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Durham PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 02/05/2019

Durham Constabulary remains outstanding in the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.

The constabulary assesses future demand well, using a sophisticated approach. It strives to understand what the public expects, and to manage their expectations. Its future workforce plans are strong and recruitment tightly managed. The constabulary’s financial plans are sound, realistic and aligned with its priorities. It looks for continuous improvement rather than transformation.

The constabulary’s ICT strategy is impressive and comprehensive. This seeks to develop products and services that meet identified needs.

The constabulary has refined its approach to leadership over the last four years. This includes a talent development programme as well as examining organisational attitudes and behaviours.

Its medium-term financial plan is based on credible assumptions. These include:

  • a summary of expected funding; and
  • its use of reserves aligned against workforce budgeted posts for the number of police officers, staff and PCSOs.

In 2017 we assessed the constabulary as outstanding for meeting current demand and using its resources.

Questions for Efficiency


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


This question was not subject to detailed inspection in 2018/19, and our judgment from the 2017 efficiency inspection has been carried over.


How well does the force plan for the future?


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

Assessing future demand for services

The constabulary reviews its demand profile every year and projects forward the likely demand for services. As part of the annual planning cycle, the constabulary has a strategic planning day each January. This examines and reviews all the demand for the constabulary in the previous 12 months. It also makes projections for the next 12 months. These are based on incident data, partnership information and PESTLE (political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal and environmental) analysis. The understanding of demand is assessed through the causes of demand and what poses the greatest risk, such as vulnerability, health problems, mental health crisis, drug use and abuse, and vulnerable adults and children. Resource levels are reviewed against this information and whether growth is needed in any areas due to growing demand. Cyber-related crime and safeguarding are two examples. The demand profile also takes account of the effect of preventative and diversionary work to reduce offending.

Value for money profiles, which provide comparative data on a range of policing activities, are reviewed annually, when the data is published. Where the constabulary has an outlier for a service area, the manager of that area undertakes a review to understand the reasons behind that and whether efficiencies can be made in that area. A report is produced for the PCVC. This outlines what the constabulary said it was going to do a year ago with an update on what has happened since, and progress in this area.

The constabulary undertakes an in-depth study into all areas of demand. It assesses current demand levels and issues of vulnerability, taking account of unnecessary demand and considering whether resources are sufficient to meet projected levels of future demand. We saw examples of the use of benchmarking data to determine whether the level of resources applied to each area is appropriate. The constabulary checks its understanding of demand in various ways. They include staff focus groups, user feedback, surveys and process mapping. During the inspection, we saw examples of how these processes feed into decision making.

We saw compelling evidence of a sophisticated approach being taken to emerging demand analysis. They include work done to understand: the effect of a high number of children’s homes and the increase in missing-from-home cases; the effect of changes in the benefits system on shoplifting rates; and the effect on local levels of recruitment by major employers like the armed forces.

The strategic planning framework ensures that financial resources and the workforce plan are aligned to the constabulary’s understanding of demand.

The constabulary has an impressive and comprehensive ICT strategy. The constabulary has a culture of encouraging leaders to consider how digitalisation and ICT could improve service standards or drive efficiencies – and how ICT can assist in crime investigation and the approach to policing today. An example of this is the response to missing people. Staff have been trained in the control room to become digital media investigators, ensuring 24/7 access to this skill. Traditionally, the police responded to missing persons by using officers in patrol vehicles to search frequented locations for missing people. By using digital media investigators placed in the control room in the initial response to missing people, it has identified the location of the missing person more quickly and deployed fewer resources.

Invest-to-save initiatives are encouraged as part of the culture of continuous improvement. A professional and forward-thinking IT department, which seeks to develop products and services that meet identified needs, supports Durham Constabulary. An ambitious digitalisation plan is supported through the constabulary IT strategy. Officers are equipped with mobile devices that are aligned with constabulary policy and operational guidelines and are fit for purpose. 

Understanding public expectations

The constabulary has undertaken consultation and engagement to understand what the public want and how expectations are changing. The force management statement, which also contains the constabulary’s strategic threat and risk assessment, has been shared with partner agencies concerning future demand areas. It has also been used to inform the public about the threats and resourcing pressures that the police have to contend with, which are not necessarily obvious to the public. It creates an opportunity for debate with the public via the Office of the Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner (OPCVC) about what can be provided within the available resources. Consultation is continuing between the constabulary and the public. These processes include ‘police and community together’ (PACT) meetings – which now include use of social media in the form of digital PACT meetings – victim surveys, which are monitored monthly, and confidence surveys. Neighbourhood policing command concentrate much of their daily activity on engaging with the public. The constabulary attends large community events, such as Pride, to encourage people who in the past might have had concerns or a lack of trust in reporting issues to the police. The constabulary is also conscious of the importance of social media. It monitors Twitter and Facebook feeds for views and feedback on service delivery and design. The constabulary is looking at different ways to engage with the public. An example of this is ‘Facebook chat’ events.

