management strategy has led to better distribution of resources. Its IT investment has resulted in agile working and improved workflows. All frontline officers have received new-generation laptops and smartphones to replace previous models. Officers value the functionality and ease of use of these new devices. They give officers quick access to forms and functions such as specialist guidance. This means they can spend more time being visible and accessible to their communities.
Improvements in IT are also giving the public more choice when they contact Hertfordshire Constabulary. The force carries out an average of 60 web chats a day and offers an online crime recording facility that saw an average of 26 crimes recorded daily during the last year. The average answer time for 101 calls was 1 minute and 38 seconds. A survey of online users told the force that 93 percent would use the online service again.
Making best use of resources to meet likely future demand
Since 2016, Hertfordshire Constabulary has been investing significantly in better understanding the source and nature of demands across all its services. This is especially the case for areas of high-volume demand, such as reports of property theft. The force has hired consultants, bought demand analysis software and trained its workforce in analysing demand. It has also reviewed its operational departments to understand how demand is changing, and where greater resource is needed to meet demand from emerging and growing crime types.
There are more limited examples of the force proactively working with the public to understand their changing expectations. However, it is about to launch its Echo IT project. This will enable it to collect information from the public to understand what matters to them and how it can respond.
Over one third of all homes in Hertfordshire are signed up to the force’s Online Watch Link (OWL) Neighbourhood Watch network. As part of its community engagement strategy, the force has plans to use the network to better understand public needs.
Hertfordshire Constabulary remains actively involved in community safety partnerships and receives public feedback through partnership activities and consultations organised by the police and crime commissioner.
Recently, the force upgraded its website to make digital access easier. However, it intends to move its online presence to the Single Online Home standardised national website in early 2020.
There is good governance within the force to match resources to policing priorities. These priorities were set by the police and crime commissioner, who consulted with the public to find out what mattered to them. Currently, the commissioner is updating his 2019/20 police and crime plan. The force will then align its control strategy and delivery plan to meet his objectives.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a rigorous approach to understanding future demand. It uses a range of tools to help it decide where it needs to place its resource, according to the priorities identified. The police and crime commissioner has kept a strong commitment to visible local policing.
Despite austerity measures, the force has managed to keep neighbourhood teams in each of its ten local policing areas. These align with Hertfordshire’s ten district and borough councils.
Hertfordshire Constabulary continues to recruit to meet the optimum numbers of personnel to achieve its well-researched policing model. Its planned investment to increase the workforce in 2019/20 is aligned with the police and crime commissioner’s priorities.
The force is investing £3.36m to recruit a further 75 officers to local policing roles. These roles will include crime prevention, cyber crime, county lines, proactive capability and specialist safeguarding officers. An investment of more than £1.2m from the 2019/20 budget is planned for operational support functions, such as the control room, IMU, victim services team, custody and criminal justice collaboration. The force will invest a further £1.22m in organisational structures to produce IT efficiencies. This includes the national enabling programme, which provides cloud services to make information sharing with partner agencies easier. This all amounts to a significant investment aimed at further improving public service and force performance.
Hertfordshire Constabulary understands the skills and capabilities of its workforce and is using this information to plan for its future requirements. This was an area for improvement in 2017. Its workforce capability assessment records current skills against a competency values framework. The force builds on this assessment with information from personal development reviews (PDRs) and promotion processes. Skills such as budgeting and project management are factored in for managers. The force is developing plans to align its capability with its future needs to inform its planning.
Hertfordshire Constabulary shares HR and learning and development functions with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, as part of their collaboration. It recognises that the tri-force HR team has limited capacity to give strategic support and make sure that workforce planning and learning and development aligns fully with the demand for future finances. Therefore, it now has its own workforce, planning and performance and learning development staff to meet more local needs.
Within the force, a learning and development prioritisation board oversees an annual analysis of learning needs across all departments, reviewing skills and planning training requirements. However, training needs are forecast only for the coming year and the skills audit isn’t comprehensive or reliable.
Hertfordshire Constabulary is meeting future leadership needs through its talent management and promotion programmes. It reports that these will be expanded in the coming year. It should consider that future plans for achieving continuous improvement and greater efficiency are likely to rely on professional HR support, for which there is no clear capacity.
