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Bedfordshire PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 21/01/2020

Bedfordshire Police operates efficiently, and provides services that it can sustain in the future.

The force is good at assessing current demand and it has a detailed knowledge of current demand for its services. This knowledge has been aided by two processes: a detailed strategic demand assessment (SDA) and an effective budgeting process.

The force needs to reduce backlogs in crimes that are awaiting administrative finalisation. It is important for the force itself and the public to have full confidence in its crime data.

The force has a long-standing commitment to co-operating and collaborating with other police organisations. It has a history of collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, and the forces have an existing tri-force collaboration. Through collaboration, Bedfordshire Police has improved its demand management in key areas, including major crime.

The force needs to quickly resolve its issues with the new crime, custody and intelligence system. These are having an acute operational impact, and are reducing productivity in areas such as crime investigation.

The force requires improvement in the way it plans for the future. It should make sure that it understands public expectations better and monitors changes in them, to improve its decision making about future services.

The force should ensure that an effective human resources department supports its ambitious recruitment and staff development plans. It also needs to develop a comprehensive skills strategy to make sure that its staff have the right skills, and are prepared for future challenges.

Questions for Efficiency


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


Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that it has enough, suitably trained officers aimed at reducing the current high levels of crime reports waiting to be categorised and closed correctly, so that confidence in force outcome data can be maintained.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Assessing current demand

In 2017, we identified two areas for improvement: we said that the force should develop its understanding of demand, obtaining data from wider sources; and we said that the force should ensure that its assessment of emerging and future demand is fully developed and regularly updated.

There are no longer such concerns. The force has made impressive progress. It is now good at assessing current demand. It has a detailed knowledge of the current demand for its services, because it has sophisticated processes in place to analyse demand from different sources. It has an effective SDA, which it uses to assess demand in all operational and support functions. This includes those collaborated functions with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies. Bedfordshire Police carries out the assessment annually. The SDA assesses how effectively the force is currently meeting demand. It also measures the force’s gap in resources (that is, the availability of staff or technology), which affects how it manages demand. This allows the force to manage demand in a way that is better informed.

The SDA also estimates anticipated changes in future demand levels and types in subsequent years. The force then categorises areas according to demand risk. It re-assesses areas that face a substantial, severe or critical risk in an interim SDA. This takes place at mid-year. The force’s SDA process is aligned to its budget planning timetable. This means that it can respond to emerging trends in demand, because it can allocate budgets and resources quickly and adjust services accordingly.

In 2017, we identified an area for improvement: we said that the force should have adequate plans in place to ensure that it can provide services, while also making necessary cost savings. The force has made good progress in this respect. It is completing a priority-based budgeting (PBB) process, with support from external consultants. Its objective is to establish a costed assessment of its services, so that it can reliably make investment or efficiency decisions now and in the future. Phase one is complete. At the time of our fieldwork, phase two was in progress. We were impressed with the level of detail that was being examined in the PBB process, and the energy that the force had invested in it. The process indicates that the force is making decisions based on reliable data. However, the process doesn’t overtly take account of public expectations of the police. This may lead the force to miss opportunities to reduce demand or adjust services, because it isn’t monitoring changes in public expectations.

Recently, the force has made attempts to understand the hidden demand that it shares with other agencies. For example, a recent drugs market profile, which the force created with partners, gave a detailed and costed assessment of the impact of controlled drugs on the community and agencies. The profile used data from health, local authority and drug support organisations. The force also has a good understanding of some issues that are affecting communities. It has enlisted the support of an external police advisory organisation to give a detailed assessment of the true cost to Bedfordshire Police of dealing with anti-social behaviour and incidents involving people who have mental health conditions. 

Understanding factors that influence demand

Bedfordshire Police understands that efficient working practices can reduce demand. The force’s quality improvement programme (FQIP) aims to achieve more efficient processes and end wasteful ones. For example, the force has identified opportunities to work with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to reduce unnecessary demand on both services, and to reduce the costs involved in internal mail deliveries by sharing resources. When the force identifies efficiencies, it holds workshops (sometimes with partner agencies) to agree changes. It then implements and monitors those changes. It has involved frontline staff in the workshops, and has prioritised high-demand, high-harm areas of policing. Most recently, it prioritised the processes within domestic abuse and child protection investigation.