The constabulary’s planning process is aligned with that of the OPCVC with a closer focus on engagement with minority groups. The constabulary has established an external ethics group, which contains representatives from the community. We saw evidence that the constabulary uses focus groups to inform policy and decide changes. One example is the introduction of the Checkpoint diversionary scheme, a deferred prosecution scheme for offenders who undertake a commitment not to re-offend.


A clear link exists between public consultation, planning and resource allocation. The constabulary engages with the public both formally and informally. It has used focus groups on specific issues, such as fraud and diversionary schemes, to understand the public’s views and to explain the constabulary’s approach. There are also regular formal PACT meetings, both online and traditional, surveys and more informal ‘meet a copper’ sessions. Together with the OPCVC consultation methods, they create a rich picture that informs the planning process.

The constabulary involves all relevant managers in developing its ‘plan on a page’. Financial and workforce plans are tailored accordingly. The commissioning board manages the implementation of change and any re-allocation of resources. We saw evidence of closely co-ordinated work taking place between finance, human resources and change departments to drive change. The chief constable has a commitment to attend as many calls for service as possible and a clear ethos of meeting the needs of the public, summarised as: ‘Do it once, do it well.’ Where officers do not attend calls, the response is appropriate, taking account of vulnerability and the wishes of the victim. The constabulary operates on a model of improving continuously rather than implementing large-scale change programmes. Where change is needed, such as where demand is changing, the focus is on whether things can be done differently in order to free up resources to meet demand. A good example of this is the digital leadership initiative. This seeks to harness new, more effective ways of working through the better use of IT. How this can work is shown by the approach taken to missing persons; harnessing social media and undertaking a digital media investigation can result in a far more effective outcome than reliance on traditional methods to trace and locate missing persons.

Future workforce

Essential skills are identified for every post in the organisation. This identification is refreshed every two years. A training plan aims to meet demand. It includes disclosure, firearms capability, investigative skills, and family liaison – and looks ahead for new requirements, such as IT developments and cyber investigation. The training plan is appropriately resourced through the financial training user group. This takes place every February. All commands, as well as finance and HR, are represented. All mandatory training is listed, and non-mandatory training is prioritised and authorised. This demonstrates the link between the constabulary’s ‘plan on a page’, financial planning, workforce planning and learning and development plans.

From this, training is prioritised against the constabulary’s most important priorities. This is then aligned against the workforce plan and budget. Career pathways are identified, and succession planning is in place. Where shortages occur in certain areas, such as in investigations and ICT, action has been taken to understand and address the issue. A new talent and leadership programme has been launched this year. This is open to everyone. The constabulary also funds two master’s degrees in criminology, open to one police officer and one staff member. A recruitment, retention and progression plan includes the main work streams, actions and progress – measured against the objectives of leadership and culture, retention, wellbeing and fulfilment.

All senior posts are advertised externally. One result of this is that three of the eight current superintendents were appointed externally. The constabulary does not currently take part in Police Now or direct entry schemes, although it has considered doing so.

Finance plans

Following its 2010 consultation about revaluing public-sector pensions, the government announced, in 2016 and 2018, reductions in the discount rate it uses to set contribution rates for the unfunded public service pension schemes. These include the police service pension scheme. A lower discount rate will result in higher contribution rates for the employer. The official notification of a lower rate in September 2018 did not allow police and crime commissioners (PCCs) time to include the effect of this in their financial planning. In December 2018, the government announced a pensions grant for 2019/20 for each PCC. It allocated funding to each force to specifically help the police pay for these increased costs in the next year. PCCs must now plan for how they will finance the increased costs in the following years, assessing the impact on their officer numbers and their ability to provide effective and efficient services.

The constabulary’s financial plans are built on realistic, sound assumptions about future funding levels, inflation and council tax levels, which are agreed with the OPCVC. The constabulary has also considered the possible effect of any changes in the national funding formula, and has presented a range of options to meet a reduced budget, if necessary. The financial plans are aligned with planning priorities, demand analysis and workforce and training plans. Durham Constabulary has benefited from the recent increases to the council tax precept. This has seen resources rise for the first time in years. Any savings required are met through improvements in working practices and internal efficiencies. Such savings are reinvested in priority areas.

The constabulary holds reserves of about £8.7m, about 7 percent of net revenue expenditure. It does not expect to call on these reserves in the foreseeable future. Capital expenditure is relatively stable, at about £3–4m per annum, mainly on vehicles and ICT. Any major estates schemes would be funded from a capital modernisation reserve.

Leadership and workforce development

The assistant chief officer within the constabulary oversees both finance and HR, which assists with information sharing and oversight. A three-year workforce plan is aligned to the medium-term financial strategy, with practical actions. An update is provided for each action in terms of what has happened – ‘We said, we did’. Recruitment of police officers is tightly managed. Understanding of the knock-on effect of recruitment is built into plans, such as stores, professional standards department and vetting, and learning and development.

