#015/2011 Police have made a good start, but need to transform their efficiency

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, ‘Adapting to Austerity’, found that authorities and forces have made a good start in developing plans for the next four years, but they need to transform their efficiency if they are to succeed in sustaining services while cutting costs.

HMIC inspected the 43 police authorities and forces in England and Wales to look at how prepared they were to make savings over the four years of the CSR.

The data available to HMIC suggests that police authorities and forces have made a good start:

  • They have all set an ambition to reduce crime.
  • Average figures for England and Wales indicate they appear to be protecting the frontline this year (2011/12).
  • They are using a wide variety of means to improve efficiency.
  • A small number are looking to go further through radical joint ventures.

However, HMIC found that protecting the frontline will be very challenging over the next eighteen months as two thirds of the cuts to central government funding fall within the first two CSR years (2011/12 and 2012/13). Forces will have to transform their efficiency if they are to protect frontline services.

On average, authorities and forces are planning to cut their expenditure by 14% by 2014/15 compared with 2010/11 in real terms. However, the cuts vary significantly between forces: from 8% to 19%.

Forces have estimated how much they need to reduce their workforce to live within their means:

  • They plan to reduce their workforce by approximately 34,100 by March 2015 compared with March 2010.
  • This comprises 16,200 police officers, 1,800 PCSOs and 16,100 police staff – a reduction of 14%.
  • Nearly a third of this 34,100 cut has happened already – the workforce reduced by 11,200 between March 2010 and March 2011 as forces made cuts in preparation for the financial challenge ahead.

Estimated data at this stage from 42 police forces shows that they plan to cut frontline numbers by 2% between March 2010 and March 2012 with the rest of the workforce reducing by 11% over the same period. This suggests forces are making efforts to protect frontline roles. Data available limits assessment beyond March 2012, but if the cut to frontline numbers is to remain modest, the non-frontline efficiency would have to be transformed.

Of the 38 forces that provided workforce data for March 2015, 22 forces would have to cut more than 30% of their non-frontline workforce in order to protect frontline numbers, and:

  • Ten forces face a workforce cut that is greater than 50% of their non-frontline workforce.
  • Eight forces face a police officer cut that is greater than the number of non-frontline officers in their force.
  • Five forces fall into both of the above categories.

Those forces that have, in comparison to others, a large proportion of their resources on the front line and a large cut, will find safeguarding or improving service to the public while cutting costs the most challenging.

The inspection provided a snapshot in time, all force plans continue to be developed and HMIC anticipates these figures will continue to be refined.

Seventeen authorities and forces had plans setting out how they intended to make these cuts. But 26 had not yet worked out how they were going to make all of the savings they needed; this amounted to £0.5bn. All 26 aimed to complete these plans during 2011/12.

HMIC found that the police service will need support in order to succeed in transforming efficiency and identified that there needs to be:

  • The sharing of information between authorities and forces on the cost benefits of different decisions about workforce, improving processes and economies of scale to enable forces to make informed choices for the public;
  • The sharing of information on how best to make changes to the service and in which order;
  • The sharing of information on the potential benefits of private and public sector joint ventures;
  • A broadly agreed set of ideas about transformation so that decision makers have a common language;
  • Consideration given to how forces and their local governance bodies will be supported in the future from the centre with skills development.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Mr Roger Baker, said;

“We found authorities and forces are planning relatively modest cuts to frontline numbers this year 2011/12) and they had all set an ambition to reduce crime. But whether they achieve and sustain this is yet to be seen. To sustain this, most forces will have to transform their efficiency. Those forces that start the CSR period as the most efficient and those forces that face the greatest cuts will find this the most difficult.”

Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary said;

“Authorities and forces must share information with each other about what does and doesn’t work to provide the best economies of scale. The police service must adapt to these changing times in order to deliver the best deal for taxpayers and they will need some support in this.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. HMIC is also publishing alongside this report ‘Police Numbers and Crime Rates – A rapid evidence review’. This is available from www.hmic.gov.uk
  2. A copy of the full report, ‘Adapting to Austerity’, can be found here (PDF document)
  3. HMI Roger Baker is HMIC’s lead inspector on value for money.
  4. The October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) outlined a 20% cut in the central government police funding grant for all 43 forces in England and Wales over 2010/11–2014/15 in real terms.
  5. Between January and March 2011HMIC conducted two-hour interviews with all police chief constables and authority chairs in England and Wales followed by two-day inspection visits. Figures were provided by forces, and were stated as correct at time of inspection. HMIC subsequently asked for updated figures in June 2011.
  6. HMIC took March 2010 as the starting point for assessing the impact, as all forces began to make savings ahead of the spending review announcement in October 2010.
  7. The 14% cut in expenditure by 2014/15 refers to forces’ gross revenue expenditure.
  8. HMIC has defined the policing front line as “… those who are in everyday contact with the public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law.” (‘Demanding Times’ 2011). The front line includes both officers and staff.
  9. HMIC is using the term “non-front line” to describe that portion of the workforce that is not in a front line role. It includes all of the back office and a portion of the middle office (see ‘Demanding Times’ 2011).
  10. All the numbers quoted in this press release have been subject to rounding. Financial figures are quoted in 2010/11 prices in order to aid comparison.
  11. For further information, or to request an interview, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600.
  12. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  13. HMIC’s out of hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.