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Lincolnshire PEEL 2018

Efficiency

How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?

Last updated 21/01/2020
Requires improvement

Lincolnshire Police operates efficiently given the level of funding it receives. It is one of the lowest funded forces per head of population in England and Wales.

Its financial situation, awaiting the review of the police funding formula, impacts on its ability to plan with any certainty. Because of this, the force focuses on the present rather than the future.

The force is good at meeting current demands and using resources. Its improvement programme is finding better ways of working. This includes more joint working to reduce demand.

The force needs to continue to improve how it plans for the future. In our 2017 inspection, we identified that the force lacked clear financial plans for the future. The force now has credible financial plans. It invests in ‘spend to save’ projects. These will help it free up capacity and funds that can be used in other areas.

The force is getting better at understanding the skills of its workforce and how much its services cost. But it needs to understand what skills it will need in the future and link workforce capabilities to financial plans. The force is trying to attract new talent through external recruitment. It is developing the skills of its leaders but needs to find more ways to identify and develop talent in its workforce.

Questions for Efficiency

1

How well does the force use its resources to meet the demand it faces?

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force should complete its leadership skills audit that will allow it to understand leadership capacity and capability, to identify any gaps and put plans in place 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.

Assessing current demand

Lincolnshire Police understands the demand for its services. The force uses the HMICFRS force management statement (FMS) to better understand demand.

The force demand programme helps senior leaders understand demand. The force has a good understanding of the nature and volume of calls for service from the public and other organisations. And of how those tasks are allocated and resolved.

The force estimates that around 30 percent of the phone calls it gets are matters that other organisations, like the council or the NHS, should deal with. It plans to explore how best to reduce this demand on police time, while making sure that these calls reach the right organisations.

Our 2017 efficiency report identified understanding demand as an area for improvement. The force has made good progress on this and this area for improvement has been addressed. The force recognises the need to invest in a dashboard tool to support the wider workforce’s understanding of demand. It is exploring options.

The force works with victims and other organisations to improve its understanding of demand that is less obvious. This includes a senior police officer being seconded to Lincolnshire County Council, to help it prevent crime and respond better to victims and offenders.

Officers and staff work hard to uncover ‘hidden’ forms of harm, such as vulnerable people being trafficked or subjected to forced labour. The force works closely with other organisations to achieve this. This includes its work in Lincoln City to address homelessness.

The force understands which internal practices need to be more efficient. A contract with a private sector company offers business support services across a range of functions. These include ICT, finance, human resources, control room, custody suites, criminal justice and firearms licensing. The force has made considerable savings from this arrangement over the past five years. These have been achieved through better processes and involving fewer people.

Understanding factors that influence demand

The force understands that working efficiently can reduce the effects of demand on resources. As mentioned in the investigations section of this report, the public can now report crimes online via the force’s website. Telephone investigators in the IRT process these calls. This ‘right first time’ approach assigns calls and complies with crime recording requirements. This offers a good service to the public.

Senior leaders are committed to understanding demand better. The deputy chief constable is leading the work to transfer the demand programme into ‘business as usual’ under the force’s organisational development department. Members of this team have the relevant change management skills needed. This shows the depth of understanding that the force has gained since our last inspection.

The force’s investment in the ‘technology futures’ team is showing practical results. This team is made up of police officers and staff who have the strategic and technical knowledge for all technology-related matters.

The team develops processes and applications for mobiles and laptops to support agile working. During our inspection, staff told us about how the improvements are helping them in their work.

The force encourages its workforce to make suggestions to improve efficiencies. Examples include the online firearms licensing portal developed with a private sector company to include online payment so that the public can obtain their licences more efficiently. This led to a change to national legislation. Before, it was the law that payment was made by cash, cheque or postal order. Lincolnshire Police’s solution has led the way to allow all forces to take a similar approach.

Working with others to meet demand

Lincolnshire Police is keen to work with other organisations to make the best use of resources and offer a better service to the public. This forms a vital part of the ‘Distinctively Lincolnshire’ strategy. The force works well with other police forces and local organisations. For example, its work with the NHS and mental health triage means people with mental health concerns get better access to the help they need.

The force also works with the rural business community. This has raised the profile of rural crime and helped to reduce crime and increase community involvement. There are examples of the force working with local authorities in joint problem-solving patrols with council community protection teams. These teams work with communities to prevent crime and ASB. They see finding long-term solutions just as important as reducing the demand on the police, health and social care providers.

