Warwickshire PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Warwickshire Police requires improvement in how it meets demand and uses resources.
Currently, the force shares many services with West Mercia Police. These include major crime investigations, business support services (including HR, finance, fleet and estates) and specialist services. It will be particularly important for Warwickshire Police to fully understand the demands on these services.
As both forces exit the alliance, there is no certainty as to how they will provide these services in the future. It is vital that adequate provision is maintained to enable them to meet demand.
Warwickshire Police is inadequate at planning for the future.
Warwickshire Police has a good understanding of the demands on its services but needs to fully anticipate future demand pressures. We are concerned that its important work to gain this understanding may be interrupted as the force’s relationship with West Mercia Police changes.
Given the substantial change to its operating model, the force should consult the public about its post-alliance planning.
By 8 October 2019, when the alliance will terminate, Warwickshire Police must have plans in place to maintain the full range of public services, especially in areas of highest risk.
How well does the force use its resources to meet the demand it faces?
Cause of concern
The force does not have suitable arrangements in place to make sure it can maintain the full range of public services when its alliance with West Mercia Police ends. There are gaps in its workforce skills assessment and weaknesses in its investigative approach.
To address this cause of concern, we recommend that the force should immediately:
- put in place plans to maintain the full range of public services by October 2019, particularly in the areas of highest risk;
- expand the skills project work to include an assessment of all skills, not only operational, and potential future skills requirements too, using this assessment to inform workforce planning; and
- conduct a review of the capability and capacity of officers to manage their investigative workload, to better understand investigative demand and the pressures placed upon officers.
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
Warwickshire Police has a good understanding of the demands on its services. A long-standing relationship with a commercial partner means that the force has access to an accurate, up-to-date profile of demand on which to base its operation. This has helped the force to continually refine its operating model. In April 2018, it made its latest adjustments. New features of the operating model include:
- the introduction of new shift patterns, including staggered start times, to make sure that more officers are available at times of peak demand;
- the introduction of IPTs to take pressure off 999/101 responders; and
- the realignment of the force’s mobile support unit, known as the operational patrol unit, to local policing areas.
The force also has new procedures for non-urgent calls for service. The IPTs now deal with reported incidents when there is neither a realistic chance of arresting offenders nor a pressing need for officers to attend immediately. This means that response officers have more time to respond to callers who urgently need help. Also, the force assesses that the IPTs now manage 16 percent of its non-urgent response workload. This again frees response officers to be more available for emergency and priority calls.
The IPT function is well organised. It manages more than 500 incidents per month. Staff report that standards of supervision are good and that the IPTs are concluding cases promptly. A survey carried out by the force shows that most callers are satisfied with the service they receive. According to an external review of the force’s policing model, officer availability is now better aligned to the demands placed on its services.
Understanding factors that influence demand
Since the force last adjusted its operating model, the improvements to the service it gives to the public are becoming noticeable. But there are undoubtedly times when demand is placing a strain on the force. Sometimes, more incidents need to be completed than the force can deal with. For example, over summer 2018, the force experienced substantial increases in demand. This led to many incidents going unresourced for too long. However, this shortcoming should be considered within the context of the force receiving 79,000 emergency 999 calls and 223,000 101 calls in 2018/19.
Staff also spoke of delays in the IMU in reassigning incidents to officers for investigation, and delays in the quality assurance of cases in the IMU. Problems with the management of investigations were compounded by the force experiencing complications with the introduction of a new crime recording system. We recognise that the force has increased staffing levels, and implemented new procedures, to address this issue. At the time of our inspection, it had cleared investigation allocation backlogs. And an internal review indicated that the position was stable.
During previous inspections, we have reported that the force has been innovative in developing its investigative capacity. The force has discontinued the established practice of having specialist investigative teams. Typically, these included specialist child abuse or sexual offence investigators. Successful investigations of this nature depend on the force having constructive working relationships with social care workers and other professionals who support vulnerable victims. The force’s specialist investigators developed these relationships well. However, in common with other forces, reported crimes of this nature have grown rapidly in number. To increase capacity to meet this additional demand, the force is training detectives to be ‘omnicompetent’. Its rationale is that omnicompetent investigators can carry more diverse workloads without being confined to a specialist area of expertise.
