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Cumbria PEEL 2017


How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?

Last updated 09/11/2017

Cumbria Constabulary is judged to be good in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year. The constabulary is judged to be good in its understanding of demand; its use of resources to manage demand is assessed to be good; and its planning for future demand is also judged to be good.

Cumbria Constabulary has been assessed to be good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

The constabulary has made progress in developing its understanding of current and future demand for its services, including less obvious demand. This more comprehensive understanding has led to a reallocation of resources to support crime investigations which, if successful, will be extended force-wide. The constabulary is recruiting additional investigators in response to the increase in non-recent abuse allegations, which will also increase capacity on the frontline.

We found that the constabulary’s financial plans are realistic and are based on sound assumptions. Detailed contingency plans ensure that the constabulary understands how it could continue to provide effective policing services with reduced resources. The business improvement unit, now firmly established, is improving the constabulary’s understanding of its change programme and the effect on its workforce. The unit is able to monitor the consequences of change, make adjustments as required, and ensure that the expected benefits are realised.

The constabulary considers a range of options in developing new ideas and working practices. All recent and planned promotion processes have been advertised externally and new projects are in place with both public and private sector organisations to work together and manage shared demand. The single point of access line – providing specialist advice to frontline officers dealing with people suffering from mental health problems – is proving effective in terms of support offered and in reducing demand for additional policing services.

The constabulary has good systems in place to manage the skills and capabilities of its workforce, though it does not yet have the comprehensive understanding required to identify skills gaps and establish future needs. A talent identification and management scheme for all officers and staff is being trialled, and a leadership development programme is in place to support those seeking promotion.

Questions for Efficiency


How well does the force understand demand?


The constabulary has made good progress since our last inspection in developing its understanding of demand for its services, including the less obvious demand. Through the ‘day in the life of’ exercises and the work undertaken by external consultants to understand the demands on crime investigators, the constabulary has a clearer picture of its total demand. The constabulary has made use of this understanding, increasing its investigative capacity by bringing together its CID and public protection crime investigation resources in a pilot scheme crime hub in Carlisle. Subject to a successful evaluation of the pilot, the intention is to roll this out across the constabulary.

Cumbria Constabulary’s current performance data for the 101 system is an area for development; this would improve its understanding of true demand and failure rate. With the existing automated system, it is likely that some calls are dealt with appropriately but are recorded as abandoned. We understand that the constabulary is considering a system update, which should provide a better service to the public and improve the quality of performance data.

The business improvement unit is having a positive effect on the constabulary’s understanding of its change programme, its ability to secure the anticipated organisational benefits, and on its workforce. A programme of reviews ensures the effective tracking of expected benefits. The force suggestion scheme has been introduced recently, and already the BIU is progressing ideas that have been submitted. However, we found that there was limited awareness among some staff about how to get involved with innovation and change, other than via the ‘ask the chief’ forum.


How well does the force use its resources?


The constabulary has good systems in place to manage the skills and capabilities of the workforce through the force resourcing panel and the strategic workforce planning group, which ensures effective sequencing of promotion, recruitment and training. However, the constabulary does not yet have the comprehensive understanding of the skills and abilities it has in the workforce to be able to conduct a meaningful gap analysis and establish its future needs. The recently introduced interim performance development review (PDR) system should go some way to addressing this, but there is no specific link to any skills audit or training system. HMICFRS is aware that the constabulary is still awaiting guidance from the College of Policing before further evaluation of PDR, and that a skills matrix is being developed to capture the quantifiable skills across the constabulary.

Cumbria has a developing understanding of its workforce’s leadership skills, capabilities and gaps, but it is not complete. The constabulary has some appreciation of how changing demand will affect the skills they need. The constabulary has carried out a leadership skills audit and established leadership programmes; however, it has not done a full skills audit of the workforce. An executive and junior leadership development framework is in place and the constabulary is considering ways in which it can develop leadership skills among constables.

The enhanced understanding of demand has allowed the constabulary to develop a business case and secure additional funding to support the recruitment of additional staff to respond to historic abuse allegations, creating capacity for warranted officers to focus on current demand. This has yet to be realised and remains a risk for the constabulary in dealing with crime demand. An appointments system to manage calls for service more effectively is also being piloted, which should assist in better demand management. HMICFRS understands that it is still being developed and will require a full evaluation to ensure that it meets the objectives of quality service provision, demand management and effective use of resources.

