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North Wales PEEL 2018

Efficiency

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

Last updated 21/01/2020
Good

North Wales Police is good at operating efficiently and sustainably.

The force is good at planning for the future. It realises that more spending will be needed in some areas. When demand increases, for example in organised crime drug dealing, the force has shown it can be flexible to meet the challenge.

The force’s new approach to budgeting aims to match the available money to the priorities that have been set for policing. As this work continues, the force should seek to improve the data that it uses when analysing demand.

North Wales Police has ambitious plans to create better services while also cutting costs. It is important that the public’s views are heard in planning for the future. The force should consult widely with the public and take on board the messages it receives as it designs services.

In 2017, we judged the force’s approach to meeting current demand and using resources as good.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Good

This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 efficiency inspection has been carried over.

2

How well does the force plan for the future?

Good

Areas for improvement

  • The force needs to broaden the range of data sets it uses to inform its future demand analysis. Information from local partners and national sources should form part of this work.
  • The force needs a co-ordinated, strategic approach to public consultation about its future change plans. The views of the public should inform the force view of the future and influence its design where appropriate.

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

North Wales Police has the capability to assess future demand, but needs to expand its range of information sources to get the most from this work. Accurate forecasting of future demand is essential for effective planning of services and allocation of resources.

The force is restructuring many operational policing departments. This organisational improvement programme (OIP) will reshape most frontline policing functions, representing about half of the North Wales Police workforce. In planning for the OIP, the force increased the resources and skills it needs for future demand planning. The new demand and capability unit has enabled the force to better understand likely future demand trends. However, the analysis was largely based on the force’s internal data, with little information from local partners or publicly available sources. The opportunity exists for future analysis to use wider information sources as not all of the operational (and none of the supporting functions) were included as part of the OIP and have not yet been reviewed.

The force is already planning the next round of organisational change. It will use a new methodology called priority-based budgeting that seeks to align the allocation of resources to the agreed priorities of the force. It will begin its work with the operational and support functions that have not been included in the OIP. It will then revisit the work of the OIP as part of a continuous improvement approach to change.

A more strategic approach is needed for the next stage of priority-based budgeting future demand analysis. Consensus is needed both on what will make the biggest difference to demand and on the information sources that will be required. An accurate assessment of future demand must include an understanding of what is likely to influence the behaviour of local authority partners. Similarly, an understanding of data from health commissioners and providers is essential in the context of growing concerns about increased demand from people with mental health problems who cannot access the right support, and the effect of this on policing. Agreements about how to assess and validate shared data are crucial to effective future planning and need to be built into partnership working arrangements. This is an area for improvement.

Other elements of the development of future demand analysis are promising. There is good analysis of crime trajectories. National intelligence is mapped against specific local projects, such as the (now paused) construction of Wylfa nuclear power station. Predictive forecasting tools are in use. These will be enhanced by the addition of partner information and evaluation processes.

There is a good understanding of hidden demand – crimes that need resourcing but are rarely reported directly to the police, such as child sexual exploitation and modern slavery. Planning takes into account the likely scale, cost and effect of changes to technology. The force has also invested in project management support, employing business change professionals within a well-structured governance process. Many of the necessary elements for an effective change programme are in place.

Understanding public expectations

The force engages with the public in different ways, but, to date, public feedback has had limited influence on the design of future policing services. Neighbourhood policing teams engage through personal contacts and using social media. The force website has opportunities for online chat, reporting of anti-social behaviour and general feedback. More broadly, the police and crime commissioner has consulted about the council tax precept and held some public workshops focusing on domestic abuse and substance misuse. However, the OIP was designed with no significant public input. There has been little engagement with the public on a strategic level to understand what they expect from their police force. This is an area for improvement.

The force has an ambitious ICT programme which includes the digital capture and exchange of information. It is the lead force in Wales for implementing single online home, a national programme for digital transformation of policing services for the public. To date, the force has relied on national single online home consultation work. It intends to do more local consultation on future digital services. This is welcome, given the scale of its plans. Public surveys show the force’s services are well regarded. The force, not unreasonably, assumes that having more digital options will provide the public with a better service. But it still needs to test this assumption through a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to engagement. The force needs to be sure that its detailed plans for change, and the services it will provide in future, align with public expectations and meet their needs.

Prioritising

The police and crime plan contains North Wales Police’s overall priorities. They were set in consultation with the public, alongside analysis of crime and demand trends. They focus mainly on protecting vulnerable people and providing neighbourhood policing. The priorities are visible through internal monitoring and governance arrangements by senior leaders, through to the police and crime panel. The reallocation of resources to address an increase in county lines drug dealing that was harming communities shows that the force can respond quickly to changes
in priorities.

Resources have been transferred to priority areas. The OIP has led to more investigators being appointed as the number and complexity of crimes reported by vulnerable people rises. Investment has been made in mobile working to improve the visibility and efficiency of frontline policing. Priorities for future investment include vulnerability, change management, investigative capacity, digital improvements and workforce capability. The introduction of priority-based budgeting will ensure that the resources allocated to force priorities are regularly reviewed. The OIP has helped the force to make savings and priority-based budgeting is being designed to continue the process of increasing efficiency.

Future workforce

The workforce plan is aligned with both the medium-term financial plan and the operational structures within the OIP. The force has a good understanding of the future numbers of people and the roles it will need. This will expand once the next round of change begins to shape the future design of the force in areas that weren’t included within the OIP. However, the understanding of the skills and abilities of the current workforce is mixed. Work is now in progress to assess the extent of the future skills gap. Some gaps, such as the shortfall in detective numbers, are already being addressed. In other areas, plans to address shortages such as IT skills are still being developed.