Chief officers have established a positive culture for change. A chief officer chairs the business change and continuous improvement board. This board holds staff to account for progress in the PBB process, as well as the FQIP and other projects. The board scrutinises performance at each meeting. It quickly identifies benefits. For example, through a detailed assessment of current demand in the contact centre, the PBB process quickly identified and implemented efficiencies. This resulted in the removal of a vacant radio operator post, as well as six staff posts and two management posts. The removal of these posts has contributed to overall savings of £3.31m in 2019/20 and £1.03m in 2020/21.

During our fieldwork, there were no examples of the force intentionally or inadvertently suppressing demand by failing to record or respond to certain types of incident. However, the force isn’t allocating and finalising investigations quickly enough. Its performance board has identified this issue. At the time of our fieldwork, the force had approximately 500 cases that were awaiting finalisation so that it could correctly categorise crimes. Also, approximately 200 low-risk investigations were awaiting allocation. The force has some controls in place: department leads and chief officers monitor queues regularly, and Athena automatically ensures the swift prioritisation and allocation of high-risk crimes (such as domestic abuse). But the force needs to do more to increase the number of senior officers who are available to complete the administrative task of categorising and finalising crimes. The public depends on local crime outcome data, and backlogs can affect the data’s overall reliability.

Working with others to meet demand

The force is good at working with partner organisations. It fully understands that it can’t manage demand alone. It has a strong history of collaboration with the Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies. It regards this approach as mutually beneficial, because all three forces can achieve more together than in isolation. Through collaboration, Bedfordshire Police has improved its demand management in key areas. These include major crime (where homicides would have had a heavy impact on the force and, most likely, have led to longer investigations) and firearms (where planned operations are easier and quicker to resource – that is, find and allocate staff to – because the forces have more staff available for them). 

The force makes sensible choices about which organisations to work with to innovate, and to reduce demand and costs. It bases its decisions on sound judgments. Generally, the forces that it collaborates with are local and of a similar size. The force is an active part of the seven-force Eastern Region collaboration. This is a recent collaboration: its current priorities include scoping better demand management in vetting, procurement and forensics.

The force also has a positive relationship with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, with an established governance structure at a strategic and tactical level. This has led to innovations such as the fire and rescue service providing the county’s service for forced entry to premises when there is a medical emergency. The fire and rescue service is also starting to train Bedfordshire Police’s drivers. This may reduce costs and delays in the force’s driver training. Police community teams share accommodation with fire service colleagues at Ampthill, Bedford and Leighton Buzzard.

The force is aware of the increased demand that is created by changes and financial constraints within partner agencies. It is taking steps to establish a strategic demand partnership, to create an understanding of shared demand and how partners can work better together. It has experienced difficulties in progressing this work: it recognises that it needs to be effective within agencies to improve their understanding of demand, and the benefits that can be derived from closer working arrangements.

Innovation and new opportunities

The force does seek new opportunities to improve services and increase efficiency. Senior leaders have well-established ways of communicating with the workforce, and they make sure that communication is a two-way process. The ‘ask the exec’ question and answer sessions are online live chats that take place within the force. They are open to all staff, on any subject. This invites challenge. The force also encourages staff suggestions, and acts on them. One example is the merging of the community crime team and the serious crime investigation team to increase resilience. A staff focus group came up with this idea.

The force also looks outside the organisation to improve services. At the time of our fieldwork, the force was trialling a crime solvability tool, called ‘B-EBIT’ (Bedfordshire evidence-based investigation tool). The tool was developed from a similar project led by Kent Police, and Bedfordshire Police has worked with Kent Police to learn lessons. The tool aims to help staff decide whether to allocate a crime for investigation on the basis of eight questions. It is potentially applicable to 30 percent of crime but is limited to less serious offences that are statistically less likely to be solved. It is too early to assess the impact of this trial, but we will monitor how the force applies the tool.

Investment and benefits

The force has invested in technology and makes sensible decisions based on sound research. It has provided operational officers with laptops and mobile phones, and it has three hubs offering technical support. Staff report that the devices enable them to complete administration tasks more flexibly, which saves them time. However, the force has yet to complete a full assessment of all benefits.

The contact centre has seen changes in demand. For example, some members of the public now want to contact the police online. As a result, the force has invested in a webchat facility. This may have the potential to reduce demand in the contact centre, and give a good quality of service to those who want to communicate in this way. But the contact centre has no dedicated webchat team. Currently, staff who have other duties are taking on the webchats. This resource challenge means that the force isn’t always prioritising the webchats, and so it isn’t realising the full benefits of this facility. This situation is likely to continue.

