Merseyside PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Merseyside Police is efficient and works hard to provide a sustainable service. It engages well with the public and has introduced new technology to improve access to policing services. It has clear priorities and the workforce is aligned to meet them. The force is developing its leadership through talent management and training, and it continues to work to understand the capabilities of its workforce. Recruitment is well planned, and the force has taken steps to bring in managers with specialist skills.
The force has sound financial plans and understands the further savings it will need to make in future. Its plans are ambitious and will invest in both technology and estates to provide a sustainable service for its communities.
In 2017 we judged Merseyside Police 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.In 2017, we identified as an area for improvement that the force needed to better understand its workforce’s capabilities.
A detailed workforce assessment is being carried out to help with future planning. We will revisit this progress in subsequent inspections.
How well does the force plan for the future?
Assessing future demand for services
Merseyside Police is developing its understanding of the future demand for its services. While this work isn’t complete, it has a good understanding of current and medium-term demand, and there are positive developments looking further ahead. The force has carried out some in-depth reviews into important areas of its work. These assessed how work flows through the force to identify problems and recommend improvements.
The deputy chief constable is leading on changes in the force’s governance. This includes the revision of the force management statement in the autumn, which will then be used to influence the annual planning process for 2020 onwards.
The force has developed an IT system called Delphi to allow it to have oversight of all its current performance information. It uses this to forecast the type and quantity of crime it is likely to have to deal with in future. This is a sophisticated approach which will help with the force’s long-term planning.
The force also makes good use of technology to improve efficiency. It was able to demonstrate the investments it is making in IT through its new resource management system. It has also recently implemented a new digital evidence management system, which makes it easier to collate evidence from body-worn video, CCTV and digital sources.
The force is in the process of implementing a new IT system that will allow it to share referral information from Operation Encompass with school safeguarding officers more quickly and effectively. It is hoped that this will improve information sharing and demand management in the VPRU.
The force has invested in mobile devices that allow officers and staff to access a wide range of data and perform main tasks online. This should allow them to work smarter and faster and increase their efficiency. The force has a planned programme and costings for replacing and updating these devices.
Understanding public expectations
Local policing teams are organised geographically by local authority wards and the force works with local communities to understand their expectations. It does this through methods that include surveys, online polling and feedback from service users, and it makes good use of social media. It also has mobile community police stations.
The force has a community cashback fund. Funds seized from criminal proceedings are diverted into local priorities. We saw how this was used in Speke, where the local community influenced how money was spent on community-led projects.
Merseyside Police has adopted the single online home to make it easier for people to access the force. Further developments to the website are planned, such as online firearms licensing payments. The force has invested in a 24/7 social media desk to deal with the increased use of the website and provide a better service to the growing number of people who want to contact the force in this way.
The force does engage with the public to understand their concerns and how their expectations are changing. However, we found some examples where earlier consultation with the public may have informed the proposed solutions, including the general enquiry office review.
The priorities in the police and crime plan 2017–21 are clear and cover:
- preventing crime and antisocial behaviour;
- providing a visible and accessible style of neighbourhood policing;
- tackling serious and organised crime;
- supporting victims, protecting vulnerable people and maintaining public safety; and
- working in partnership to improve road safety.
The force has collaborated with Cheshire Constabulary and North Wales Police to create a common crime records management and intelligence system. This has enabled easier sharing of information and saved money. Further developments to the system are planned.
There is a focus on local and preventative policing, and additional officers have been funded to support this. Money the force receives from council tax and efficiency savings and cuts will be used to fund more police officers and staff. These will be recruited into high-priority areas – fugitives, sex offender management, human trafficking and cyber-crime.
The force has well-developed estate plans. These include a significant building plan, including a new force headquarters. Other projects include the development, refurbishment and sale of other properties. The governance and financial control of this will be led by the force leadership and the police and crime commissioner (PCC).
The force carried out a strategic workforce assessment in 2018. It also has a human resources (HR) delivery plan and monitors how its recruitment levels match up to possible future vacancies.
The HR department is focused on providing improved data and anticipating the future requirements of the organisation. The force has invested in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which should provide more accurate workforce data to assist with planning.
The force is conducting a comprehensive skills audit of its police officers. This will allow it to map any gaps in the skills of the workforce. It will also allow them to consider future leadership requirements, workforce development and business needs.
Officer recruitment is planned 18 months ahead. The force does not normally advertise officer roles externally unless there is a need for a specific skill. There has been recruitment externally for police staff roles such as the director of resources, head of HR and head of ICT, who have all brought in experience and skills from the private sector.
The force can attract and retain detectives, though it needs to balance this with the effect on other departments of losing their officers. The force regularly considers which of its investigator roles need to have warranted powers (i.e. be police officers) and which might be performed by police staff. It now has a homicide investigation team that is entirely made up of accredited police staff investigators.
The force has a talent management programme called Aspire. This is open to all staff and officers who undergo a selection process. It also has a cohort of police staff and officers in a leadership development programme. A network of champions reviews ideas and suggestions about how to improve the force. This provides benefits in both directions: individuals develop their skills and gain experience of force-wide matters, and the force improves its processes.
