Thames Valley PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Thames Valley Police operates efficiently and provides sustainable services.
It is good at future planning and has a good understanding of how demand will change, which includes the impact of technological change.
It uses a range of data to inform this understanding, including data from partner organisations. It has good plans to put in place the finances and people that it will need in the future.
The force has some arrangements in place to identify public expectations. We saw evidence of how it has reshaped the way the public can access its services to meet these expectations.
In 2017, we judged Thames Valley Police to be outstanding at meeting current demand 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?
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
The force is good at planning for the future. It uses data and other sources of information to understand what future demand may look like. This includes hidden demand, such as modern slavery and human trafficking. Its plans also consider the possible impact of changing technology.
The force measures its volume of demand in terms of the numbers of calls and reports of crimes it receives. It uses data from partner agencies to supplement its own measurements. This information is combined into a demand and vulnerability matrix that identifies overall demand in each area of the force. This uses a sophisticated approach to map the various stages of investigations that require a lot of resources, such as rape investigations. By quantifying how much work the force needs to do when undertaking these tasks, it can better understand the demands it faces and identify ways to make its work more efficient. It has also recently completed a comprehensive review to make sure that its assessment of demand is correct. A chief officer oversaw this review.
The force has created a force management statement (FMS). This is a detailed document that compares its forecast for how much demand it will face with the capacity and capability it has across the service. It uses this to inform its future planning.
The force has fully embraced the use of new technology to become more efficient. It is working in partnership with the Hampshire Constabulary on an ambitious programme to digitise policing services, with a projected investment of £21m until 2021/22. This investment includes new laptops for 10,000 members of staff across the two forces, which will run Windows 10 and come with Office 365.
These will bring business productivity benefits – for example, the ability to use Skype and share information securely with external organisations. The force has also invested in digital evidence management to enable it to store large quantities of evidence digitally and present it in court in support of prosecutions.
The force has taken positive steps to identify emerging and hidden demand. It expects an increase in demand from vulnerable people. For example, the 2018 FMS anticipates increases in the workloads of specialist departments such as those that deal with IIOC.
Understanding public expectations
Thames Valley Police has some understanding of public expectations, and there is evidence that this shapes how it changes its services.
The force, along with the police and crime commissioner (PCC), has held consultations with members of the public across the force area, asking about which issues concern them. This has influenced the PCC’s police and crime plan and, in turn, the chief constable’s delivery plan and priorities.
The force also makes good use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and the Thames Valley Alert (a website that gives local information about crime and anti-social behaviour) to communicate with the public – it told us that its online activities reach over 650,000 people. It has used this online presence to ask the public how they would prefer to receive information. This has directly influenced future policy. The chief constable holds live streaming sessions during which he takes calls from the public and hears their concerns. The force has recently started to send a text message to each victim of crime asking for feedback on the service they have received. Monitoring by the force shows that approximately 30 percent of all messages receive a reply. This provides it with further opportunities to take account of public views when shaping its services.
The force also considers changing demographics within its longer-term strategy for the buildings and land it owns, acknowledging that, in many cases, the public will still need to receive a timely response in person. Using demographic data to make sure long-term plans can fulfil this need is prudent.
The force has responded very well to public expectations by allowing more services to be accessed online. Analysis conducted as part of the planning work for the new contact management project has shown that over 30 percent of people prefer to make reports to the police online. The force has invested in and launched a single online home platform on its website, which allows members of the public to make online reports for issues such as anti-social behaviour, road traffic collisions or crimes that do not require urgent attendance by a police officer. Figures supplied by the force indicate that between its launch at the start of July 2018 and the end of October 2018, nearly 7,700 crimes and 3,900 road traffic incidents were reported online, along with a further 5,100 reports giving additional information relating to a previously reported crime. This is more effective and efficient.
Thames Valley Police understands its priorities clearly. The chief constable’s delivery plan has the overall goal of reducing crime and preventing harm. It seeks to tackle organised crime and protect vulnerable people, and to develop the organisation and the workforce. This shows a good balance between dealing with the present and planning for the future. The priorities in the chief constable’s delivery plan reflect the force’s understanding of likely future demand, changing public expectations and the PCC’s vision and objectives. There is a clear link between these priorities and the investments the force makes.
The force’s IT governance and transformation boards are effective in overseeing the changes the force needs to ensure its investments match likely future demand. The force’s medium-term financial plan (MTFP) demonstrates that the force understands how it needs to prioritise its resources to meet future demand, as well as having the structures and resources it needs to achieve this.
The force has evaluated its workforce capacity and capability and put in place recruitment and training plans to meet its future needs. It is a leader in developing diverse routes into policing.
It has a good knowledge of the current skills of its staff. Its recruitment and retention board is responsible for making sure that gaps in key skills are addressed. This board has created a medium-term workforce plan, which addresses what changes in the workforce are needed to fulfil the priorities in the MTFP. For example, it prioritises the recruitment of more digital media technicians to address the gap in this growing area of demand. This means that the force can be reassured that it is recruiting the staff needed to meet changing demand.
Thames Valley Police makes good use of direct entry, external recruitment, Police Now, and other recruitment and development opportunities. It is one of the first forces in the country to use a direct entry career pathway for detectives. It takes ten Police Now graduates each year and has so far employed two direct entry superintendents and four fast-track inspectors, of which three were external candidates.
In fact, the force is leading in how the police service nationally develops more diverse ways to recruit new staff. It has been working with the Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire forces to put in place a higher education provider that can award a recognised academic qualification for the police constable degree apprenticeship and degree-holder entry programme. It plans to start a police community support officer (PCSO) apprentice programme in May 2019.