There were mixed views among detectives about the success of omnicompetence. Some of the workforce expressed a preference to keep specialisms, while others expressed support for multi-skilled detectives. It was clear to us that, at some police stations, officers felt overworked. We heard from officers and supervisors who were spending time off duty working remotely on laptops in an effort to manage their workload. We also found examples of officers investigating crime types for which they had not been trained. Officers were not always guaranteed access to experienced colleagues or supervisors. Their access to mentors was also limited.
The force is making efforts to fill its current investigator vacancies. The PCC has also approved an increase in detective numbers. This will be funded by an increase in council tax contributions from residents of Warwickshire.
This is good news for the force. But it needs to determine the best investigative model for its operational requirements. We understand the force’s commercial partner is soon to begin analysing its investigative workload, to help inform this decision.
Working with others to meet demand
We have previously reported the benefits of Warwickshire Police’s strategic alliance with West Mercia Police. As a result of this arrangement, £35m of savings have been made across the alliance, because the two forces have shared many services. These savings include baseline savings on the vehicle fleet.
At the time of our inspection, the two forces shared police support services. This delivers savings in mainstream business functions such as human resources (HR) and finance. The sharing has made critical areas of business, such as homicide investigation, much stronger. This is because the forces are better placed jointly to manage surges in demands on their services. The forces also share services that are not geographically tied to a particular locality. Such services include armed policing, traffic patrols and dog support units.
However, the future of these services is now uncertain because the alliance is due to end in October 2019. This is a cause of concern, particularly given that the principles of collaboration and joint venture (including in the interests of efficiency) have become well founded in both forces.
In July 2019, we revisited Warwickshire Police to inspect its preparations for the end of the alliance. During that revisit, we were concerned that its plans may not secure all necessary services from October 2019 onwards. The executive team has considered eight possible collaboration business cases with West Mercia Police. But none will be progressed.
Warwickshire Police is in negotiation with other forces in the region for the provision of a range of collaborated services, including its firearms capabilities.
Despite force investment in transition planning, we are concerned that the full range of public services may be affected by the end of the alliance.
The future of strategic joint working arrangements is unclear. But the force does have a range of successful local joint ventures in place with other partners. For example, it works well with other organisations to support vulnerable victims. MARACs meet frequently to consider the longer-term needs of domestic abuse victims. There is good evidence of local staff supporting domestic abuse victims. Police and community support officers (PCSOs) were aware of victims in their local areas and supported them. When other vulnerable people become known, the force makes referrals to multi-agency harm hubs where a range of other organisations can consider their needs. We recognise that the force plays an important role in making these joint arrangements work effectively.
The force knows that investigations involving vulnerable people can only be successful if victims are effectively safeguarded. The force has a pivotal role in co-ordinating the activity of other organisations in support of victims. It is yet to accurately assess the demand that this places on its resources. That assessment will form part of future evaluation, in conjunction with the force’s external business partner.
The force has identified the location of missing people as placing a substantial demand on patrol teams. Working alongside its CSE teams, the missing persons team focuses on tackling the underlying causes of people going missing. Both teams work with partners to reduce the instances of people going missing, particularly those who go missing repeatedly. This approach helps to address the risks and vulnerabilities that missing people face.
Innovation and new opportunities
The force has an established track record of investing in transformational change. Recently, the change team recruited from the technology sector, in order to improve the infrastructure on which the force’s future information and communications technology (ICT) developments will depend.
The force also works with external organisations to improve its service to victims. It is expanding the principles of MARAC victim care to include other vulnerable victims and those who are at risk of harm. The force calls this ‘integrated victim management’. Teams are based in three multi-agency harm hubs within the county. The hubs have a safeguarding remit. Their investigation teams are responsible for reports involving vulnerable victims, such as domestic abuse and hate crime cases.
Investment and benefits
There is a clear link between the force’s ambition, its investments and the benefits it seeks. The alliance’s transformation programme has been at the core of these improvements. For several years, the force’s vision to digitise the front line, modernise services and make the estate fit for the future has been central to its financial planning. For example, over the course of the current mid-term financial plan, the force has committed to public sector borrowing to upgrade its estate and modernise technology.
However, not all the alliance’s change and improvement programmes are running smoothly. There have been delays in the realisation of benefits that were anticipated from ICT transformation. The forces have stopped work on the planned integration of operating systems (involving telephony, communications and records management) across Warwickshire and West Mercia. Warwickshire Police has found the infrastructure on which the new crime and intelligence database rests to be substandard. This infrastructure is being rectified as part of a capital funding allocation over the next four years. Also, there has been a change from the original plans to streamline call handling procedures and reduce overheads in the West Mercia and Warwickshire control rooms. As a result, the force will not make all the intended savings. Long-established shared call handling services will also end due to the alliance terminating.