Prioritising different types of demand

The PBB process has given the force a clear understanding of its current demand, and what resources it needs to meet that demand. The force has carried out sophisticated research with external advisers to establish that the number of available workforce hours is already being outstripped by the hours needed to meet demand. This research has included all frontline services.

In 2017, we identified an area for improvement: we said that the force needed to ensure that it had sufficient officers and staff to resource its policing model, while also monitoring the wellbeing of staff. At the time of our most recent fieldwork, the force was better at matching resources to demand. This matching meant less impact on staff wellbeing, which is a clear consideration in the force’s decisions about allocating resources. The force is comparatively small, and it needs officers and staff to be omni-competent in some roles. Senior officers often assign detective officers to uniform duties (on the basis of operational need), and contact centre staff work in a variety of roles, including call handling and crime bureau tasks. There is a strong team ethic.

The force uses its tactical meeting structures to flexibly allocate resources, to manage changing demands. The monthly force tactical tasking and co-ordination group reviews and allocates resources to policing operations. The force’s daily management meeting coordinates the response to daily changes in demand. But the force hasn’t yet supported these structures with effective strategic workforce plans. Too often, local managers are carrying out tasks (such as succession planning) in isolation, without regard for other departments in the force or the wider collaboration.

The force has a clear rationale for its resource allocation decisions. It allocates budgets and resources (including staff) according to the:

  • priorities in its control strategy;
  • priorities of the police and crime commissioner;
  • national priorities in the national strategic policing requirement; and
  • strategic demand risks in the SDA.

The force is good at managing risk in the demand that it assesses as lower priority. At the time of our fieldwork, contact centre staff were frequently reviewing the risk assessment when an incident was deemed to be low risk or when police attendance was delayed. These reviews resulted in them escalating some incidents for a quicker response. When attendance was delayed, staff explained the delay to callers and gave subsequent updates.

Assigning resources to demand and understanding their costs

The force has an advanced knowledge of the costs of its services. Its PBB process has created a costed service catalogue for services that the force is reviewing. This involved the force defining cashable savings for 2019/20 and 2020/21, as well as identifying future opportunities for change, and designing options and recommendations for a re-balanced budget in 19 business areas. Through this process, the force identified options to change the level of service that it gives, along with associated risks and benefits. The PBB process assigned all the force’s business areas at a certain level (minimum, intermediate or current). For some of the force’s business areas, the PBB process also described an improved service level. As a result, the force knows well the costs and impacts of changing its own service levels. At the time of our fieldwork, phase two of the PBB process was ongoing. This phase will give a complete overview of all services.

As a result of the PBB process (and with support from the SDA), the force can reallocate resources quickly when need arises. It has invested in five victim engagement officers (who support victims of serious sexual or domestic abuse offences) by using unfilled detective constable posts. However, in some areas, the force hasn’t seen these benefits. In 2018, the SDA designated the cyber hub as ‘critical’ due to staff shortages and high workloads. Earlier this year, the force moved two staff members from the CAVAA unit to the cyber hub. The risk was diminished. But the CAVAA unit has now been risk assessed as ‘critical’ due to staff shortages. So, although the force has well-established processes for identifying changes in demand, it is sometimes less able to mitigate impacts elsewhere because of underlying capacity and capability limitations.

Workforce capabilities

Bedfordshire Police is making some progress in developing its workforce to meet current and future demands. The force is helped by its comprehensive knowledge of the type and scale of current demands on its services, as gained through the ongoing PBB and SDA processes. But the force doesn’t yet have a completed skills audit or gap analysis to identify the skills it lacks.

Together with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, the force is currently developing its understanding of current staff capability and critical gaps. The learning and development department works closely with department heads to gain a better understanding of training and development needs. It is doing this through a training needs analysis. Department heads are responsible for development and succession planning, and they have access to a ‘toolkit’ to help them identify critical posts. Departmental heads and managers are keeping local skills records, and some officers told us that they had recently been asked about their current skills. But the force’s human resources ICT system doesn’t allow ready access to skills records, and a new system won’t be available until mid-2020. This may limit current understanding, because senior leaders can’t look across departments easily.