The constabulary has good arrangements in place to look externally for innovation and best practice through its continued involvement with the N8 partnership. The partnership hub at Whitehaven demonstrates that the constabulary is committed to working with others locally to manage demand. However, HMICFRS inspectors were unable to establish the existence of any service level agreement or performance framework to evaluate the success of the project. This is something that the constabulary should address to ensure that it is providing value for money.

The single point of access (SPA) line has been successful in terms of efficient use of resources and quality of service. However, anecdotally, there are inconsistencies in the level of service provided by the partner organisations in the time taken to answer the telephone. The constabulary needs to be confident that there is a performance management framework in place to ensure that service level agreements are met and there are effective performance monitoring systems.

The constabulary has embarked on blue light collaborative working with the fire service and North West ambulance service (NWAS) to mitigate the negative effect of reducing resources across each of the organisations. This approach builds on already strong connections developed jointly through responding to recent disasters (flooding). Although at an early stage, this work is potentially both innovative and transformative. We look forward to monitoring the progress of this work.

Areas for improvement

  • The constabulary should undertake appropriate activities to understand fully its workforce’s capabilities, in order to establish any gaps and put plans in place to address them. This will enable the force to be confident in its ability to be efficient in meeting current and likely future demand.
  • The constabulary should put in place better processes and governance to understand and realise the benefits of collaborative work, and how they affect the force’s ability to meet current and likely future demand efficiently.


How well is the force planning for demand in the future?


The constabulary has undertaken some work to predict future demand, and is in the process of developing a predictive analysis tool. As part of the annual demand analysis for Cumbria in October 2016, the constabulary used statistical modelling to forecast what demand will look like in 2021. The constabulary is also considering using business intelligence modelling to carry out predicted intelligence analysis. Currently, the constabulary does not use data from partner organisations, though its future intention is to use this data where possible.

The partnership hub in the western area of the constabulary is unable to measure respective levels of demand accurately due to the lack of demand recording and analytical work. While the hub is a step forward in joint working, partner organisations are not all fully engaged in the project, therefore all data are not being analysed. At present, there is no referral system to the hub directly from the public. However, we understand that a review has recommended processes be implemented to assess public expectations. There are plans to introduce the hub to other areas of the constabulary and only once fully implemented will the constabulary have a true picture of public expectations. The constabulary should ensure that it has frameworks in place across all of its collaborative working arrangements to enable it to understand demand and track the benefits of the collaboration.

The constabulary is prepared to go outside the organisation to find future leaders. This increases the diversity in its leadership teams, as demonstrated by the recent ACC and superintendent selection processes. All recent promotion processes have been advertised externally to attract the best-skilled people. Leadership development programmes and specialist career pathways are in place. The constabulary has also recruited a number of officers from other forces and is ensuring that it gains the benefit of their previous experience to improve Cumbria Constabulary. The pilot project talent identification scheme in West Cumbria is proving successful. HMICFRS is keen to see how this scheme develops across the constabulary and how the constabulary ensures that there are sufficient staff available to support its coaching and mentoring needs in the future.

We found that the constabulary’s financial plans are realistic and are built on sound assumptions. During inspection, the head of corporate development provided contingency modelling plans to 2025, showing details of how the constabulary intends to save between £2m and £6m. There is still uncertainty regarding the revised police funding formula, and the disproportionate effect on Cumbria Constabulary remains a significant concern, but the contingency planning has considered the worst-case funding scenario. An important element of the constabulary’s ability to meet both demand and its financial plans lies in enhancing the mobility of its workforce; it has invested in IT accordingly. While most staff are making effective use of handheld devices, there is scope for further development to increase agile working. The constabulary is aware of this and is currently evaluating the business benefits to providing all frontline staff with a laptop with increased functionality over the handheld device.

The constabulary has developed a more evidence-based approach to realising the benefits of its change programme with the introduction of the business improvement unit. The unit has integrated learning and created a culture where officers and staff are clear about expectations and are comfortable with having their work critiqued through the quality counts programme. The unit brings together all recommendations and actions from HMICFRS and other areas, which are monitored through performance meetings. The unit reviews and checks actions to ensure the benefits have been realised. The unit also monitors the force suggestion scheme.

The constabulary is also carrying out capability maturity modelling, which is being led by the chief constable, using independent assessors. There are plans to hold workshops with the chief officer group, chief superintendents and heads of departments with the intention of developing the constabulary’s priorities to meet fully the future policing needs for Cumbria.

Areas for improvement

  • The constabulary should do more to explore opportunities for further collaboration with local partner organisations to improve services, drive efficiencies and better manage demand for its services in the future.