Suffolk PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Suffolk Constabulary operates efficiently and we are satisfied that the 2017 area for improvement, relating to meeting current demands and using resources, has been addressed.
However, the force needs a clear, detailed future plan if it is to fulfil its vision of making Suffolk a safer place to live, work, travel and invest.
The force doesn’t have detailed enough recruitment and training plans to meet its future needs and it should build on its current plans to successfully make significant long-term improvements to its service.
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 develop clearer longer-term plans which are shared with the workforce and take into account projected future demand, resourcing requirements and changing public expectations.
- The force should undertake appropriate activities to understand fully its workforce’s capacity and capability in order 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
Suffolk Constabulary assesses future demand and its impact on service provision by using historical trend data and comparisons with other forces. The force is part of the Suffolk Office of Data Analytics, which enables sharing of data across a range of public sector organisations. This helps to inform the force’s wider understanding of demand. Assumptions and risks in projections are subject to challenge and peer review by Norfolk Constabulary.
The force has embraced the concept of FMS. It has created a detailed document with clear scales for comparing forecasted demand with capacity and capability throughout the service over the next four years.
The force incorporates the outcomes of demand analysis work and its FMS in its future planning. It does this through its outcome-based budgeting process. The FMS and demand analysis work, plus outcome-based budgeting, need to be translated into a detailed future plan.
The force’s vision statement is to make Suffolk a safer place to live, work, travel and invest. It aims to do this through effectively managing demand, as well as responding, collaborating and modernising. But the force only has a programme of work in place, to try to bring about improvements and efficiencies, for the next year. We found that the workforce didn’t know about this work and couldn’t tell us about the force’s future plans or direction. The force needs to do more to develop clearer longer-term plans to achieve its vision. And the workforce needs to understand the plan if it is to action it effectively.
The force uses technology to give a better service, such as mobile data devices for all frontline officers. It has invested jointly with Norfolk Constabulary in a new 101 call handling system. This enables the force to effectively prioritise callers based on vulnerability and harm, and to better manage demand and resources. The force intends to introduce an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) team in 2019, although this is at the early stages of planning. All frontline officers have received body-worn cameras and mobile devices. The workforce has welcomed all new technology and uses it effectively.
The force dedicates a significant amount of its information communications technology (ICT) staff to internal projects rather than regional and national work. This may put pressures on staff if the timetable for implementation changes. The joint strategic planning and monitoring group with Norfolk Constabulary oversees where resources are allocated and the timetables for internal and regional or national projects. The group is aware of the impact of national ICT project requirements (such as digital asset and evidence management systems) and gives updates about them at each meeting.
The force has taken positive steps to identify emerging and hidden demand. It anticipates a significant increase in demand involving vulnerable people over the next four years.
For example, the 2018 FMS projects an increase of more than 30 percent in child abuse over the next four years. The force links part of this increase to the spread of drug dealing through county lines. In 2018, the force set up a youth gangs prevention team to address the issue of children being exploited and being drawn into crime. The team works with a wide range of partners (such as local housing associations, children’s services and local charities) to support and safeguard young people to help prevent them from becoming involved in criminal gangs.
Understanding public expectations
The force has a good understanding of the changing public expectations of the service it provides. Changes to the neighbourhood policing model in October 2018 were, in part, due to the community’s wish for more visible policing.
Senior officers and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) hold public meetings and use social media to communicate with local communities. The force has a good relationship with the local media. However, the force does not have an overarching communications plan and at the time of our inspection its engagement strategy was being reviewed.
Recently, the force has introduced a community engagement officer in each of the county’s nine districts. The force was relying heavily on the work of these officers. It could do more to support them and clearly define their role to both the workforce and the public. The force recognises the importance of gathering community views on the recent changes to its local policing model, so that it knows it is meeting the public’s expectations.