It has chosen not to make use of the Direct Entry programme. It has previously participated in the Police Now programme and will review this for 2021. It has supported candidates for fast-track promotion, although no recent candidates have been successful. Making use of these schemes would attract broader talent to the force.
The force also uses an apprenticeship scheme. It has 17 apprentices in roles such as fleet maintenance and criminal justice. Further roles are being explored.
Merseyside Police has sound financial plans. It has already made £110m savings from its budget.
The force’s processes for managing change, along with close involvement of the finance and HR teams, means that financial and workforce plans are aligned. Its continuing investigation review is wide-ranging and has the potential to yield savings, depending on the evolving financial outlook and decisions made by the force.
The PCC has increased the council tax precept that is allocated to the force to the threshold of £24 for a band D property. This will allow for additional officers while keeping the budget balanced in 2019/20. Additional, so far unidentified, savings of £18.4m will need to be made by 2023/24. The force is currently carrying out a review of its finance and workforce plans. It is intending to use its reserves to give it time to plan effectively and make informed decisions about the future.
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 in their financial planning.
In December 2018, the government announced a pensions 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 has made the cautious assumption that general and legacy grants will not increase over the period of its medium-term financial strategy (MTFS). But it has assumed that the one-off pensions grant will continue, based on assurances that this will be resolved within the comprehensive spending review for 2020/21. If this doesn’t happen it may mean a reduction in resources.
The force has assumed that the amount of money it receives from council tax will increase by no more than 1.95 percent for the remainder of the MTFS period. It has assumed pay inflation of 2 percent per year, and non-pay inflation in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s annual forecasts.
Leadership and workforce development
The force has a good understanding of its current leadership, and this will develop further following the current skills audit. This will provide a greater understanding of the entire workforce to take account of wider leadership skills for supervisors and managers. The ERP system should support this process.
The force has a clear plan for recruitment over the next 12–18 months. It intends to develop longer-term training strategies to support this recruitment.
Succession plans are in place for senior roles. For chief inspectors and above we found a detailed knowledge of likely retirement dates. These officers have been profiled to understand their strengths so the force knows what skill gaps will need to be filled.
At an operational level we found some limited succession planning – for example in the abusive images department, where a replacement officer was already identified so that gaps created by people leaving didn’t have a negative effect on the team’s work. Roles that require specific skills and training are understood, and courses are being planned to build those skills.
There is good development of supervision skills. Officers who pass sergeant promotion exams are given IT and administration skills training for their future role. They also have a two-week course on people skills and other aspects of leadership before they start their new role.
The force prefers to develop internal members of the workforce for promotion. It does not generally advertise police roles externally unless it needs to recruit people with a specific skill or rank. It has recruited a new head of resources from the NHS, and a new head of HR from the private sector.
At the time of our inspection the force had gaps in its detective capacity. However, it is using accredited police staff investigators in investigative roles and plans to carry out further training to address detective vacancies with the Initial Crime Investigators Development Programme.
Some strategic posts are advertised to both police staff and officers to ensure that the best candidate is identified. As a result, the new head of organisational development and change is a senior police staff member. We did receive some feedback that more opportunities could be opened to police staff, as their development and opportunities for promotion were limited.
Senior officers were clear about developing diverse leadership. There is an even split of male and female heads of department. The force recognises there remain challenges in more senior leadership roles. The proportion of the force who come from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background is 2.9 percent, compared with 5.5 percent of the local population who are from a BAME background.
Ambition to improve
The force has plans to reduce costs while maintaining and improving its service where possible. Since our 2017 efficiency inspection, the force has reviewed its operating model and made changes to shift patterns and staffing levels. The force is confident that its model is effective and meets organisational and public needs.
The force is now taking a whole systems approach to change. It has worked with external consultants to assess demand through systems thinking. This looks at the entire process from the victim’s point of view, starting with the initial call, to find where improvements can be made. The force is focused on making small changes to its service that have a cumulative effect on reducing demand and has carried out research with local industry in using this methodology.
The force’s investigations review is a major project. While no savings targets have been set, there is a clear expectation that it will be able to make efficiencies and service improvements to help offset the expected budget gap of £18.4m.
The force has no plans for new collaborations, but it remains committed to existing joint working. The tri-force collaboration with North Wales Police and Cheshire Constabulary has already brought improvements to intelligence systems, and more developments are planned. The force is also considering opportunities to develop its existing relationship with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.
Change programmes are governed and scrutinised by the Communities First Programme Board, which includes the chief executive of the Office of the PCC. Individual functions are also scrutinised by a shared internal audit service. Both HR staff and the finance team are part of the review process and provide challenge and scrutiny.
The force is developing specific skills in some of its workforce to help achieve change at the pace and scale required. The financial and IT plans are subject to challenge and scrutiny. And the force has a well-developed estates strategy which should result in efficiencies and long-term savings.
Overall, we found Merseyside Police to be open to change, focused on improving services for the public, and prepared to try new ideas and invest for the future through innovative ICT solutions and estates developments.Summary for question 2