Prioritising different types of demand
The force decides its priorities as part of an annual planning cycle, after researching the threats and risks it faces. It produces this research in a nationally recognised format known as a strategic assessment. The risks are then subject to a secondary assessment using the MoRiLE risk matrix. This enables the force to assess threats against its available capacity and capability, in order to address them.
Using MoRiLE, the force identified its 2018/19 priorities as:
- CSE and abuse;
- organised acquisitive crime;
- domestic abuse; and
- people being seriously injured or killed on roads.
The force’s tasking meetings review its progress against its strategic priorities and assign resources to them. The force does not only hold tasking meetings at a strategic level. It also holds them in policing areas, in order to address community problems. Local staff share information effectively with external organisations, encouraged by increased awareness of problem solving across police and community safety partners. Information sharing helps to develop beat profiles, which means that officers and PCSOs can establish a better picture of emerging problems in their areas. These profiles are considered at weekly neighbourhood tasking meetings, where local staff meet with council and charity support workers to find joint solutions to support vulnerable people. We saw an example of the force working with housing authorities to support tenants who were at risk of cuckooing.
Assigning resources to demand and understanding their costs
Warwickshire Police has made steady progress in calculating the benefits of both its investments and the alterations it makes to its services. For example, it can assess how much more efficiently frontline staff can work by accessing force databases on tablets and other mobile devices. By using these devices, officers no longer have to return to fixed work stations to enter data and retrieve information. The force acknowledges difficulties with the ICT infrastructure and with poor signal strength in some rural areas. Mobile solutions will become increasingly important for the force as more applications become available on devices.
Services shared within the alliance model are predicated on a financial split of 69 percent (West Mercia) and 31 percent (Warwickshire). This division reflects a pro rata share of the total funding that is available to both forces. However, there is no accurate record of the additional costs incurred by one force as a result of supporting the other. This is for several reasons. Tracking the exact time that officers spend in the other force is difficult; the precise cost of that time and associated overheads are not known; and making these calculations has not been a priority for either force.
The decision by West Mercia Police to terminate the alliance has highlighted the importance of understanding the cost of services when forces enter into collaborative arrangements. This is something that Warwickshire Police is currently working on. Few forces are totally reliant on stand-alone services. A full understanding of the cost of services will be important to both forces as they determine how best to operate after the alliance ends. The transition team in Warwickshire Police has developed a zero-base budget model against which to benchmark its future options. But the timescales for implementing these options are dwindling.
Recently, the force completed a skills project to accurately assess the composition of its current workforce. The project made reference to future demand, to help inform recruitment programmes. For example, additional demands will be placed on the force’s training unit. This is because an increasing amount of police training will be subject to nationally accredited standards.
Primarily, the skills work focused on current operational skills. It did not include non-operational skills or future skills requirements (operational or otherwise). A full understanding of current and future demand requires an assessment of all skills and potential future skills needs.
We looked carefully at the force’s detective capacity, because other forces have found it difficult to recruit for detective roles. The force has substantial numbers of detective vacancies, particularly since increasing the budgeted size of its investigator workforce. However, it has a plan to fill these that includes using Police Now detective recruitment. Following negotiations with the College of Policing, the force has compressed the detective training modules in order to accelerate the accreditation process for those who are interested in a career as a detective.
Recently, the force conducted a leadership audit, cross-referencing its internal findings with the College of Policing Leadership Charter (Guiding Principles for Organisational Leadership, College of Policing, 2017). The audit has helped to inform the force’s leadership development programme. It is introducing this programme for all officers and staff from superintendent and equivalent upwards. Those taking part in the programme can access coaching support and attend career development events.
Throughout 2019, the force is also carrying out a workforce behaviours assessment as part of adult safeguarding training. This will help the force to better understand the sorts of behaviours that its workforce typically presents when supporting victims, managing investigations or dealing with suspects. It will help to establish a behaviour profile of the organisation and for individual departments. This will then inform learning and development priorities for the future.