The force’s joint ICT strategy with Norfolk Constabulary acknowledges that public needs must drive any developments in ‘channel shift’ – that is, encouraging the public towards increased online engagement with the service. The force has redesigned its website to try to make it easier for people to access information and report incidents online. It is in the early stages of considering other digital advances (such as web chat and tracking crime online). The force has also recruited a digital engagement manager jointly with Norfolk Constabulary.
The force is closely involved in the development of a public sector hub at Mildenhall, which is part of the national One Public Estate programme. The hub will enable officers and staff to be co-located with partners such as social services to provide easier access to a range of services for the public. The hub is scheduled to open in 2020.
Suffolk Constabulary’s focus is two-fold: to address incidents that cause the most threat, harm and risk to its communities and to successfully deliver the priorities of the police and crime plan. The force is using the Suffolk 2025 team to change services. This team works on ways to make the force more efficient and effective in meeting current and future policing challenges and develops plans accordingly.
The force’s 2018 changes to its local policing model resulted in a reduction of 33 police and community support officers and a change in the focus of this role, as well as an increase of 104 police officer posts dedicated to neighbourhood policing. During our inspection, the force was also in the final stages of removing all police officer roles and increasing the number of police staff within its public protection unit.
The force believes that all the changes will create a more flexible and professional workforce. It also expects the changes to enable better, more adaptable local investigation and policing. However, at the time of our inspection, it was too early to fully understand the impact of the changes. We will continue to monitor this as part of our IPA inspection programme.
The force hasn’t fully evaluated its workforce capacity and capability. It also doesn’t have enough recruitment and training plans to meet its future needs. The most recent force and departmental plans finished in 2018: none were available for 2019 or beyond.
We found that the recent changes to the safer neighbourhood teams seem to have been carried out with no clear link to workforce capacity and capability. There was little evidence that the impact of moving officers between teams and their current skillsets and capabilities had been considered, or mapped, against the requirements of the new model. This has resulted in
officers with no relevant training or experience investigating crimes within safer neighbourhood teams. The force is now in a position where it needs to find ways to give these officers the right support and development so that they can carry out their roles effectively.
Senior officers within the crime, incident and safeguarding command have carried out a significant amount of work to address the force’s shortage of detectives and investigators. The force has an innovative detective constable entry scheme and, with Norfolk Constabulary, runs the detective and investigator development pathway programme for its current workforce. At the time of our inspection, all the force’s detective and investigator posts were filled by officers or staff who had chosen to carry out these roles. They were either accredited or working towards accreditation.
The force knows that it needs to increase the diversity of its workforce. It offers insight courses for applicants from under-represented groups. It is also carrying out a gap analysis against the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s diversity, equality and inclusion strategy. The force takes part in the direct entry scheme for inspectors and advertises all posts externally to enhance its range of skills and experience.
Suffolk Constabulary’s financial plans are realistic, built on sound assumptions, and receive suitable challenge from experts. When drafting spending plans, the force models different potential funding scenarios and considers their likely impact. The force also has local meetings where heads of department present cases for increases or decreases in budget at the same timescales as their main financial planning processes.
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 2019/20 medium-term financial plan requires the force to save £1.4m by 2022/23. This is in addition to the £3.1m savings that the force already needs to make. The force is carrying out detailed work to enable it to achieve the extra savings. Changes to its policing model will save £2.9m by 2023. The rest of the savings will come from further collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary, and the 2025 team will be looking for ways to save money through other local projects. The force also intends to make savings through its outcome-based budgeting process. The force is part of a seven-force strategic collaboration programme with Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Norfolk police forces, all of which are looking at ways of pooling resources to save money. However, we found that at this stage the force can’t project detailed financial savings from this work.
At the time of our inspection, the police and crime panel had recently agreed to support an increase in the annual council tax police precept for band D properties of just under £24 during 2019 and 2020. The force was preparing to recruit an additional 29 police officers and 24 investigators, and to contribute to a share of 45 staff with Norfolk Constabulary. These measures are intended to address the public’s concerns about violent crime and lack of police visibility. The force is also investing in an ANPR team and further cybercrime capabilities.