There are currently 160 other apprentices, including 120 contact management apprentices. Again, this demonstrates the link between changing demand and workforce plans. The force knows it needs to increase the diversity of its workforce, so all marketing imagery is mindful of diversity and includes a range of genders, ages and ethnicities.
Financial planning is a strength of Thames Valley Police. The force has a good track record of meeting its savings requirements. Its financial plans are realistic and built on sound assumptions, and they have been subject to challenge by experts. There is clear alignment between the change programme and financial planning.
Budgets in the MTFP are balanced over the next four years. This assumes that there will be an increase in the funding for police that can be raised locally by the maximum increase of £24 per Band D house and that the Home Office grant to the force will increase by £8.7m in 2019/20. Plans show a balance between making savings and investing in areas where the force is facing operational pressures. The force’s efficiency and effectiveness programme identifies £15m of productivity savings. This includes £2m of savings in the services the force shares with the Hampshire Constabulary, and £1m in efficiencies from criminal justice services such as case file preparation.
We heard from the force that relaxing the cap on the annual council tax increase for police services means there is an opportunity for growth in some of its services. This includes an increase of 40 civilian investigators for crime casework, more call handlers to answer emergency and non-emergency 101 calls, and additional specialist investigators to manage rising cybercrime and support vulnerable victims who are targeted by fraudsters. This is a good example of the link between the force’s understanding of how demand will change and its funding and workforce plans.
General reserves are forecast to be £18.9m at the end of 2018/19 and are scheduled to reduce to £18m at 31 March 2023. The force has decided to keep reserves at 4.2 percent, which is higher than the 3 percent the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy recommends for public sector organisations. This is because there is no long-term settlement in place for police funding and earmarked reserves are reducing. Over the lifespan of the MTFP (2019/20 to 2022/23), earmarked reserves will reduce from £26m to £18m. Expenditure is planned to cater for unforeseen overruns on major programmes, one-off investments, and contributions to the south east regional organised crime unit.
Leadership and workforce development
Thames Valley Police recognises the importance of developing the workforce and leaders of the future. The force expects that future demands will mean it needs a workforce and leaders who can cope with increased expectations, with a greater focus on productivity and working as a team. New police officer recruits currently complete the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme, leading to a Level 3 Diploma. There are also a small number of Police Now recruits. The expectation from next year is that new police officer recruits will join as graduates. Those who have completed the Level 3 Diploma, or have equivalent experience, will be expected to complete the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship.
The force recognises that this workforce will need a different style of management, with a greater focus on coaching. To address this, it has added content to its training programme for leaders to improve coaching-style skills at sergeant, inspector and police staff equivalent levels. The force is developing the pathways so staff in the contact management department can develop their careers. It has also introduced a direct-entry career pathway for detectives.
While the force doesn’t have a formal succession planning process, it does have a strong and mature approach to staff and leadership development. This approach is designed to make sure it identifies and develops talented employees who can be deployed into new roles when needed. There are 30 individuals each year who take part in the ‘developing potential’ programme. This gives them access to a coach and the opportunity to take part in force projects. Anyone from any role or background in the force can apply for this programme.
There is also a positive action leadership programme that supports officers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to help them progress in the organisation. This gives them access to a coach and support in applications for promotion or specialisation.
These processes provide the force with a good knowledge of the skills and capabilities of leaders and staff who may be suitable for leadership roles. This helps it make the right decisions about postings and further development. It reviews the career profile of every officer at chief inspector level and uses this knowledge to make decisions about which leadership team to place them in to achieve a balance of diverse leadership styles and approaches.
Ambition to improve
Thames Valley Police’s plans are ambitious and transformative and will bring about major improvements in how the force provides its services to the public. It continues to make savings to invest in change, and plays an enthusiastic role in collaborations with neighbouring police forces and local partners. Its plans are realistic, built on sound assumptions and have been subject to challenge by experts. There is a comprehensive change programme that illustrates the force’s ambition to invest in infrastructure to make savings in the future. These plans are linked to the MTFP.
The deputy chief constable oversees the force’s overall change programme and commissions independent reviews of some of the major projects within the programme. An assessment at an early stage considers how well any proposed change supports the chief constable’s delivery plan. The effectiveness and efficiency programme reviews the force’s spending and identifies savings.
The force checks it knows the impacts of any plans for change and that the benefits are realised. It has learnt from the way it brought in its new operating model in July 2017, when subsequent events showed that it hadn’t fully understood the impact of the change before it was implemented. This meant that, at times of peak demand, officers who were responding to calls from the public felt stressed and overworked, and some investigators struggled to manage their workloads. As a result, the force has re-examined the demand on these staff, re-evaluated its approach and (just before this inspection) made changes to how it deploys its staff.
While it is too early to see how successful the changes have been, members of staff we spoke to felt that their ability to provide a good service to the public had improved. The force has also learnt from implementing its new contact management system that some projects cost more and take longer to implement than anticipated. Its change budget now has money in reserve to support projects in such cases.
Thames Valley Police staff work in joint teams with partner agencies to safeguard vulnerable people across the force area. On a regional level, the deputy chief constable chairs the south east region collaboration board and works with three nearby fire and rescue services to get better value by making joint equipment purchases. The force is currently developing a regional approach to providing administrative functions more efficiently.
There are additional funds in the MTFP to improve the force’s response to organised crime, frontline policing, investigations, call handling and computer-based criminality. In addition, the mid-term capital plan sets out how the force will spend £103m between 2019/20 and 2022/23 in a way that supports the chief constable’s and PCC’s priorities. The plan will ensure that there are enough resources to maintain the force’s buildings and equipment, and that plans are made to maintain and develop the force’s technology through the ICT transformation programmes. This allows the force to work with its collaborative partners, regionally and nationally, to develop new efficient and effective ways of policing within the criminal justice system and to improve its overall service to the publicSummary for question 2