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Sussex PEEL 2018


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

Last updated 21/01/2020
Requires improvement

Sussex Police has a good understanding of public demand. The force uses specialist software to understand the nature and complexity of the crimes it deals with and how these shape demand.

However, the force’s approach to managing demand isn’t working as it expects. For example, officers gave examples of inefficiencies in their roles. These included travelling long distances to deal with prisoners in custody who could be dealt with by officers nearby. Also, officers work in isolation, which may mean they are duplicating the work of other staff.

The force is under pressure. Officers face high levels of stress and sickness. Calls are being missed. For example, in March 2019, 45 percent of calls transferred to 101 were abandoned.

The force is good at working with outside partners like the ambulance service to make sure it can support vulnerable people who repeatedly contact the emergency services.

The force will recruit an extra 100 PCSOs to expand its prevention teams and help manage local priorities. Change programme governance has improved and management of low-risk incidents is now good.

Sussex Police is good at planning future demand using innovative technology. It is working hard to understand future demand and how its complexity will shape its response. 

Questions for Efficiency


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

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The force should review its assessment and management of demand and make the necessary changes to meet current demand.
  • The force should review its existing policies in relation to the local policing model to ensure they are being implemented and are working as intended

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

Sussex Police has completed demand analysis for individual projects such as the force management statement. This shows an increase in demand across the force.

Also, the contact transformation programme has a detailed business case that uses demand analysis to design a new model for contact management. The force provides senior managers with a performance pack every month. Plus, there is analytical support for further work on areas highlighted as concerns.

The force is now developing analytical work through PowerBi software. This will help it understand the nature and complexity of the crimes it deals with, and how these affect demand. We will monitor this with interest.

The force uncovers some hidden demand through its prevention teams and operations such as Discovery – a multi-agency approach led by the police to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery. But it is unclear how the force uses data from these operations to understand demand.

In the meantime, Sussex Police is struggling to meet its current demand.

On average, over the year to March 2019, 43 percent of public 101 calls transferred to the contact centre from the switchboard were not answered. For example, in March 2019, there were 30,183 calls transferred to 101 – and 45 percent (12,905 calls) were abandoned. Calls to the police have increased by 3.5 percent over the past year. Call incident logs show that the force is regularly finding it difficult to resource demand for incidents that need prompt or urgent attendance. The force is aware of this and seeking to understand why.

The force has taken steps to respond to the increased public demand as follows: in the areas of investigations and public protection it plans to create an extra 36 posts to supplement existing resources. It has an investigative improvement plan to increase its number of detectives, and will recruit an extra 100 PCSOs to expand its prevention teams and help manage local priorities.

We will be seeking further evidence from the force to demonstrate its inability to meet current demand has been resolved.

Understanding factors that influence demand

Sussex Police needs to do more to understand the factors that influence demand.The force has policies it expects to be carried out for managing demand around responding to emergency calls. This includes telling officers where and when to attend incidents, rather than asking for any officer available to attend (‘Task not ask’). It also uses the best available resources to attend, not necessarily from response teams.

The force introduced ‘borderless’ response. This means that the nearest available officer can be deployed anywhere in the county, and is not kept to a specific area or district. The force also says that officers should patrol alone, except in situations where they may be sent with another officer. This increases the number of staff available to attend to emergency calls.

However, these policies aren’t often applied. Response officers are very largely ‘asked’ to respond by the control room, based on divisional boundaries that shouldn’t apply. Two officers patrolling together is common and specialist resources, such as investigators, are rarely deployed first.

The force isn’t sticking to its own policies. So it isn’t managing demand in the way it means to.

Officers gave examples of inefficiencies in their daily role. These included travelling long distances to deal with prisoners in custody who could be dealt with by officers nearby. Another example was officers working in isolation, which may mean they are duplicating the work of other staff.

Officers in investigation teams are routinely taken away to support response teams or for force-wide commitments. This is despite the force recognising that these teams face some of the biggest pressures in the force. This means they don’t make progress on the crimes they are investigating.

In collaboration with Surrey Police, the force has a staff forum, an online portal called ‘Innovate’, for staff to post ideas. The force would benefit from encouraging officers to identify inefficiencies, so it can take action.

Working with others to meet demand

Sussex Police demonstrates that it is willing to work with other organisations to reduce demand and give a better service to the public. For example, the force dedicates one person to review high-volume repeat calls. It also works with partners like the ambulance service to make sure it can support vulnerable people who repeatedly contact the emergency services. Over a two-year period, this approach has successfully reduced repeat calls by 6,000.