The force has developed clear plans to improve support to leaders at all levels. In 2018, it launched two leadership and development programmes: the ‘further you’ programme aims to improve the leadership skills of all staff, and the ‘be you’ programme aims to improve the leadership skills of those at chief inspector level and above. These programmes have clear objectives, such as improving how leaders manage cultural change. The force is also focusing on succession planning. It knows that it has work to do in mitigating the impact of impending retirements, particularly at the superintendent rank.

More efficient ways of working

The force has clear plans to make better use of technology. The ICT department is working closely with human resources to make sure that officers have the skills they need to get the best from technology, now and in the future.

The force has sound arrangements to identify the benefits from change programmes, and to monitor their impact. However, there are times when the force isn’t realising these benefits quickly enough, and sometimes there are limited options to mitigate against this. Often, these delays are caused by unforeseen changes in demand or staffing levels. For example, the increase in numbers of new recruits have placed an added burden on overtime budgets without the operational benefits because officers are new to policing and inexperienced. But such delays are referred quickly to chief officers through effective management structures.

The force has a track record of making savings. It is also making further savings and achieving measurable outcomes from savings plans. The PBB process has improved decision making by giving the force:

  • reliable information on the relative priority of its services;
  • opportunities for reinvestment, through better identification of priority areas; and
  • an improved understanding of the impact on the public of changing those services.

This has led to savings in the contact centre, for example. The force quickly streamlined existing senior management structures there, and recruited a single police officer lead for the control centre and crime bureau.

Working with others

The force is highly committed to working with partners and external organisations to give the public a better service. During our fieldwork, we spoke to the force’s partner organisations. They were positive about the progress that the force has made, as shown by its understanding of some people as both victims and offenders. They were also aware that the force had commissioned an evaluation of its approach to child sexual exploitation by external national organisations. There was also a positive view of a recent knife crime awareness event, where police and partner organisations had discussed likely causes of knife crime, and better ways of working.

Bedfordshire Police has a long-standing commitment of co-operation and collaboration with other police forces, as well as emergency services and organisations. This approach realises efficiencies and gives the best service to the public. The force continues to derive benefits through its strategic tri-force collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, and now the seven-force Eastern Region collaboration. 

The collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies is mature. It confers benefits through a range of shared services including human resources, custody and specialist armed capabilities. All three forces regularly evaluate and monitor the collaboration. Because of its enduring and progressive nature, this collaboration continues to identify more efficient ways of working. A recent example is the joint procurement of a Police Education Qualification Framework provider.

Using technology

Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies have a clearly defined ICT strategy. They also have a separate digital strategy, which aims to support local and national policing plans. The three forces have a clear objective to improve operational efficiency and public engagement.

In 2018, Bedfordshire Police introduced the new crime, custody and intelligence computer system, Athena. Staff had worked hard to avoid delays in introducing the system. During fieldwork, we spoke to staff in focus groups and interviews, and saw them at work. Users widely regard Athena as an obstacle to the effective discharge of many important duties.

Staff told us that Athena has caused more work for officers who are preparing case files for the Crown Prosecution Service. It takes them far longer to complete the process than before. We were also told that the system is unstable, and can be unavailable for extended and frequent periods. We reviewed a selection of crime files that were held on Athena, and experienced an extended period of the system’s unavailability first-hand.

The force told us that Athena hasn’t yet given it the benefits or savings it had anticipated, and that it was speaking with its supplier to agree solutions. The need for solutions to these problems is clear, because the current operational impact is acute: the system is reducing productivity in key areas such as crime investigation. We will monitor this situation closely in the months ahead.

Summary for question 1

How well does the force plan for the future?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should ensure that it has a better understanding of public expectations, so it can monitor changes to them and consider opportunities to provide a better, more efficient service.
  • The force should make sure that future recruitment and staff development are supported by a functional and adequately resourced human resources team.
  • The force should develop a comprehensive skills strategy to identify what future capabilities its workforce will need.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the force’s performance in this area.

Assessing future demand for services

Bedfordshire Police is good at analysing demand trends. And the force uses the outcomes from its demand analysis to guide its planning for the future. It uses the SDA to assess demand. This helps it to understand its key demand risks by assessing and comparing the sufficiency, effectiveness and efficiency of its assets to meet current demands, and expected future demands. Five of the seven functions that the SDA has judged as facing a critical or severe demand risk are detective functions.