The force is an active member of the Lincolnshire Blue Light programme. It is funded by the police innovation fund and focuses on five strands:

  • Shared police and fire and rescue headquarters. This has been achieved.
  • Shared control room between police and fire and rescue. Work is continuing.
  • Tri-service station between police, ambulance and fire and rescue. Opens summer 2019.
  • Wider estates. To consider efficiencies across the police estate. Work is under way.
  • Wider interoperability. Reviewing and analysing opportunities between police, other emergency services and other partner organisations.

The tri-service station is based at South Park, Lincoln. It is the largest purpose-built station of its kind in England and Wales.

The force is part of the East Midlands specialist operations unit. This includes, Derbyshire Constabulary, Leicestershire Police, Lincolnshire Police, Northamptonshire Police and Nottinghamshire Police. The unit offers several services. These include major crime investigation, and forensic and legal services.

The force is also part of the East Midlands police collaboration programme, which covers operational support services. Recent changes to the forces involved has increased costs but offers more control over specialist resources such as armed officers and dogs.

The force has worked hard to maintain its early intervention work to manage future demand. This is despite financial restraints. Examples include the mini police and cadet schemes. It recognises the value of intervening at an early stage with children and young people to prevent them from getting involved in crime and ASB.

Innovation and new opportunities

The force is good at finding new ways of working and using cost-effective systems to help balance the budget. It welcomes ideas from the workforce and regularly visits other forces to look for new ideas.

The force is prepared to look beyond the service for new ideas. An example is the purchase of a command and control system – the first of its kind in the UK from the chosen company. This system will modernise the force approach to the real-time management and co-ordination of calls from the public and deployment of front line staff.

The force supports the East Midlands Police Academic Collaboration. This combines policing experience with university research to promote evidence-based changes to policing. This shows that leaders are open to new ideas and best practice.

The force supports the use of volunteers. This includes special constables and cadets, who bring many extra skills. For example, specials operate drones and boost the force’s digital and cyber capabilities.

Lincolnshire is a rural community with lots of land. This is a challenge when tackling crime and dealing with demand. The force uses drones and their imaging capabilities well. It uses drones to:

  • map crime scenes;
  • help officers searching open terrain and water;
  • record images of people involved in hare coursing; and
  • manage the risks associated with firearms operations.

It uses photographs and social media to publicise why it needs to close roads after serious collisions. Since 2017, the force has used drones over 400 times. With this more efficient approach, officers can be sent to other incidents.

Investment and benefits

The force shows the benefits of its investments and has strong evidence to support its decisions. Its investments in technology to support agile working means that all frontline officers and staff now have mobile devices and laptops where necessary.

More applications and better systems mean that officers can carry out more tasks without travelling back to police stations. The force worked with the University of Lincolnshire to test its mobile data programme. This took 4 years (2015 to 2019) and concluded that the force’s investment of £2.6m has resulted in £1.8m of efficiency savings a year. The initial target of 30 minutes freed-up time per officer per shift has amounted to 51 minutes.

The financial picture for both capital and revenue is of a lean force, operating within tight margins. Working efficiently is a priority. And there are good examples of this.

The force has strong evidence for its investment decisions. This is shown by the scrutiny and rigour of the new command and control business case. Agile working and other parts of the force’s ICT programme are central to the force’s future. These investments, funded from reserve allocations, link directly to the force’s efficiency plans.

Prioritising different types of demand

Lincolnshire Police works hard to match its resources to the demands that represent the greatest risk to the public. This is against a backdrop of significant financial challenge.

Senior leaders protect teams and joint working arrangements that safeguard vulnerable people. This is shown in its commitment to placing a senior officer in Lincolnshire County Council and the restructure of the protecting vulnerable persons unit to combine skills and expertise, with no fall in workforce numbers. This is in line with the force’s Distinctively Lincolnshire priorities, and shows good strategic leadership.

Senior leaders understand that financial constraints mean the force can’t meet all demand equally. Their decisions are based on distributing resources to best meet demand. These are based on the force’s demand programme work. This work has been the catalyst for change in the way the force works with the public in the FCR. The total operating model (TOM) seeks to:

  • give the best possible service to the public through reduced resolution time and clear expectation setting;
  • improve value for money by simplifying processes and removing time delays in resolving crime; and
  • use resources better. This includes sending officers to incidents only when really necessary, so they are available for more serious events.

Once in place, the new command and control system will help the force better match resources with demand.

Assigning resources to demand and understanding their costs

Lincolnshire Police is one of the lowest funded forces per head of population in England and Wales. According to its 2018 value for money profile, it gets £158.72 funding per 1,000 head of population. This is the fourth lowest.

