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West Mercia PEEL 2018

Efficiency

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

Last updated 27/09/2019
Requires improvement

West Mercia Police requires improvement in how it meets demand and uses resources.

Currently, the force provides many services through the shared functions of its alliance with Warwickshire Police. But the imminent end of the alliance, in October 2019, is a cause of concern. It is not known how both forces will offer a full, uninterrupted range of public services by the time the alliance ends.

The force is working to gain a full understanding of the cost of services as it decides how best to operate post-alliance. But it must act swiftly if there is to be minimal disruption to the service it gives to the public, and its workforce, from October onwards.

A lack of detailed preparation in advance of the alliance termination announcement is a contributory factor to our judgment that West Mercia Police is inadequate in how it plans for the future.

The force has failed to provide evidence of the business case that led to the decision to terminate the alliance and therefore it is difficult to assess the force’s decision.
And it is a cause of concern that the force did not consult the public or key partners before making its decision.

We expect both forces to work together, as they transition to new operating models, to ensure no adverse effects on the public or their workforces.

Questions for Efficiency

1

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

Requires improvement

West Mercia Police requires improvement at meeting current demands and using resources.

The force has a good understanding of the demands on its services. This is helped by its long-term working relationship with a commercial partner. However, the force is sometimes unable to meet demand for its services. And it has yet to identify the best investigative model to meet its needs. Some officers are investigating crimes for which they have not been trained.

Despite a complex partnership landscape, the force works well with a range of partner organisations to safeguard vulnerable people. These include looked after children who abscond from care.

The force is clear about the investments it is making, as well as the desired benefits. Its considerable investment in ICT over the next four years should prove beneficial.

To date, the force has worked well with Warwickshire Police in a strategic alliance that has saved £35m. The two forces share many services. But the imminent end of the alliance, in October 2019, is a cause of concern. It is not clear how both forces will offer a full, uninterrupted range of public services by the time the alliance ends.

Currently, the force is working to gain a full understanding of the cost of services as it decides how best to operate after the alliance ends. The force must act quickly to implement its plans so that there is minimal disruption to the public and its workforce from October onwards.

Cause of concern

The force does not have suitable arrangements in place to make sure it can maintain the full range of public services when its alliance with Warwickshire Police ends. There are gaps in its workforce skills assessment, and
weaknesses in both its investigative approach and its approach to safeguarding vulnerable people.

Recommendations

To address this cause of concern, we recommend that the force should immediately:

  • put in place plans to maintain the full range of public services by October 2019, particularly in the areas of highest risk;
  • expand the skills project work to include an assessment of all skills, not only operational, including potential future skills requirements. This assessment should inform workforce plans;
  • conduct a review of officers’ capabilities and capacity to manage their investigative workload, to better understand investigative demand and the pressures placed upon them; and
  • conduct a review, involving its partners, of the approach to vulnerability to better safeguard vulnerable people.
Detailed findings for question 1

2

How well does the force plan for the future?

Inadequate

West Mercia Police’s planning for the future is inadequate.

The force knows that it needs to better understand future demand. There is no information on the division of demand between the forces. We are concerned that necessary research on this matter may be interrupted by the termination of the alliance with Warwickshire Police.

Considering the imminent end of the alliance, the force needs to understand fully the demand for the services that it shares with Warwickshire Police. And it is of paramount and immediate importance that services to the public are maintained throughout the transition.

It is a cause of concern that the force neither consulted the public and partners about the end of the alliance, nor provided details of a well-evidenced business case for its decision to terminate.

Financially, the force has a good track record. To date, the alliance has enabled savings of £35m. It is not clear at the time of this report how the imminent end of the alliance will have an impact on future savings plans, however. It is difficult to assess the rationale supporting the decision to terminate the alliance.

We expect both forces to work together as they transition to new operating models, and to make sure that there are no adverse effects for either the public or the workforce.

Currently, West Mercia is growing its workforce. It is set to have its highest number of officers since 2012 and it has just a few detective vacancies at a time of a national shortage. It now needs to maintain its recruitment and training capability. It also needs to make sure that it provides sufficient support to newly qualified investigators.

The force is committed to developing a workforce that can meet future demands. Next, it needs to deepen its understanding of the skills of its workforce, so that it can make best use of its talents.

Cause of concern

The force has not yet defined how all of its services to the public will operate in the future, nor has it agreed a smooth transition to a future operating model. And it has not consulted with the public on these important matters.

Recommendations

To address this cause of concern, we recommend that the force should immediately:

  • clearly define its new operating model, ensuring all operational and support services are affordable and fit to protect the communities of West Mercia;
  • agree arrangements with Warwickshire Police to secure a smooth transition to its future operating model, ensuring no disruption to public services; and
  • improve its arrangements both to consult with the public about business planning and to feed back on changes made to service delivery as a result of such consultation.
Detailed findings for question 2