In February 2019, the force commissioned an external agency to give quantitative estimates of future demand. These projections are based on statistical techniques and spanned more than 50 aspects of public contact, crime and safeguarding, to ensure that the predictions included areas of high and emerging risk. The research found that the number of available police hours has been outstripped by the hours needed to meet demand since early 2017. Also, the shortfall in available officer hours per month is forecast to reach 31,500 hours by 2023. According to the force, this means that it will need 282 additional officers by 2023, at an estimated cost of £20.5m over three years. Currently, the force doesn’t have this funding.

The force has sought to secure ICT improvements to achieve efficiencies. Its digital strategy with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies aims to offer the public additional ways to contact them. All three police organisations are aware that some people don’t want to contact the police through established channels, such as by dialling 101. Consequently, it is planning to launch a ‘police single online home’ in 2020. Simple enquiries from the public will be handled in an automated way, so the force can direct staff to where they are most needed. Given the resourcing challenges it faces, the force needs to make sure that its technology-related projects maximise benefits

Understanding public expectations

The force requires improvement in how well it talks to and works with members of the public, to find out their expectations and to monitor how those expectations may be changing. The force does carry out surveys of particular groups (such as victims of crime). And it works well with communities. It keeps them well informed, and they give the force feedback about their priorities or concerns.

But some of the force’s change programmes (such as the PBB process) don’t take direct account of public expectations. Also, they are limited to focusing on the force’s priorities, with the force trusting that these priorities reflect public expectations. Consequently, the force doesn’t yet have a developed knowledge of how public expectations are changing, and what potential challenges or opportunities these changes present. This understanding is likely to be essential if the force is to reduce any of its services in the future.


The force’s priorities are informed by its understanding of future demand. A strong link exists between its priorities and its resource allocation plans. Recently, it has allocated extra resources to areas of the organisation that are likely to experience increases in future demand. It has received additional funding from a recent council tax precept increase. It is investing this funding in strengthening its workforce in areas that are public and force priorities, such as community hubs. This approach also supports the police and crime commissioner’s aim of offering a balanced service in both urban and rural areas. The force’s recruitment of 160 officers will allow it to fully replace those who leave in 2019/20, as well as increasing overall resources by a further 60 police officers. This is a significant investment for the force, and its largest for more than a decade. It means that the force can build its preventative and problem-solving capability. Specifically, it can do this by increasing its community presence, which will give it more ability to reduce the level of demand that it needs to respond to and investigate.

Future workforce

The force has a three-year workforce plan to ensure that it and its two collaborated police organisations have sufficient officers, community special constables, PCSOs and police staff with the necessary skills. Chief officers review the plan every year. Mid-year adjustments take account of changes in resourcing needs.

However, the force may not yet have enough understanding of its future workforce skills and capabilities. There have been delays in the procurement of new human resources software. These delays have hindered the force’s progress in achieving a detailed plan. This means that the force’s future workforce needs are currently unclear, which may make financial planning problematic.

The force has embraced innovative recruitment methods and is attracting suitable candidates, including through the accelerated detective constable programme. It has made good use of the Police Now graduate entry programme. Currently, 12 officers are fulfilling a variety of roles in the force. The SDA informs workforce training schedules. These schedules are planned to meet forecasted demands across the three collaborated forces of Bedfordshire Police and Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies. However, the prudent nature of police budgeting also means that training courses have to be booked on the basis of reliable forecasts. At the time of our inspection fieldwork, there was more recruitment activity across all three forces than had been anticipated. This activity is challenging Bedfordshire Police’s ability to secure enough training in some areas, such as driver training courses for new staff. In turn, this has an impact on the number of officers who can respond to emergencies. The force has responded to this issue by reaching an agreement for driver training with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Finance plans

In the 2016 PEEL inspection reports, we said:

“Bedfordshire Police has low levels of funding compared with other forces.”

“The volume and complexity of crimes it deals with in some parts of the county, for example Luton, compares with the crime profile of a London borough.”

“Bedfordshire Police faces a more acute financial challenge than most other forces and in Luton the complexity and high volume of crime represent a significant operational challenge for a small force with very stretched resources.”

In our 2017 efficiency report, we found that Bedfordshire Police continued to face significant financial challenges. The force has worked hard to understand current and future demand, and to match its resources accordingly. But its financial future is precarious. And current central funding arrangements don’t allow it to plan with any degree of certainty.