The force also leads a daily phone-in with representatives from Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service. They discuss resourcing issues, demand and significant incidents.

Mental health partners are frustrated at not being able to contact the force directly without using the 101 number. This is made worse by the delays we have already mentioned.

There are examples of up to 24-hour delays for mental health services to accept the handover of care of mental health patients from the police. The force needs to recognise the impact this has on demand for both services and make changes.

The force’s analytical team reviews force performance at a bi-monthly ‘grading meeting’. It highlights and prioritises any concerns so it can take action. For example, the force recently highlighted that it records a high number of crimes for possession of offensive weapons compared with other forces. The grading meeting agrees terms of reference and methodology with relevant interested parties – like police safety teams. It then reviews processes, data and qualitative evidence, including reviewing how other forces are managing the problem. The force then puts the right processes and mitigation in place.

Sussex Police has a strong partnership with Surrey Police and collaborates fully, sharing resources across operations command, specialist crime command, information technology (IT) and people services. The force continues to look for opportunities for further cost savings through collaborations with Surrey, Thames Valley, Kent and Hampshire forces. Sussex Police also works with the fire and ambulance services to identify opportunities to collaborate on estate and fleet provision. For example, the force and fire service have combined fleet workshops.

Innovation and new opportunities

The force invests in staff to improve innovation and best practice. For example, it has recently reinvigorated its ‘Prospero’ knowledge exchange. This includes investing in three extra posts to support research. The research will inform evidence-based policing, working with academic partners, sharing knowledge through seminars, meetings and online, and promoting new and improved practices.

The force finds innovative ways to develop new funding. It has employed staff with specific skills to develop this work. For example, any new housing or business development has an impact on policing resources. By law, developers have to consider the impact of development on public services under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, providing financial compensation for planning permission to be granted.

The force has employed a town and country planner to increase opportunities to get financial contributions from private developers under the Act. It has already secured £1m in capital funding as a result.

Investment and benefits

Sussex Police has improved its governance around change programmes since our last inspection in 2017. The force collaborates with Surrey Police holding a joint change board that reviews and prioritises change projects across both forces.

Investment decisions can be taken to either the change board or a joint chief finance officer board with Surrey. The latter is for decisions on investment outside the change programme, like the capital programme. The force carefully scrutinises every decision.

Both forces demonstrate a good track record for making savings. When they see savings, they remove them from budgets. The force sees non-cashable savings, but there is limited evidence that it can demonstrate what has been achieved.

For example, both Sussex and Surrey Police introduced handheld mobile devices to be more efficient. But neither has measured the benefit so there is limited evidence of success. Sussex Police should make sure that identifying non-cashable efficiencies improves performance and outcomes.

Prioritising different types of demand

The force has improved how it manages lower-risk incidents. But it needs to do more to manage the rest of its demand. 

Demand that the force assesses as a lower priority (around half) is sent to the investigation resolution centre (IRC) to be dealt with. The IRC used to be called the ‘incident resolution centre’. But the force renamed it to recognise the number of investigations that it deals with, and to reflect the force’s investment to support the teams with qualified detectives.

Staff effectively prioritise all incidents using a colour-coded rating. The IRC has a service level agreement to respond to the public within 48 hours. Most incidents we reviewed during the inspection were appropriately allocated to the IRC – an improvement on our previous inspection.

However, in our 2017 efficiency inspection, we said the force should ensure that it has enough resources to fulfil its resourcing model, and so meet demand, while also considering workforce wellbeing. It is disappointing to see that the force has made limited progress outside the IRC.

The force is running ‘hot’. This means it doesn’t have enough resources to meet demand. Many staff feel burnt out.

On average, police take 16 minutes to attend an emergency call. But calls graded for a prompt response are averaging nearly a three-hour wait.

People, including those involved in domestic abuse incidents, are sometimes waiting days for an officer. The force discusses high-risk incidents that need prompt action in daily meetings. But these incidents are often carried over to the following day as higher-priority incidents take precedence.

Officers describe their workloads as high. Teams across the whole force report high levels of stress. The force has the fourth highest sickness absence rate in the country (5.2 absences per officer). There is limited evidence of the force redistributing resources to meet operational pressures.

Assigning resources to demand and understanding their costs

Sussex Police has a good understanding of the costs of its services. It appreciates what service can be provided at what cost. The force’s funding per head of population is lower than that of many others. It relies considerably on council tax to boost funding.

Council tax has been set at the maximum for several years and the police and crime commissioner (PCC) has indicated that this will continue. The force manages finance well. We found good examples of managing contracts, using assets and generating income.