The force has made progress in implementing programmes to identify future leaders. Its new talent management scheme, linked to the MAX programme (maximising contribution and potential), will enable a more structured approach to force-wide development. This is explained later in this report.
More efficient ways of working
The force has sophisticated change plans in place to make best use of technology, collaboration and more efficient ways of working.
The force invests in, and prioritises, its transformation change programme. It has established six workstreams over recent years. The workstreams focus on a hi-tech control room, which it is soon to open, as well as the design of local policing, support services, ICT architecture and mobile devices.
The change programme is, and continues to be, critical to the force’s plan to achieve £6.4m of savings over the next three years. A good example is the way the force has changed its local policing design – first in line with budgetary restraints following reductions in public sector spending, and now in terms of growth as more council tax revenue becomes available.
At the time of our inspection, the programme’s workstream relating to the future of its support services was almost ready for implementation. This is known as the services to policing (STP) project. It has involved analysis of 21 support services, including HR, and legal and procurement services. In total, the force has analysed 347 of its activities to reveal how processes can be improved and savings made. The proposal included consolidating the services into a single business directorate, with potential alliance savings amounting to £12m over three years.
However, the termination of the alliance will affect the proposal’s implementation. Of more concern is the fact that Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police will no longer share support services.
While the work will be beneficial to future planning, the alliance termination substantially changes the benefits anticipated by this joint venture. Now, each force must promptly implement its own support service arrangements by the date on which the alliance ends, if disruption to the public and the workforce are to be avoided.
Working with others
The force has committed to investing in business change. It has productive working relationships with external business consultants. The STP project identified potential savings. This is a good example of how professional expertise is helping the force to operate efficiently within financial constraints.
During the course of successive PEEL inspections, we have reported on the maturing of the alliance’s transformation programme. This transformation has ranged from the early benefits of economies of scale (such as £100,000 yearly savings from standardised fleet procurement) to digitising frontline services. Prior to the announcement of the termination, the alliance was planning to implement large-scale ICT replacement programmes. These innovative programmes are now uncertain.
Despite the alliance termination, Warwickshire Police has a joint working ethos. This ethos is evident as much in the force’s operational policing as in how it organises business support. At all levels, there are good examples of the force’s commitment to working with local organisations to give the public better services and to protect vulnerable people. The force’s preparations for the future include exploring collaborations with other forces in the region.
For example, the force’s joint work with the Leamington Town Centre Partnership and a charity organisation, the Client Vital Interest Action Group, has been decisive in reducing the public’s fear of crime caused by begging and rough sleeping. The force has shifted its emphasis away from enforcement to one that aims to give homeless people opportunities to rebuild their lives (for example, by giving them access to drug treatment and mental health support). According to an evaluation, levels of homelessness have lowered in the town. The force’s contribution to the scheme has been nationally recognised.
As part of its alliance arrangements, the force has had ambitious, transformative plans to make best use of technology in order to modernise its services. Its vision has been to digitise frontline policing and integrate operating systems. The force’s aim has been to improve the service it gives to victims of crime and others who need its help.
The ICT transformation programme has suffered setbacks. In common with other forces, Warwickshire Police has experienced problems in the implementation of the new crime and intelligence record management system. An example of this is that frontline officers are finding it hard to use a computer application that assembles prosecution case files. The force has reverted to using a legacy file-builder system to prepare for an accused person’s first court appearance. The need for certain details to be entered onto the new record management system is proving to be time-consuming and inefficient.
Also, according to a recent force review, the ICT network architecture is not stable enough to support either the new operating system or other systems that the force wants to introduce.
A further complication is the termination of the alliance. For instance, both forces were due to have a new state-of-the-art command and control operating system implemented in their control rooms. Both forces must now revise their plans for this area and these plans remain uncertain.
Despite these setbacks, we recognise what the force has achieved in relation to technology improvement. For example, officers have access to force systems through mobile tablets and they also use body-worn video to help gather evidence. These will soon be replaced with next-generation devices. Also, the force’s £7.7m investment in ICT over the next four years is likely to reap benefits in the future.Summary for question 1
How well does the force plan for the future?
Cause of concern
The force has not yet defined how all of its services to the public will operate in the future, nor has it agreed a smooth transition to a future operating model. And it has not consulted with the public on these important matters.