This continues to be the case following the police funding settlement for 2019/20, and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) exercising the full council tax precept flexibility. The force still faces workforce reductions.

The force understands the costs of its service. It has built up this knowledge over time. The chief officer team has made some difficult decisions recently to meet rising demand. This includes cutting police officer numbers from 1,100 to 1,050, and PCSOs from 118 to 85.

The impact of this puts more pressure on uniformed frontline policing. The incident resolution unit has taken off some of this pressure by removing the need to deploy to incidents where a physical presence isn’t needed. The force is currently introducing a more streamlined approach to deal with reports of shoplifting.

The force has improved the way it moves its resources quickly to deal with a major incident. During our inspection, we saw examples of the FCR sending specialist resources directly to incidents. This supports the ‘right skills at the right time’ approach. It includes CID officers and dogs.

Restructuring the protecting vulnerable persons unit is an example of how the force understands its costs and assigns resources to meet demand. The force should consider adopting this approach across all departments.

Workforce capabilities

In our 2017 efficiency report, we said that Lincolnshire Police needed to better understand its workforce’s capabilities and leadership skills, to identify any gaps. It then needed to put plans in place to address them. It has made limited progress, and this remains an area for improvement.

The force has a limited understanding of the skills it needs. But it is improving in this area. It doesn’t yet fully understand the skills of its workforce or its leaders, beyond tactical and operational elements such as officer safety and driver training.

The force is working to identify the skills needed for every post in the force. But it has yet to map the skills of the current post holders to see what gaps exist. So the force doesn’t understand how the skills needed will change in the future.

The force is aware that its understanding isn’t yet sophisticated enough to make sure it is making the best use of the skills its workforce has. For example, it could make better use of the skills that graduates bring to the organisation. For example, ICT, language or social media marketing skills. This means the force can’t fully identify the skills gaps that it needs to fill, through either recruitment or training.

The force doesn’t have a process to allow leaders to see or analyse current skills within the organisation. It doesn’t have a process to inform potential changes to already agreed training budgets or scheduled training courses. Departmental leads influence these changes using their own individual judgment. This means it is difficult for the force to plan well for the future and build in flexibility in the right areas.

During our inspection, the audit of leadership skills wasn’t yet complete. The work has been done for the ranks of chief inspector and above. But it needs to be done for the rest of the organisation for the force to fully understand its leadership capacity
and capability.

A good understanding of the scale and scope of skills will help the force plan and understand where skills gaps will appear, for example, when people retire.

More efficient ways of working

The force uses digital policing solutions well. Introducing mobile devices means frontline officers and staff now have instant access to the force’s main databases. This supports operational policing and gives direct access to support services.

In our /2017 efficiency report, we recommended that the force changed its financial plans to deal with a range of funding scenarios. We are reassured that the force now has a better approach to financial planning.

Current savings requirements over the period of the mid-term financial plan are £3.2m, £6.7m and £7.2m for years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 respectively. The force expects to meet its current budget gap of £3.5m mainly by cutting officer and PCSO numbers, and better managing overtime and savings in support service costs.

The force has clear and realistic financial plans. It is investing in infrastructure to make savings and be more efficient. This includes the command and control system.

In May 2019, the force secured £1.8m of additional funding from the Home Office. The application was based on money spent on:

  • rural crime in rural areas;
  • non-recent child sexual abuse investigations; and
  • seizing prohibited weapons.

The application review identified that Lincolnshire is a small force with few resources, with a culture of providing value for money. The grant will:

  • fund 30 more officers in autumn 2019;
  • maintain more PCSOs than planned; and
  • strengthen the digital forensics unit and roles to work with prolific offenders to prevent them reoffending.

The force is good at monitoring the progress of savings plans. The deputy chief constable chairs the force management board. It holds regular meetings to oversee the savings plans for future years, checks on progress and holds chief officers to account for savings.

Working with others

Lincolnshire Police works well with other forces, emergency services and organisations. The force is involved in several initiatives to offer the best and most efficient service. These include:

  • armed operations;
  • roads policing;
  • investigating the most serious and organised crimes;
  • counter-terrorism;
  • forensic services; and
  • administration of criminal justice processes.

The force considers new opportunities for joint working carefully. It is in its seventh of a ten-year contract with a company which provides business support services.

Using technology

The force invests well in technology that helps it to work more efficiently and improve its investigative ability. Frontline teams carry personal mobile devices. These have been updated recently with extra functionality. This means officers can carry out a range of tasks at the scene of an incident. They can update investigations, check fingerprints and research databases instantly. As a result, officers can spend more time away from police stations because they don’t have to return to do their admin.