The force has met its target savings throughout austerity. It has further plans to achieve savings of around £3m, without having an impact on operational areas.

The force plans to increase its establishment (the number of staff budgeted for) in the areas it has decided are at the highest risk through increased demand. It has carried out considerable demand and financial analysis to support its position. Recruitment will take some time, and it is less clear how the force will manage demand more effectively in the meantime.

Workforce capabilities

In our 2017 efficiency inspection, we said that the force should carry out activities to fully understand its workforce’s capabilities, identify any gaps and put plans in place to address them. It has made progress, but there is still room for improvement.

The force has a limited but improving understanding of the skills it needs. It recognises that there is a knowledge gap across the workforce. It has now carried out a skills audit for most managers and it is confident that it has a good understanding of the skills they have. But it is unclear how it intends to address any skills gaps or use the information to plan for the future when staff leave.

The force has not yet done the same skills audit for the wider workforce. But it plans to do so to inform Equip – its new human resources software launching later in 2019.

The force doesn’t understand how the skills needed will change in the future. This means that it can’t fully identify the skills gaps that it needs to fill, through either recruitment or training. The force would benefit from a workforce plan more linked to demand and future operational needs.

More efficient ways of working

In 2017, the force allocated resources based on its new local policing model. But an unanticipated increase in demand since then meant the workforce was stretched and struggling to meet demand. Neighbourhood policing, and so crime prevention, was suffering because of reduced resources. It is a similar picture in 2019.

However, the force has reinvested in extra establishment posts. In the past financial year (2018/19), it focused on strengthening local policing with 250 police officer posts. In 2019/20, it has decided to invest in 100 extra PCSOs and 50 specialist staff and investigators, considering business requirements, public expectations and demand.

Sussex Police monitors its performance on a day-to-day basis, reviewing demand against resources. It hopes that in the longer term, additional staff will help to meet the unmet demand. Also, force processes are scrutinised within the change programme. But it is unclear how this all comes together in the management of future plans for greater efficiency.

The force has a good track record for making savings. It has made savings of £100m since 2010/11, including £12m in the past financial year.

Working with others

The force is committed to working with others to offer a better service to the public.

It has collaborated widely with Surrey Police and achieved considerable savings as a result. Because the forces have already joined departments where possible, there is limited opportunity for further collaboration. But the forces continue to save money through joint approaches to finance and technology.

Sussex and Surrey Police use the same governance structures to oversee both forces’ change programmes. Sussex Police considers whether any proposal can be applied to both forces.

The forces have evaluated completed change programmes for savings. But it is unclear whether they have carried out a more comprehensive analysis of the wider benefits of their joint departments, to inform future decision making.

Using technology

The force has an innovative technology strategy. In collaboration with Surrey Police, it is forming a new digital division. This will create a new set of foundations to simplify commercial contracts and create savings. The team will feature both officers and staff. They will review digital transformation across the whole organisation (like digital forensics, the paedophile online investigation team, body-worn video) to make sure that staff using the technology get the maximum benefit.

The force has a capital programme for IT investment. This includes network infrastructure as well as investing in specific systems such as Equip, which it believes will create further efficiencies.

Summary for question 1

How well does the force plan for the future?


Areas for improvement

  • The force should undertake appropriate activities to understand fully its workforce’s capacity and capability to identify any gaps in meeting future requirements, put plans in place to address these, and carry these out.

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

The force is good at identifying and assessing emerging or likely future demand for its services. This is a big improvement since our last inspection in 2017.

It has invested in innovative new IT software called ‘PowerBi’, which predicts current and future demand. Plus, it also assesses how severe the demand is to create a more informed analysis.

The force is starting to use this tool to measure the complexity of investigations as well as the number of active investigations. It will use this information to plan more effectively.

In developing the tool, the force has already shown it can identify the most demanding investigative workloads down to individual level. It is currently piloting it on divisions to see how it can achieve the maximum benefit. We will monitor this with interest.

The force is using work on hidden demand to improve services using data analytics and professional judgment.

The new digital division will start to look at risks and opportunities from technology used by the police and criminals. But it is too early to say whether it will consider how technology may help reduce, or increase, future demand.

Understanding public expectations

The force has a good understanding of what the public expects of it. It consults members of the public, but could do more to specifically address their changing expectations of the police.

The force has a Citizen Focus team that completes public satisfaction surveys. It tries to use the public’s views in projects when appropriate and it uses social media to engage with the public.