The force’s overall reserves are expected to rise from £5.6m in 2019/20 to £7.3m by 2022/23. This increase takes into account new contributions of £2.1m to the capital financing and efficiency investment reserve during the life of the medium-term financial plan. This reserve funds items that need renewing within bigger capital investment programmes, such as maintaining up-to-date ICT equipment. The new contributions will fund the requirement for continued investments past the end of the current medium-term financial plan.
The force has several earmarked reserves that are allocated to specific matters. However, by the end of the medium-term financial plan, the force will no longer have funds available in several of these reserves. The force plans to keep its general reserves at 3 percent of its net annual revenue budget, which is £3.5m, throughout the current medium-term financial plan. This means it should have enough money to meet unforeseen costs.
It is also developing its process to obtain funding from the community infrastructure levy and section 106 agreements. These processes enable the force to apply for funding from land developers where there is likely to be an increased demand for policing. Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies jointly employ a business liaison manager who works alongside chartered surveyors to increase opportunities to obtain developer contributions. This includes funding for general policing services as well as specific items, such as the provision of ANPR cameras.
Leadership and workforce development
Suffolk Constabulary has a leadership and talent management strategy. The human resources and learning and development teams, run jointly with Norfolk Constabulary, oversee this.
In April 2018, the force introduced a new performance and development review (PDR) process across the workforce. The process involves a variety of exercises. For example, line managers must now discuss and document any developmental needs or aspirations with their staff. This information will then inform the force’s development and training plans. A pilot ‘career conversations’ process, for those at chief inspector level and above, informs leadership succession planning. (The force plans to use the ‘career conversations’ for all ranks and roles, to identify leaders and meet future workforce needs.) However, the workforce wasn’t aware of any of these exercises, and officers and staff felt that PDRs were only useful if they were seeking promotion.
The force has a development programme that is available to the whole workforce. It is known as ‘The best I can be’. A leadership programme for newly promoted sergeants, inspectors and staff equivalents contains modules on team leadership and performance coaching. However, the workforce was confused as to whether this training was mandatory or optional. Not everyone who was eligible had completed, or applied to attend, the courses.
The force advertises developmental opportunities internally to improve equality of opportunity and allow anyone across the workforce to apply. However, officers felt that the recent changes to the local policing model, as well as the lack of accredited detectives, meant that development opportunities were limited: they felt they wouldn’t be released from their roles to do them. However, we heard from the force that it has implemented five team development days per year to ensure that access to training is available.
The detective and investigator career pathway programme is open to officers and staff who wish to specialise in investigations. And the force is developing a structured process for leaders to improve their skills, competencies and knowledge, through both formal and informal learning methods.
Ambition to improve
Suffolk Constabulary has a long-term vision to improve, but at the time of our fieldwork this was not well understood by staff and we did not see the detailed plans needed to make significant long-term improvements to its service.
The Suffolk 2025 team does have a programme of work that is planned to make savings this year. There is an improvement and evaluation team with links to local academic institutions helping the force understand the effectiveness of investments such as the roll-out of BWV equipment. The force is reviewing the recent changes to its local policing model to make sure they are effective. But it isn’t clear what direction the force plans to take in following years.
Senior leaders spoke of challenges with national funding processes and the impact the national funding process has had on their ability to effectively plan for the future. But all forces in England and Wales are in this position. The force needs to develop a clearer plan about what it is going to do to improve and adapt to changing demands in the future.
The force’s well-established collaborative arrangements with Norfolk Constabulary continue to produce considerable savings. These are projected to deliver a further £1.3m of savings for the force within the 2019/20 financial year. As part of the seven-force strategic collaboration programme, the force is looking at ways to achieve efficiencies in processes and services that will save money. Through this, the force has entered into a collaborative procurement arrangement that should help to maximise purchasing power across the region. The force has joint stations with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service at eight locations, with plans in place to develop four more. The force also has several shared building and office spaces with partner organisations such as Suffolk County Council in Ipswich.Summary for question 2