Engagement between senior leaders and the workforce is good. Online tools such as Fy Llais/My Voice, the engagement hub and the chief constable’s blog are informative and well used. Within the OIP, development workshops for officers and staff identified inefficient business processes and considered options for improvement. An extensive workforce survey in spring 2019 produced positive results in important indicators such as supportive leadership, public service motivation and job satisfaction. Senior leaders have committed to sharing the full findings and creating a joint plan with the workforce to provide any improvements needed.

The force’s plans to bring new people and skills into the workforce are clearer in some areas than in others. The relative lack of workforce diversity is well understood, with positive action recruitment and development work in progress to attract people from different communities into policing. Measures to improve the diversity of the existing workforce include confidence-building in under-represented groups for promotion, recruiting more women into specialist policing roles and the targeting of foreign language skills.

External recruitment is now the established standard into police staff posts and is becoming more usual for police officer posts. The force does not use the national Police Now programme, but is embarking on the Detective Now initiative to meet an increasing need for investigators. Direct Entry inspectors are being recruited and there is a Fast Track scheme for existing officers. The people and training functions have sufficient resources to meet known challenges and activity is subject to appropriate scrutiny and governance.

Finance plans

Financial planning is good. In common with many forces, the medium-term financial plan identifies significant risks and uncertainties about future funding. The plan contains 13 areas for investment that are broadly linked to force priorities. Financial plans are closely aligned to both the OIP and workforce plans. They are realistic, based on reasonable assumptions and subject to appropriate scrutiny. There are good working relationships between the finance and people functions, supporting a synchronised approach to change management. Projects already completed have achieved significant savings and improved services. 

Financial planning does not consider the potential benefits from increased partnership working. As already identified, there is limited information sharing with some partners which the force acknowledges and is seeking to address.

The police and crime commissioner increased the council tax precept for 2019/20 by an average of just under £20 per household. This has enabled the force to invest in priority areas such as specialist operations (proactive CID, fugitive team, serious and organised crime) and vulnerability (domestic abuse, violent and sex offenders). There are detailed strategies for estates, vehicles and ICT provision with investment decisions appropriately researched and approved.

The strategies are reflected in the capital programme which is funded by a combination of < href="/hmicfrs/glossary/reserves/">reserves, grants, revenue contributions and borrowing. Increases in police pension contributions have been accounted for and adequate provision has been made for changes in price bases. In March 2019 reserves were £21m. They are expected to reduce to £17m by the 2021/22 financial year, mainly due to the capital and change programmes. The overall financial position of the force appears stable.

Leadership and workforce development

The people and organisation department has a new leadership team with a clearly expressed and fresh vision for the future. The enabling role of the department to manage the people elements of the change programme is well understood. There is good communication with other parts of the force. The workforce transformation plan is in place, with flexibility to adapt as the force change programme develops. The plans are clear where change is needed and the scale of the task is acknowledged.

Succession planning is at present limited to some hard-to-fill roles, such as force incident managers and custody sergeants. In part, this is due to the limited understanding of the workforce skills base. Much-needed planning has now begun on a review of officer and staff roles. The force maintains large amounts of relevant workforce information, but not all of it is in easy-to-use formats. Work is in progress to make better use of data to improve the performance and development of the force.

Recruitment and selection processes are seen to be fair. A final interview is now included alongside workplace assessment in the promotion process to sergeant and inspector ranks. External representatives from agencies such as the https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.ukchief officer team. Promotion support, such as help with interview techniques, is given to women, but was expanded to include all candidates at the request of workforce networks. The force is working to change its culture and diversity. 

Ambition to improve

North Wales Police is moving from a change programme driven by the need to make savings to one more focused on service improvement. The OIP will be fully implemented by autumn 2019. It is a well-structured and well-resourced programme of reviews, informed by demand trend analysis and supported by specialists in finance, communications and human resources. Substantial savings have emerged from the review, which has involved about 50 percent of the force. There is clear reporting against the priorities of the police and crime plan. The focus on domestic abuse has identified positive recent trends, such as an increase in male victims reporting abuse and a decrease in repeat offenders.

The force is strengthening and realigning the change programme to focus on priority-based budgeting. There is confidence that this new approach will produce both savings and service improvements. The plan is ambitious given that the methodology is new and the timescales relatively tight. External consultancy support has been commissioned. Strong governance will be needed to achieve the desired outcomes.

Plans for the development of the workforce, ICT, fleet, estate and finance functions are realistic, funded and subject to appropriate scrutiny and challenge. The plans are linked to the police and crime commissioner’s priorities and supported by a good governance process. The force has identified the scale of savings needed over the next few years. Many of these are already in place. Savings to date have mainly come from neighbourhood policing. Some reductions in this area of the service have been reinvested, for example reductions in PCSO costs being used to pay for an increase in investigators. Future savings are largely expected to come from digital transformation, an area which is prioritised in force plans and the capital programme.

The force is an active partner in many joint working arrangements. For reasons of geography, the force tends to collaborate with counterparts in north-west England for operational matters and with Welsh forces for organisational concerns. Links with Cheshire and Merseyside Police are extensive and include sharing intelligence and computer systems that provide operational benefit for all parties. Automatic number plate recognition collaboration is both all-Wales and cross-border. Joint recruitment and training plans are being developed with the other Welsh forces.

Collaboration with other emergency service providers is good. North Wales Police and the local fire and rescue service manage their estates together with several shared premises across the force, including a co-located control room. Ambulance staff provide co-ordination and support to the force in either the control room or remotely. Increased NHS support to deal with mental health demand is due in the control room in the second half of 2019. Further opportunities exist for closer working relationships with NHS and local authority partners.

Summary for question 2