The force has taken positive steps to encourage the use of the full range of routes for those who wish to join the police service. As well as the fast-track detective programme, the force plans to use the police apprenticeship scheme to appoint new recruits. It acknowledges that it has more work to do to build a comprehensive skills strategy across all areas of its work to be able to meet future challenges, however.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s medium-term financial plans are built on prudent assumptions about known cost pressures. The force has benefited from an increase in funding for 2019/20: its gross expenditure is set to increase by £12m to £221m in 2019/20. The additional funds are mainly a result of an increase in council tax precept and equate to an extra £10.73m for the force.
Despite this increase, Hertfordshire Constabulary is the fourth-lowest precepting police force in England and Wales. It invests 72 percent of its resources in frontline policing. These funds support the growth in additional staffing to raise officer numbers above 2,000 for the first time since the start of austerity measures in 2010.
The force’s recent budgets have relied heavily on drawing from reserves to support budget gaps. It projected that its use of reserves in 2018/19 would be £7.7m, with a reserve balance of £25.5m. It forecasts its use of reserves in 2019/20 to be £4.8m, showing a reduced need to depend on these in the medium term.
The force has a clear plan to make 2 percent efficiency savings in-force over the next three years. It is also looking beyond workforce costs to estates, collaboration and digital opportunities as ways of achieving savings. Comprehensive analysis of its demand is giving it sound evidence for how to prioritise its budgeting. This will change the way it allocates resources, allowing it to be flexible and reprioritise if that demand or its finances change.
The force is identifying and assessing the impact of changes in the capabilities and services it offers. And it works well to make sure that the focus of its partnerships with other organisations is ambitious.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a strong understanding of its future financial position, including contingencies. Its plans are sound, with prudent assumptions about future income and expenditure.
Leadership and workforce development
We identified both understanding of leadership skills and leadership development / talent management as areas for improvement in our 2017 efficiency report. The force has made limited progress to date, but is now introducing efficient HR software to develop a coherent plan.
Hertfordshire Constabulary continues to run a programme of workshops called ‘valuing our leaders’ to develop leadership and supervisory skills. This is supplemented by personnel programmes to develop leadership capability, known as Be You and Further You.
PDRs have been repositioned as My Conversation. This approach recognises that workforce development needs to involve a series of conversations, rather than be a token annual event. My Conversation also gives a route through to promotion, as was the case with the recent superintendent promotion process.
Mentoring Matters is a programme that also emphasises a one-to-one approach. To bridge gaps between the current and desired future workforce, Hertfordshire Constabulary offers promotion development packages. These packages comprise materials, courses, study time and financial support for those studying academic subjects that are aligned with force priorities.
The force has a strategy for its senior leadership requirements. It plans to extend to all supervisory levels the leadership survey that it carried out for those at chief inspector rank and above.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has shown itself willing to adopt new and innovative approaches to developing its workforce. It has embraced Police Now apprenticeships and is collaborating with other forces to secure a police education qualification framework provider.
Its personnel are generally positive about the opportunities available to them through secondments and lateral development. Those studying for sergeant and inspector exams are supported with extra courses, materials and study time. The force is evaluating the effectiveness of this approach.
It meets gaps in detective recruitment through an effective accelerated recruitment scheme. Recently, it recruited its first direct-entry superintendent, and it has invested in specialist marketing to attract a more diverse workforce. These new joiners also benefit from mentoring, which supports career development and retains talent.
Ambition to improve
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a tri-force strategic alliance with Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary. It spends 30 percent of its budget and resource through this alliance. This mature and effective collaboration has saved the force over £15m and adds resilience to each force involved.
The force is now part of a wider seven-force alliance in the eastern region. This will enable it to procure goods and services, bringing further benefits and economies of scale. It also has ambitions to co-locate its safeguarding hub with council services via the existing MASH.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has an ambitious digital strategy and continues to invest in improving its mobile IT systems. The strategy allows the public to access services in the way they choose and gives its workforce the tools to work as productively and efficiently as possible.
The police and crime commissioner has set an efficiency target of 2 percent savings to reinvest in priority areas. The force is now developing its plans to achieve this target. Reassuringly, it doesn’t intend to simply top-slice all budgets. Rather, it is planning a well-considered approach to identify areas where it can make savings that will have least effect on those areas that matter to local communities. Some priority areas of growing demand may be excluded from these savings (or may even be subject to growth), whereas other areas will have to make compensatory savings. This will be carried out through the priority-based budgeting approach described earlier. The precise details of how this plan will be reviewed and evaluated are yet to be determined, but it is expected to be concluded by autumn 2019, in time to inform the budget-setting process for 2020/21. We will watch with interest as this plan unfolds.Summary for question 2