The force is good at examining digital devices and carrying out online investigations. Its advanced techniques and systems mean that investigations progress quicker and give the best possible evidence.

The force embraces technology to find new ways to make the whole workforce more efficient. Mobile devices and laptops enable agile and remote work, so less office space and travel between sites is needed. ICT programmes are promoting more efficient working across teams.

Summary for question 1
2

How well does the force plan for the future?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should develop its workforce plans to identify fully its future workforce capabilities and improve analysis of future demand. This will ensure that the force’s medium to long-term plan is aligned effectively and efficiently to future demand.
  • The force should develop a comprehensive skills strategy to identify what future capabilities its workforce will need, to identify any gaps in meeting future requirements, put plans in place to address these, and carry these out.

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

Lincolnshire Police uses FMS to assess and understand demand. But its understanding of how demand will change in the future is limited.

Its financial situation, awaiting the review of the police funding formula, impacts on its ability to make plans. The force is considering changes following the recommendations from the demand programme. These include:

  • shift pattern changes to address resource gaps at peak times;
  • realigning neighbourhood teams to areas where they will have the most impact; and
  • expanding the scope of the FCR so it can deal with more incidents.

But these changes mainly deal with current rather than forecast demand. The force knows it needs to invest in a business intelligence tool. This will mean it can use predictive analytics to better understand future demand. This has been included within the scope of the force’s ‘technology futures’ team.

The force sees understanding demand as a priority. It has developed some understanding of calls for service into the FCR. This was achieved using the THRIVE assessment tool.

The command and control software limits the ability to analyse data effectively. This will be resolved when a new system is introduced towards the end of 2019.

The force has worked hard to understand current and future demand within its protecting vulnerable people department. This has led to more public protection resources being allocated and the department being protected from the 2019/20 budget reductions.

All officers and staff we spoke to during our fieldwork trust their senior leaders to make good decisions about preparing for the future. The force’s understanding of hidden demand is improving through the work of its safeguarding hub and following a recent crime data audit. The force is aware that there is still more work to do.

Understanding public expectations

Lincolnshire Police uses many methods to understand public expectations. These range from annual surveys to informal conversations with neighbourhood policing teams. These are supported by social media and Lincolnshire Alert. Lincolnshire Alert is designed to put communities in touch with the force. This means the force can tell neighbourhood teams about local concerns and issues.

The force works with many other organisations. It is monitoring changes in expectations and capacity of other public services, as they also reorganise.

The PCC survey gauged public opinion about council tax precept increases. Three thousand people responded. The results show that the public want to still be able to phone the police.

Over the next six months, the force plans to overhaul its call management. Callers will:

  • be told where they are in the queue;
  • be directed to the website when necessary; and
  • have the option of being called back where appropriate.

People can now report crimes online. The force also plans to introduce the ‘single online home’ platform. This will give the public a consistent way of contacting the force online, anonymously if needed.

The recent increase in council tax precept was not accompanied by any specific precept pledge apart from an indication that funds would be invested in technology.

Prioritising

The PCC’s police and crime plan 2017/21 principles are clear. The Distinctively Lincolnshire five-year plan includes objectives that relate directly to the police and crime plan. This includes working with communities.

But despite prioritising well, the force still needs to cut officer numbers to meet budget-saving requirements. This will impact on neighbourhood and patrol staff.

Senior leaders plan to reduce the impact by maintaining PCSO numbers. But having fewer officers will impact on the police and crime plan’s aim to put neighbourhood policing at the heart of its approach. And also on Distinctively Lincolnshire’s aim to maintain effective and integrated neighbourhood teams.

The 2019/20 precept increase is being used to maintain rather than improve policing services. The £1.8m special grant funding from the Home Office has reduced the impact and will fund recruitment of 30 officers and maintain higher than anticipated PCSO numbers.

As stated earlier, the force has clear and realistic financial plans. It is investing in infrastructure to make future savings and operational efficiencies, such as the command and control system.

Future workforce

In our 2017 efficiency report, we suggested the force should develop its workforce plans to identify its future capabilities and align these with its financial plan. This remains an area for improvement.

The force doesn’t have a good understanding of workforce numbers and the skills needed to meet future demand. It has identified some skills gaps. For example, in public protection, where demand has been assessed and more resources invested.

During our inspection, we found that workforce planning is focused on reducing numbers to make savings, rather than preparing the force to meet future demand or emerging priorities.

The force doesn’t yet fully understand its workforce skills. It doesn’t have enough information about the skills of those planning to leave or to identify skills gaps. There is no force-wide plan to gather workforce skills or align it with the needs of the force.