To address this cause of concern, we recommend that the force should immediately:
- clearly define its new operating model, ensuring all operational and support services are affordable and fit to protect the communities of Warwickshire;
- agree arrangements with West Mercia Police to secure a smooth transition to its future operating model, ensuring no disruption to public services; and
- the force should improve its arrangements both to consult with the public about business planning and to feed back on changes made to service delivery as a result of such consultation.
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 has assessed the future demands for its services. With support from its commercial partner, the force has made statistical projections of crime trends and calculated the likely volume of calls for service in the future. These projections form part of the work of the transformation programme for both Warwickshire and West Mercia forces. The data is now being used by both forces in the redesign of their operating models. As the force rebuilds a future operating model, it is important for it to maintain its understanding of current demand, and to develop an accurate understanding of future demand pressures.
The force recognises that its understanding of future demand is incomplete. Many operational pressures are the consequence of factors that are more complex than just the number of 999/101 calls the force receives and the amount of crime that is committed. Many investigations of crime involve detailed work with other professionals (for example, children’s services or domestic abuse support workers), to safeguard vulnerable people. It is difficult to quantify what these commitments will mean for the staffing levels that the force needs. But they are an essential feature of its services. The force has plans to complete its assessment of what staffing it will need post-alliance. But we have concerns that it is unlikely to be able to maintain service provision and implement these plans by October 2019. The force must do more to understand and meet future demand.
It will be particularly important for Warwickshire Police to fully understand the demands on the services that it currently shares with West Mercia Police. These principally include major crime investigations, business support services (including HR, finance, procurement, estates and fleet) and the specialist services previously mentioned in this report.
In 2012, when the forces established their alliance, they agreed to share the workloads in these areas (rather than divide them up). As both forces start the transition out of the alliance, there is no certainty as to how they will run these services in the future. It is important for both forces to understand the consequences of the separation. It is of paramount and immediate importance to assure the continued and uninterrupted provision of these services to the public. Both forces have set up transition teams to address this problem. This could be helped by better communication between the two forces.
Understanding public expectations
The PCC’s public engagement work helps to inform police and crime plan priorities. These priorities are explicit in force plans. A good outcome of community engagement is the force’s decision to relocate an operational base to improve public access to police services.
Middle and senior managers carry out both formal and informal community engagement activity. But the force does not always record this. Therefore, it is not always clear how this activity has influenced decision making within the force.
More positively, we found a direct link between force priorities and the PCC’s public consultation before setting the council tax. This has led to force investment decisions in areas such as rural policing and other frontline services. In areas where council tax contributions have led to investment in priorities, the PCC holds the force to account to make sure that it increases staffing levels.
The force has spoken to staff about post-alliance arrangements. But there was little evidence of it carrying out public consultation to inform its post-alliance planning. Such a substantial change to its operating model should be suitably informed by the public’s views.
At both local and operational levels, there are good examples of officers using Twitter and Facebook to interact with the public. Social media posts have included appeals for witnesses, and invitations to join the cadets and the citizen’s academy. This work was also supported by the force’s press and publicity unit.
The force runs awareness campaigns about issues such as wanted suspects, road safety and SOC. Local policing commanders told us that working with the public is an implicit part of community policing. This was evident in the way that they agreed locally identified priorities, put them into practice, and kept communities up to date. However, this engagement was only short to medium-term. The force should do more to engage the public in its longer-term planning.
The force closely aligns business and financial planning. It relies on a nationally recognised model to assess threats and risks, and sets priorities in a control strategy.
The control strategy includes reference to the PCC’s priorities. It features domestic abuse, the exploitation of children and acquisitive crime as primary objectives for frontline staff.
The force has a structured approach to aligning resources to its priorities. At monthly, high-level review meetings (known as tasking meetings), it considers its performance in relation to control strategy priorities. It assigns additional resources to any area of operational pressure. The force replicates these meetings in local policing areas, providing appropriate analysis. In this way, the force monitors its priorities properly and redirects resources to address operational concerns.
During tasking meetings, the force also considers locally identified priorities. Force analysts provide quarterly performance data to assist local commanders. The analytical department also predicts trends in some areas of demand and crime over forthcoming months. This enables the force to adjust its operations in readiness.
The force is growing its workforce and has agile recruitment plans in place. The PCC has pledged to increase staffing levels in exchange for a rise in residents’ council tax contributions.
The alliance has maintained its capacity to recruit and train officers and staff, even during a time of financial austerity. The force can adapt this capacity effectively. It is currently recruiting 85 constables, ten PCSOs and five members of police staff to support investigations.