The force aligns its medium-term financial plan to other plans, such as the PBB process. The force is projecting that it will face a funding gap of £13.8m over the medium term, from 2019/20 to 2022/23. The assumptions within the medium-term financial plan are based on no further increase in the central government grant, and on council tax increases being capped at two percent from 2020 onwards. These are sound assumptions. The force has also made provision for staff salary increases, as the large number of recently recruited staff progress through the pay scales. The force appears to be planning that it will continue to receive the £1.1m pensions grant each year. Currently, there can be no certainty of this. Also, it doesn’t cover the force’s increased pension costs of £2.5m.

The challenge for the force is clear. And, over several years, the force has drawn on the police and crime commissioner’s reserves to support annual revenue spending. The reserves had been built up, but are now at low levels. In March 2018, they stood at £8m. By 2021, they are predicted to total just £2m. This means that the force has very limited reserves to fall back on, both now and in the medium term, if spending continues to outstrip income.

The force is making savings. At the same time, it is continuing to invest in priority areas that matter to local people. However, some of its redundancy costs have been higher than expected, and it hasn’t realised some of its planned savings in this financial year. In 2018/19, it was facing a serious financial challenge in funding the shortfall between its income and its expenditure on policing. To meet this gap, it was successful in obtaining a Home Office special grant of £4.6m to support spending on policing organised crime and gang violence. This grant contributed to an underspend of £400,000. In addition, the police and crime commissioner increased the council tax precept by the maximum allowable amount (that is, by £24 per household), which supported the force’s ambitious recruitment plans.

The force is still reliant on securing a Home Office special grant in 2019. Again, it needs this to offset the cost of dealing with gang violence. But special grants are intended for unexpected and exceptional events. And the force shouldn’t presume that financial assistance will be available, particularly for a policing problem that now appears to be established and persistent. The force may be better served by an initial funding settlement that more accurately reflects the high demand being placed on it by established crime types in its urban centres.

Leadership and workforce development

In 2017, we identified an area for improvement: we said that the force needed to ensure that it understands its leadership capacity and capability below the rank of chief inspector, including police staff equivalents.

There has been slow progress in the force’s understanding of, and plans for, its future workforce skills and capabilities. It still doesn’t have a comprehensive audit of skills and capabilities. But it has some basic understanding of operational and technical competencies of police officers, including some wider skills such as leadership.

Bedfordshire Police’s human resources function is provided through the tri-force collaboration arrangement with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies. The human resources function has limited capacity to offer Bedfordshire Police consistent levels of strategic support. This applies to the force’s need to make sure that its workforce planning, and learning and development, align fully with future demand and future finances. This lack of capacity is having an impact on the ability of the human resources function to support important workstreams, such as talent management and succession planning.

Despite these challenges, the force has embraced new recruitment programmes, including Police Now. And this year it has recruited 13 interns as part of its summer internship scheme. Ten of the interns will work in the force for nine weeks, and three will remain in post for ten months. The ‘further you’ and ‘be you’ leadership and development programmes have proved successful in improving the force’s talent management support, and promoting diverse leadership teams. But this success hasn’t yet translated into results. 

Ambition to improve

Bedfordshire Police is an ambitious force with a positive culture. The force has prioritised greater joint working with statutory partners, particularly where there is shared demand (such as for safeguarding). For example, it is supportive of a single MASH for the county. However, there are political and demographic differences between the three unitary authorities in Bedfordshire. The single MASH and other plans involving the local authorities may not be a realistic ambition in the short or medium term, if the savings of such arrangements aren’t highly persuasive. Currently, the force doesn’t have a clear estimate of the efficiencies to be made through its vision for better joint working. But it is aware of the need to construct convincing business cases to support its ambitions.

The force has also shown its ability to effectively plan and manage change. For example, during 2018/19, it successfully implemented a significant change programme: the launch of Athena. Initially, the launch was subject to major delay, and there have been subsequent ongoing operational problems. But, once agreed, this change programme was well led and well managed: it was achieved on time, with minimal disruption to the force. However, the pace of future change may be slowed by resource shortages in key support areas such as human resources, and learning and development. And this risk may be heightened by the pressure of more recruits.

Currently, the force has no firm plans to reduce services. It is clear that if, in the future, it wants to reduce its services, it will need to consult the public. The PBB process has focused the police budget on the force’s priorities, and has fully costed each function. But the force will find it challenging to make future investments in infrastructure or assets to save money. This is because of tight financial constraints and ongoing uncertainty about funding.

Summary for question 2