Workforce planning is well developed and embedded within the organisation. The goal is to plan systematically for future workforce requirements in order to meet the organisation’s main challenges, develop the skills of staff as part of the ‘aiming for excellence’ ethos, and identify opportunities for working with others. Everything is underpinned by efficiency and cost effectiveness. The workforce plan outlines the workforce profile in terms of age, ethnicity, disability, and gender. Analysis includes the turnover rate and retirees. This is linked to future planning in terms of building leadership and management capability, developing workforce capability and skills, organisational alignment between HR, service planning and corporate/financial planning, wellbeing, and forward planning (succession planning and recruitment). Clear governance and accountability are in place around the plan.

The constabulary understands the roles that are difficult to recruit into. It now offers incentives for targeted posts. An example of this is ICT staff and developers. The constabulary is competing in this field against the London market; most developers can work from home. A 10 percent pay incentive is offered for these posts. The constabulary also works with the local universities. It uses interns within the ICT department as part of succession planning.

The new, supportive leadership approach has been developed in conjunction with the university and has been widely publicised. This approach has evolved in Durham Constabulary over the last four years. It rests on a combination of academic theory, staff surveys, and previous learning and analysis of what has worked. The approach to leadership underpins the strategic direction of the constabulary through organisational attitudes and behaviours, valuing people and talent development. A new talent scheme has just been launched and is inclusive of everyone. This three-tier framework aims to support the entire workforce. Level one is aimed at everyone in the organisation; it offers a range of proposed development resources, including leadership workshops, sessions and events, access to coaching and mentoring and lateral development in specialist roles and skill-sharing. Level two is aimed mainly at under-represented groups who may require bespoke development, depending on their needs. Level three targets those individuals who can make a difference to Durham Constabulary through their immediate contribution or, in the longer term, by demonstrating the highest levels of potential and ability to be an ‘intrepreneur’. At the time of the inspection, the scheme was being formally launched.

Ambition to improve

Durham Constabulary’s medium-term financial plan sets the constabulary budget until 2021/22. The medium-term financial and workforce plans are based on credible and sensible assumptions. Including a summary of expected funding and use of the reserves, it is aligned against workforce budgeted posts for the number of police officers, staff and PCSOs.

The constabulary has a clear vision for the future alongside a comprehensive understanding of current and future demand. The ethos in the organisation is of continuous improvement rather than transformation and whole-scale organisational change. The constabulary looks continually to both the public and private sectors for innovation and new approaches. The commissioning board is the governance for managing change in the organisation. All change projects and programmes are discussed at this meeting, which the deputy chief constable chairs. This enables the constabulary to better understand interdependencies and links through to ICT as well as partnership and collaborative working. It also informs the information management board, which manages information management and ICT provision in the organisation.

All projects and programmes include benefits realisation. These are tested with staff and scrutiny is provided as part of the information management board. Senior leaders from the NHS and education have subjected ICT provision and transformation in the organisation to external scrutiny.

The constabulary is constantly seeking new ways to collaborate. Its approach is to consider joint work with any other organisation whose culture fits that of Durham Constabulary, and which creates an opportunity to increase the efficiency of the service area. The constabulary is collaborating with several forces on forensics, operational support and ICT.

Durham Constabulary has made great efforts to understand what the workforce needs to be digitally competent and capable. A comprehensive digital transformation pilot is underway with Gloucester Constabulary and Essex Police to develop a local operating reference model. The constabulary views ICT as an enabler that can improve the way it works and traditional methods of police investigation. A ‘digital leadership programme’ has been designed to help leaders think about their area of service – and about how ICT can help to improve the service, enable it to do things differently and take a new approach to crime. The programme is designed for police staff and police officers in leadership posts, ranging from first-line supervisor to chief constable. The programme is designed specifically to fill the gaps that exist around digital leadership to help officers and staff to exploit data and technology, in support of the constabulary’s operational purpose in a confident, competent, capable and compliant way (4Cs). The launch of the 4Cs has allowed the constabulary to focus on what officers and staff require to become digitally competent. Durham Constabulary has examined its digital capability and capacity and has examined its processes and its preparedness to respond effectively to an ever-changing digital landscape. This has seen a change in strategic direction for the enabling services, fundamental to success in this area. The constabulary is now exploring ways to use technology to investigate crime in a more efficient and effective way. The digital leadership programme is being evaluated in conjunction with the College of Policing, and a local university is working with Durham Constabulary to explore formal accreditation for learning.

The constabulary has a clear understanding of the savings it needs to make over the next three years. These are based on prudent assumptions. This approach to financial management, and the strong approach taken to change management, should put the constabulary in a good position to meet the challenges of the future.

Summary for question 2