The force also recruits through national initiatives. The direct entry inspector programme has attracted high numbers of applicants from diverse backgrounds. The force has used the Police Now scheme for neighbourhood policing. This scheme has also attracted substantial numbers of detective applicants. The force’s plans must make sure that this recruitment and training capability is maintained, if it is to achieve its recruitment aims.
In all forces, we have looked carefully at capacity among the detective workforce. This is because there is a national shortage of detectives. In turn, this shortage affects the quality of service that forces can give to victims.
Recently, Warwickshire Police has increased its detective workforce to more than 150, to help it meet demand. However, approximately 20 percent of these positions remain vacant while it works to fill these roles. It will take the force considerable time to fully implement streamlined development, recruit direct entrants through the Police Now programme, appoint transferees and free up officers from elsewhere in the force to move into detective vacancies.
In 2010, the government began its restraint on public sector spending. Since then, the force has established a good track record in financial planning. It has done this alongside West Mercia Police as part of the strategic alliance.
Since 2010, the alliance has made savings of £35m from the combined Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police revenue budget of approximately £300m. Warwickshire Police’s current mid-term financial plan strikes a good balance between further savings and areas of investment. As previously mentioned in this report, the PCC has increased the council tax precept contribution. This is based on an increase in contribution of £24 per Band D household. This has been an important factor in reversing the force’s cuts and recruitment freezes. The force’s total officer workforce strength is now scheduled to increase to record numbers compared with recent years. This news has brought a mood of optimism to the force.
In line with force priorities, the PCC has approved growth in these areas: patrol, neighbourhood policing, offender management, child exploitation teams, digital media investigators, rural crime and the CID.
Alongside this growth, the force has identified a savings requirement of £6.4m from a base budget of £98.2m. Current plans indicate that it was to secure more than £4m of these savings from efficiencies identified in the alliance’s transformation programme. This means that budgets are forecast as being balanced until 2020/21. A minor drawdown on reserves is scheduled for 2019/20.
However, the scale of savings that the alliance has achieved is now overshadowed by the alliance’s imminent termination, as are Warwickshire Police’s future savings plans. This is a cause of concern. To date, there remains no clear business case for West Mercia’s decision to end the alliance in October 2019. The forces have not explored the underlying causes constructively. And they have not done enough to settle differences and seek opportunities for co-operation. This has caused relations to deteriorate between the forces. Sections 22A and 23A of the Police Act 1996 set the framework for police collaborations. These sections place a statutory duty on chief constables and PCCs “to collaborate in the interest of efficiencies and effectiveness of their own and other police force areas” (Statutory guidance for police collaboration, Home Office, 2012).
Home Office guidance states that forces should terminate a collaborative arrangement within an agreed notice period. (The notice period for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police is agreed at 12 months, within which time they must agree an exit strategy.) The guidance sets out a presumption that the withdrawal from collaborative arrangements should be subject to negotiation.
Collaboration remains a positive option to allow forces to share resources and to continue to drive efficiency and savings. The financial challenge remains and, with the added uncertainty of the nation’s economy and the continual change to policing and crime trends, the need to share resources and knowledge is even more relevant than before. With the imminent termination of the alliance, Warwickshire Police is in a difficult position. Many forces are dependent on joint working with others to provide effective services. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that the force has not yet succeeded in agreeing a phased exit from alliance arrangements. Joint working has previously enabled Warwickshire Police to operate sustainably within its available budget. It has also enabled both forces to make necessary savings. But now, the end of the alliance means uncertainty for the savings plans that underpin the financial forecasts in both forces. This includes the STP project, on which a sizeable proportion of future savings was predicated.
The STP project aimed to bring support services into a single business directorate, as part of the alliance’s transformation programme. The project held much promise. It had been developed by a commercial partner, and the predicted savings were evaluated by comparison against other public sector and commercial organisations.
A similar position existed for a programme to secure closer working between the control rooms in each force. Again, this has been a long-standing project. Benefits included a state-of-the-art joint operating system (scheduled to be implemented for both forces this year), as well as reduced supervisory overheads, integration with other force databases, better customer care facilities and more capacity to answer and respond to 999/101 calls.
In previous reports, we recognised the programme as good practice. It was intended to make call handling services more efficient and robust. This is an area where many forces face pressures as demand for policing services grow. However, the forces must now substantially revise the benefits of these change programmes and potentially make alternative arrangements.
