Essex PEEL 2015
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
HMIC found that Essex Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial problems. Through effective financial management and accurate budgeting it is successfully making the savings required of it and is well placed to continue to do so. Its future ambitious change programme will need to be successful if the force is to realise savings and be in a position to meet changes in demand for its services. In last year’s value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Essex was judged to be good.
HMIC judges Essex Police to be good. The force’s workforce model by which it provides its services is broadly aligned to meeting its current requirements. The force is developing a good understanding of the demands placed on its services and is reallocating the workforce to the areas of most need. The force intends to increase the number of police staff as a proportion of its workforce, on the basis that it believes this will improve resilience. Its change programme sets out step-by-step changes through to 2020.
The force has an established track record of successful collaboration with Kent Police and ambitious, far-reaching plans to improve services. The force has pioneered the Athena integrated IT solution.
Essex Police has identified savings through to 2018/19. It is set on a firm programme of major change based on improved digital working, the rationalisation of buildings and modernising the workforce. The force has made realistic assumptions on the levels of savings required, which is estimated at £53.8m to 2018/19. While these plans are well developed, they are ambitious and are yet to be tested in reality. More work is necessary to manage the response to calls for service from the public in the control room where there is an unacceptable backlog of unresolved open incidents awaiting action. The numbers of these unresolved open incidents mean that control room staff are unable to manage risk effectively, and this may mean that victims are not receiving the service they need and they may lose confidence in Essex Police. This has been a recurring issue for the force over the last few years and has yet to be resolved effectively and is a cause for concern.
How well does the force use its resources to meet its demand?
Essex Police is developing a good understanding of the demands placed on its services. The force has invested in a software system that should assist in assessing this demand.
The force lacks detective officers and so while it has moved officers and staff into areas of most need, including supporting vulnerable people, not all of these officers are appropriately trained or experienced.
Essex Police has a good understanding of the roles of police officers and those roles which could be undertaken by civilian employees. As a result the force is planning to increase the number of police staff as a proportion of its workforce, on the basis that it believes this will build capacity and improve resilience.
There is an unacceptable backlog of unresolved open incidents within the control room which represents a significant risk.
The force has a track record of successful collaboration with Kent Police as well as ambitious, service improvement plans. The force is pioneering the Athena integrated-IT solution, however the implementation has been difficult with some enduring issues and HMIC found that the workforce is frustrated by a lack of support to resolve issues with the system.
Areas for improvement
- The force should ensure it has a sufficiently skilled and trained workforce to deal with the demand of protecting vulnerable people.
- The force should ensure it reduces the backlog of unresolved open incidents within the control room.
How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model?
Essex Police has a workforce model which is broadly aligned to meeting its current requirements and supports the police and crime plan. While the force broadly understands the skills, experience and capability of its workforce, it is not yet able to match these against current demand.
The change programme sets out step-by-step changes between now and 2020, and while these plans are well developed, they are ambitious and have yet to be tested in reality. Although a software programme is helping to identify potential vacancies and gaps in skills and experience, the force is yet to have effective succession planning.
In the future, the force aims that the majority of services will be provided through joint ventures with other police forces, with other public sector organisations and with commercial organisations.
How sustainable is the force’s financial position for the short and long term?
Essex Police achieved its savings requirement of £13.9m, and balanced the budget for the spending review period of 2014/15, and the budget for 2015/16 has been balanced. The force has a good track record of delivering savings.
The medium-term financial strategy (MTFS) identifies savings through to 2020 with a mix of improved digital working, rationalisation of buildings and modernising the workforce. The force understands, and is planning for, likely financial challenges beyond the current spending review based on robust, realistic and prudent assumptions.
The force has a proven track record of robust financial management, accurate budgeting and achieving planned savings. The force has a clear and relatively prudent reserves plan. There is an established and close working relationship with the office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC) who is fully informed and plays an early part in budget plans.
The force has been successful in receiving monies from the Police Innovation Fund, and has exploited collaborative working opportunities. Kent Police is Essex’s preferred partner; this collaboration provides financial benefits as well as increased capacity and resilience.
The force’s long-term financial plans rely on the force’s ambitious approach to demand management being successful. While change plans are well developed and managed they are yet to be tested in reality.