Gwent 2014Read more about Gwent
This is the first PEEL Assessment of Gwent Police. In making this assessment I have used my professional judgment to consider the evidence available from inspections undertaken in the past 12 months.
The available evidence indicates that:
in terms of its effectiveness, in general, the force requires improvement in reducing crime and preventing offending, it requires improvement in the way it investigates offending and requires improvement in tackling anti-social behaviour. I have some specific concerns about its approach to domestic abuse;
the efficiency with which the force carries out its responsibilities requires improvement. However, there has been a notable improvement in the force’s approach since the initial inspection; and
the force is acting to achieve fairness and legitimacy in a limited number of the practices that were examined this year.
Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
In making this first PEEL Assessment of Gwent I have taken into account the challenges to policing in rural towns, stretches of countryside and urban areas such as the City of Newport.
Gwent is economically and culturally diverse with areas of affluence and deprivation. Large regeneration and housing projects in the Newport and Valley areas will bring benefits and challenges in the years to come and large volumes of traffic are carried through the M4 to the east presenting a constant risk of organised crime.
The area hosted the 2014 NATO Summit which had substantial resource implications for the force and was an excellent policing operation. The force is part of the all-Wales counter-terrorism unit, known as WECTU, and the serious and organised crime collaboration, known as Tarian, which has mature and effective arrangements.
I have been concerned about the way the force is operating and in particular by its deteriorating performance. The absence of a credible plan to meet its savings requirement presents a risk, making it more difficult for the force to bring about the necessary improvements. The force needs a more sophisticated understanding of the demand it faces and whether the reduced workforce has the required skills and rank mix to provide effective policing. In the light of some of these issues, the force has taken action to improve the position and I was reassured by HMIC’s reinspection findings of October 2014.
Gwent is not as effective as it needs to be at cutting crime and anti-social behaviour and victim satisfaction with police services in Gwent is one of the lowest of all forces in England and Wales although the force now recognises these challenges and has plans to bring about improvements.
The way the force manages the initial reporting of domestic abuse means that there was inconsistency in the approach to assessing the risks posed to victims. The force needs to do more to identify repeat and vulnerable victims. In contrast, specialist teams within Gwent provide a better service.
I am encouraged by the force’s work to instil ethical and professional behaviour. However, it needs to do more training on integrity issues, and building confidence in the workforce to challenge poor behaviour. I am aware that this process has already commenced under the leadership of the deputy chief constable.
I have concerns about the force’s approach to crime-recording, which is not as accurate as it should be.
Our intention is to examine leadership specifically as part of future PEEL Assessments, once criteria have been established. This will allow us to take account of the College of Policing review of leadership that is currently underway.
In common with other forces, there is a need to develop a better understanding of the changing demands for police services.
Over the past 12 months, there have been a number of inspections in Gwent which suggest an absence of consistency in the application of some force systems and processes. For example, vulnerable and repeat victims are not always identified.
I am interested to see how the force responds to the areas HMIC has identified for improvement over the next 12 months. In particular:
- the levels of victim satisfaction;
- improvements in tackling crime, particularly victim-based crime;
- improvements in tackling anti-social behaviour;
- the force’s approach to victim risk assessments under their proposed new operating model; and
- the follow-up to this year’s crime inspection.
How well the force tackles crime
Gwent requires improvement in reducing crime, preventing and investigating offending, and tackling anti-social behaviour.
HMIC is concerned that Gwent is not as effective as it needs to be at cutting crime and anti-social behaviour. After a number of years of reducing crime, levels of reported crime and anti-social behaviour are now increasing in Gwent. Recorded crime and anti-social behaviour rates are both now higher in Gwent than for England and Wales as a whole.
Victim satisfaction with police services in Gwent is one of the lowest of all forces in England and Wales. We found some pockets of good practice where there is a strong victim focus and where the force works innovatively with local partners to reduce crime, prevent re-offending and protect victims. Overall, however, a number of important areas for improvement have been identified.
HMIC will re-visit Gwent in 2015 to undertake a diagnostic inspection. This inspection will use external expertise, with the aim of identifying measures to assist the senior leadership of Gwent to improve the service it delivers.