Another area of contention is armed policing. Like many other forces, both Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police share ARV and specialist firearms capabilities because of the considerable costs of training, overheads and facilities such as firing ranges and armouries. The training facilities have been based in Worcester for several years, in the interests of cost savings.
Despite the impending termination of the alliance, both forces are free to renegotiate collaborative arrangements and to continue to offer services jointly. Alternatively, Warwickshire Police could find a different organisation to work with, or it could choose to provide this service in-house. The force has indicated a desire to continue to collaborate with others.
Since West Mercia Police notified Warwickshire Police that it was terminating the alliance, Warwickshire Police has mapped its future structures as a stand-alone entity. This exercise in rebuilding recognises the benefits of joint working and includes a range of other options for sharing services. Warwickshire Police has had to work rapidly and diligently to define its future options. However, there is still great uncertainty about how transition plans will improve the way that either force operates in the future.
Until the forces have detailed plans about how they will operate in the future, we cannot assess and report upon the degree to which we consider that their services will be efficient, effective and sustainable.
We will continue to scrutinise how the forces are offering services in the future. We expect them to maintain public services and economies of scale, avoid increased costs and keep overheads to a minimum. These factors are essential to making sure that both forces continue to invest optimally in frontline services.
We also expect both forces to work together as they make the transition to their new operating models. Too much of the forces’ planning to define their futures has been done in isolation. This approach fosters mistrust, prevents joint solutions from being found and may be detrimental to the service the public receives.
Leadership and workforce development
The people service’s directorate is committed to developing a workforce that is fit to meet the demands of the future. Previously, both forces progressed workforce development as part of their alliance arrangement. However, this is an area where Warwickshire Police’s investment in its people should bring future benefits. Progress has been made alliance-wide since we last inspected this area.
Historically, the alliance has developed the ‘top 40’ and ‘top 140’ programmes. These programmes developed senior officers and members of staff through workshops on topics such as organisational development and unconscious bias.
Warwickshire Police has also introduced a personalised leadership development programme. This is modelled on the national assessment centre for senior officers and members of staff. It gives those taking part access to personality profiling techniques and coaching. It is for chief inspector, superintendent and chief superintendent ranks, and police staff equivalents.
At more junior levels, career development is less well advanced. But the force has a suitable plan in place. Line managers are using a talent management programme to assess competence at this level. This is giving greater insight. It also helps to signpost staff to development opportunities (such as secondments). And it identifies those who have leadership potential. These initiatives are new and will need time to become fully part of routine practice through 2019.
Despite these improvements, the force has yet to develop a full understanding of the skills of its workforce. It has a limited register of the current skills and competencies of police officers. But this does not extend beyond the operational training that officers need for their role (such as driving skills). Officers and staff may have other valuable skills and qualifications. The register also lacks an assessment of the skills that may be needed to meet future policing demands. This is an area the force should explore to make sure that it is making best use of the full range of talents within its workforce, and to ready itself for the future.
Ambition to improve
We recognise the progress that the force has made in modelling its services for the future. With some certainty, the force can set out the capacity it needs to meet the demand placed on its services by the public.
These planning certainties are due to both the force’s analysis of demand (which forms part of the transformation programme) and its ongoing assessments of staff workload. Also, the chief officer team has a clear vision of the future operating model. The force is committed to ‘being cost effective, working with external organisations, supporting national and regional police priorities, as well as making the force a great place to work’.
Collaborations help police forces maintain the full range of services they need to operate effectively. In 2012, when the alliance began, the force had its reasons for choosing to share certain functions with West Mercia Police. Those reasons are as relevant today as they were then. The force recognises this, although the position in which the force now finds itself has not been entirely within its control. We understand that it will use its model of future services to negotiate joint ventures with other organisations and other forces in the interests of effectiveness and efficiency.
The force’s substantial investment in readying itself for a post-alliance future shows the scale of the work still required to implement effective arrangements.
We will only be able to assess whether the force’s services are affordable, and fit to protect its communities, when its new operating model has been clearly defined. It is incumbent on both forces to agree arrangements for a smooth transition to their future operating models to minimise the disruption to public services. The lack of clarity in these areas, as we approach October 2019, is a cause of concern. So both forces will be subject to further scrutiny and reporting.Summary for question 2