The force is aware that its lack of understanding means it isn’t making the best use of the skills it has. For example, it doesn’t routinely use the skills of the workforce it has supported to complete further education or secondments. But it has started to produce management information reports. Although these are currently limited to driving competency, first aid and personal safety training.

Reducing workforce numbers to meet savings requirements offers limited opportunities for the force to recruit to increase diversity or attract the skills needed for the future.

Finance plans

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 didn’t allow PCCs time to include the impact in their financial planning. In December 2018, the government announced a pension grant for 2019/20 for each PCC. It allocated funding to forces to specifically help the police pay for these increased costs in the next year. PCCs must now plan how they will finance the higher costs in the following years, assessing the impact on their officer numbers and their ability to provide effective and efficient services.

Before the funding announcement, the force had calculated that although its savings plans were reducing costs it still had a budget gap of £6m for 2019/20. A total of £2.6m consisted of additional pension contributions.

After the funding settlement, the force calculated the uplift in core grant would provide £1.2m and the pension contribution £1.2m, leaving £0.2m to be found for the additional pension contribution costs. The precept increase for 2019/20 provides additional revenue of £3m.

The force has identified savings to address the budget gap of £3.2m for the current year. More savings are planned by applying a forecast 5 percent vacancy factor for police staff numbers during 2019/20. And a 10 percent savings target has been applied to most departments, excluding public protection.

The force tests assumptions across 14 forces in the East Midlands region, at senior finance officer planning meetings. At these meetings, future plans are discussed, and planning assumptions agreed. These meetings focus mainly on the next 12 months due to the uncertain nature of police grant forecasts.

The force assumes that the pension top-up grant of £1.2m will continue at the same level and that the core grant will stay the same as 2019/20. The force is assuming a 2 percent precept increase in 2020/21, and each year after that.

The force plans to maintain its general reserves at £2.5m throughout the current medium-term financial plan. This will make sure that it has enough money to meet unforeseen costs. This figure is in addition to the major incident reserve of £1.9m and insurance reserve of £1m.

The force looks beyond workforce costs to achieve savings, although the narrow margins described earlier mean that opportunities are limited. Any need to further reduce workforce numbers will have a significant impact on force planning and the ability to meet future demand.

Leadership and workforce development

The force is aware that it needs to attract and keep future leaders and specialist talent. During our inspection, we found succession planning for senior leaders was underdeveloped.

The force doesn’t formally identify and nurture talent, externally or internally. Officers and staff told us that professional development opportunities are limited. For example, working in other departments.

A chief officer is working with a company to improve leadership within the force. The force training plan for 2019/20 includes leadership elements such as:

  • effective communication skills – challenging conversations and business communication skills;
  • coaching and mentoring for managers;
  • introduction to leadership; and
  • developing a high-performance culture.

The force has a staff and leadership charter. It outlines the force values as being professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and empathy. The leadership element of the charter refers to leaders developing themselves. But it doesn’t mention developing future leaders. The force hopes that its training programme will help it improve in this area.

The force doesn’t have a co-ordinated talent management programme, other than national schemes such as Fast Track. It supports the direct entry scheme to inspector but hasn’t found any suitable candidates. The force did get one direct entry inspector, but the applicant withdrew from the process.

The force doesn’t support direct entry superintendents. It believes that Lincolnshire doesn’t have the range of functions or issues to offer a comprehensive level of experience. The recent promotion process was advertised nationally and an external candidate was appointed.

Ambition to improve

The force’s plans to improve its service to the public are realistic and built on sound assumptions. It uses several methods to scrutinise its plans. All force change plans are scrutinised by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, as well as independent agencies and police leaders. The force also seeks feedback from academia. For example, the evaluation of its mobile data programme by the University of Lincolnshire.

The force has several change programmes under way. These include:

  • technology futures programme including mobile data and vehicle telematics which will help gather, store and transmit information about the vehicle for tracking purposes;
  • Blue Light programme to establish the tri-service headquarters as well as a wider blue light estates programme;
  • FCR TOM to improve its service to the public;
  • command and control programme to help the force better match resources with demand; and
  • wellbeing programme.

The force has invested in resources and training to support this change and is renegotiating its contract with a private sector company to help make savings. It is also developing its operational plans to support the Distinctively Lincolnshire five-year plan. This is an excellent approach.

The force must make sure it has the capability and capacity to complete the planned changes. This is a lot of work. especially given the planned workforce cuts and 10 percent savings targets across all departments.

The force is committed to improving and offering the most effective and cost-efficient service that it can for the public.

Summary for question 2