Further insights on effectiveness
The domestic abuse inspection found that, despite domestic abuse being a priority, the absence of effective processes and systems affected the force’s ability to manage and minimise risk. There were significant concerns regarding how the force responded to some victims of domestic abuse. The crime inspection identified a lack of clarity among officers about who was responsible for investigating high-risk domestic abuse cases.
The crime inspection found that the force was starting to tackle so-called ‘hidden crimes’. For example, there had been some recent positive work to investigate human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, with dedicated police resources and positive partnership working to support victims.
The Strategic Policing Requirement inspection found that Gwent had, or had access to through collaboration with other forces regionally, the necessary capability to tackle terrorism, civil emergency, serious organised crime and public disorder but not a large-scale cyber incident.
How well the force delivers value for money
It is important and necessary that Gwent Police develops plans to improve the force in a way that not only provides an effective service for the public, but is affordable within its projected income.
In May 2014, HMIC inspected Gwent Police as part of the value for money inspection programme. The findings at the time of this inspection are contained in the following four paragraphs.
Gwent has plans in place to achieve almost all the savings required for the spending review period. However, plans for dealing with the savings requirements for the future are undeveloped. In 2015/16, the force has a savings requirement of £9.2m with current planned savings of £5.1m, leaving a current budget gap of £4.1m in that financial year. While Gwent intends to use some reserves, there are currently no plans to find the additional recurring savings, other than through the loss of staff. The force has made disappointing progress since last year and faces some significant risks in the future if it does not develop plans to structure the provision of policing services within budget.
The force does not have a sufficiently detailed understanding of the demand it faces and therefore cannot effectively make best use of its resources to meet that demand. Savings plans to balance the budget are based principally on reducing the size of the workforce by not filling vacancies as they arise. However, this approach is taken without a full understanding about whether the reduced workforce has the required skills and rank mix, and can continue to provide effective policing.
Despite relatively small planned reductions in police officer numbers compared with England and Wales, and a big increase in the numbers of community support officers (CSOs), police performance has declined. Crime levels have increased over the last 12 months to March 2014, and success in crime detection and levels of victim satisfaction have both fallen.
HMIC is concerned that the force faces deteriorating performance, and in the absence of a credible plan to meet its savings requirement, risks further decline.
Due to the level of improvement required, HMIC revisited Gwent in October 2014 and found the force had made good progress. The force had carried out an initial assessment of demand and informed HMIC that this process will be repeated in November 2014 to develop its understanding further. A new operating model has been designed to deliver affordable policing which meets operational requirements. It is anticipated that this new way of working will be implemented in April 2015. In addition, the force has further developed its budget plan and is confident that the necessary savings can be achieved.
Issues in relation to victim satisfaction and performance remain. However, the force outlined plans to address these issues, including the implementation of a victims’ hub.
HMIC remains concerned that the force has a considerable amount of change to implement in a short period of time, but the early progress the force has made provides some reassurance.
Does the force act with integrity and provide a service the public expects?
Good progress has been made since HMIC’s report in 2012 on managing professional and personal relationships with integrity and transparency. Gwent has worked hard to instil ethical and professional behaviour; however, more training on integrity issues and efforts to promote confidence in challenging poor behaviour are required. Decision making and recording processes in the professional standards department needs to improve. Some integrity-related policies need to be reviewed and the management of workflow in the professional standards department should be more efficient.
Further insights on legitimacy
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (12 months to March 2013) found that the proportion of respondents who think that the force does an excellent/good job was less than the figure for England and Wales. The same survey over the same period also found that the proportion which agrees that the force deals with local concerns was less than the average for England and Wales. The force’s own victim satisfaction survey (12 months to June 2014) found that the proportion of victims who were satisfied with their experience was less than the figure across England and Wales.
The crime data integrity inspection found that frontline staff, including call-takers, understood the importance of meeting the needs of the victim when considering crime-recording and investigation. The domestic abuse inspection found risks in the way the force manages the initial reporting of domestic abuse. There were no robust procedures in place to ensure that repeat and vulnerable victims could be consistently identified. There was inconsistency in the approach to assessing the risks posed to victims.
As a result of the crime data integrity inspection, HMIC is concerned that a notable proportion of reports of crime are not being recorded by the force. This means that victims are not receiving the service they should when they first report a crime. However, HMIC is impressed with the accuracy of the decisions taken by the force when making no-crime decisions (cancelling a recorded crime), nearly all of which are correct.