The PCC also carries out quite extensive public consultation. This includes consulting smaller community focus groups and holding larger community conversations alongside the chief constable. This helps it understand the public’s view of, and confidence levels in, Sussex Police. It also aims to understand concerns about local community problems.

The public has various ways to contact the force through the PCC’s website.


Sussex Police is trying to balance public expectation and demand.

The force has comprehensively analysed its data to identify and categorise gaps in demand and capability across the force. This is based on current and predicted demand.

The areas it describes as the most critical involve a lack of detectives, particularly in public protection and investigation roles. The force has a comprehensive plan in place to address this. This includes making the work more effective in attracting and retaining detectives, developing career paths and providing financial incentives.

The force identified more moderate gaps in local policing, specifically in response and prevention teams. This is mainly because demand is increasingly complex.

Public consultation has informed the force’s decision to increase its prevention team’s PCSO establishment by 100. The force has decided to increase its officer establishment by 36 to support the critical gaps in public protection and investigations.

It isn’t clear how these numbers relate to the force’s own analysis, which prioritises public protection and investigations over the seemingly more moderate gaps in prevention teams.

Future workforce

In our 2017 efficiency inspection, we said that the force should undertake appropriate activities to fully understand its workforce’s capabilities, to identify any gaps and put plans in place to address them.

The force has made some progress but could do more. It does have a workforce plan, but there is limited evidence that this is based on changing demand. It has taken steps to understand the skills and capabilities of its leaders, but not the wider workforce.

Therefore, the force does not have the full picture in relation to the skills and capabilities of the workforce, and so the plan cannot be comprehensive. The national shortage of detectives is starting to affect the force.

The force is hopeful that Equip, its new computer system for human resource functions, will be able to address some of these issues.

The force has used direct entry for inspectors and fast-track schemes, and it has some Police Now candidates. It has an active volunteer programme and is addressing key skill shortages like a lack of detectives, which is a national problem.

The number of detectives in the force is gradually falling. It is currently 47 below establishment (the total number of detectives budgeted for). The force has a comprehensive plan including financial incentives and more developed career paths to attract people into the role.

Finance plans

The force is good at financial planning. It has raised £24m in increased council tax and used some reserves to smooth the change over time. In 2019/2020, 90 percent of this money has been spent on officers and staff posts.

However, not all this money has been spent on staffing because the force understands this won’t be affordable in the long term. It has reduced its savings gap to £3m and made assumptions about inflation, funding settlements and pay in its midterm financial plan. The force currently has £39.75m in reserves. This is down from £54.25m in 2017/18. It is going to continue to use those reserves to support its financial spending position, forecasting 6 percent of its net revenue budget in reserves in 2022/23.

The force’s workforce and finance plans are closely co-ordinated with its priorities.It plans to make further savings, to effectively use its reserves and assets.

The force’s planning assumptions are reasonable and agreed with the PCC. However, the force has assumed that the 2019/20 pension grant will continue in future years. This isn’t guaranteed. The force should create alternative plans assuming this funding will end.

Leadership and workforce development

The force has a good understanding of its workforce and leaders at first-line (sergeant and equivalent) level. But it needs to develop this more.

The force has a clear and comprehensive first-line leaders’ development pathway to identify, select and promote people to first-line leadership. It developed this following an essential skills audit of first-line officers and staff in early 2018. The audit, which achieved an 85 percent response rate, captured and recognised existing knowledge. It saved £350,000 in unnecessary training for officers and staff.

The force has used the data to see capability gaps and risks at a force, division and individual level. However, it is unclear how it intends to fill those gaps. It is in the process of replicating the audit for second-line leaders and middle managers.

Succession planning allows a force to make sure that skills don’t disappear when staff leave. There is no formal succession planning process and officers are moved between teams without consideration for the gaps they leave behind. There doesn’t appear to be any succession planning for senior leaders.

The force is taking positive steps to monitor workforce information to identify and understand disparities in recruitment, retention and progression across different protected characteristics.

Ambition to improve

Sussex Police has ambitions to improve.

The force has an extensive change programme covering around 100 projects. It is set to review almost every part of the organisation.

The change programme is well governed and documented, and adequately resourced. The force identifies savings and removes them from budgets. There is good co-ordination between human resources, finance and the change programme.

The force reviews changes after they are put in place. But it is clear that the local policing model is not working as intended. This has an impact on demand, because there are fewer resources available to use than intended.

It is hoped that recruitment plans will resolve unmet demand in the long term. But it is unclear how the force plans to meet the increased demand with the resources it has in the short term.

The force would benefit from a review of its local policing model to ensure that it is maximising its current resources against the increased demand.

Summary for question 2