Wiltshire PEEL 2018
How efficiently does the force operate and how sustainable are its services to the public?
Wiltshire Police is good at planning to meet both current and future demand.
The force looks at previous trends and uses this to predict demand. These demand projections help managers plan how to make best use of their workforce. Since our 2017 inspection, the force has used analysis of demand to improve its response to non-emergency calls by changing shift patterns and numbers of call room staff.
The force is working hard to engage with the community. But it needs to update its technology to offer the public better ways of making contact, such as online.
The force has processes in place to manage the competing priorities it faces. It is still evaluating future workforce needs to address likely skills gaps. It has faced an increase in officers leaving the service but is investing in recruitment. It expects to return the force to its planned numbers in 2018/19.
Wiltshire Police is working to increase its diversity. The Department for Work and Pensions has recognised the force’s support for people with disabilities. More black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are gaining employment and now make up 2.6 percent of the workforce.
The force’s financial, service and delivery plans focus on frontline staffing. A medium-term financial plan sets out the framework until 2022.
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?
Areas for improvement
- The force should improve its engagement with the public, using digital methods for public contact.
- The force should develop its workforce by actively seeking opportunities to recruit external candidates.
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
Wiltshire Police is good at assessing future demand for its services. In 2017, we found that the force needed to improve its response to non-emergency calls for service through the 101 telephony system. To address this, it analysed demand in the crime and communications centre (CCC). It used this information to design a new shift pattern and increase the number of staff in the CCC to match the expected demand profile.
We visited the CCC several times during this inspection and found that the force understands and manages demand well in that department. Through its business intelligence tool (QlikView), the force has a stronger base of evidence on historic demand. This system looks at previous trends and predicts the volume of demand by crime type and locality, over intervals ranging from a day to more than a year. Managers can access these demand projections to plan how to make best use of their available resources.
CPT inspectors access the information to inform their approach and future planning, including public communication campaigns. The system predicts peaks in demand. This information is used to align resources to meet that demand. The analysis forms part of the demand strategy. It also supports the production of the strategic assessment and helps set the future direction. Resources within CPTs are aligned through regular demand assessments. These are completed quarterly to inform the allocation of resources across the county.
The force’s strategic assessment of threat, harm and risk includes identifying areas of emerging demand. Emerging themes include modern slavery and human exploitation, child sexual abuse, organised criminality, domestic abuse, youth offending and emerging gang culture. Detailed plans are constructed for each theme. A dedicated analyst supports operational activity for each one, reviewing demand data and identifying opportunities for potential intervention. The force is acting to manage future demand by intervening early and working with its partner agencies in areas such as mental health and troubled families.
The force is responding to the growing impact of cyber-crime and digital crime on its communities. Its demand analysis predicts growth in the number of victims of digital crime. During 2018, it invested in a digital investigations and intelligence unit. This includes two cyber-prevent officers, as well as a superintendent, an inspector, two sergeants, four cyber-crime investigators, and two digital media investigators. Expansion of digital forensic capacity has included training given to 200 officers and staff in how to use forensic extraction device kiosks to triage seized mobile telephones.
Understanding public expectations
The force works hard to engage with the public. It is committed to improving community confidence and policing through active participation. This builds on the high level of public confidence reported in recent survey data.
The force has also used traditional methods and social media to run a 13-week campaign on policing. Beyond the Front Line covered areas such as vulnerability, cyber-crime and exploitation. The intention is to raise the profile of these problems and highlight the demand they place on the force. An informed debate can then be held on policing priorities. The force is adapting its community services to engage more with local communities. It is revising its CPT model to create more community co-ordinators.
The force recognises the need to enhance its use of technology to provide a more efficient service. It does not offer the public digital contact methods such as live chat, up-to-date recording systems or online crime reporting. Such improvements will depend on upgrades to the force’s current records management system (Niche). Its existing stand-alone systems do not provide an accessible summary of information and previous contact. Instead, call handlers must manually search for information across different databases. The force accepts that a customer relationship management (CRM) tool could create efficiencies and allow for more rapid identification of repeat and vulnerable callers. The command and control software developers are reportedly building CRM capability into their systems for future update.
Wiltshire Police, in common with other forces, must manage numerous and competing priorities. These come from the police and crime commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan and the Force Strategic Assessment, as well as from public expectations and projections of emerging and future demand. It has processes in place to understand future and emerging demand and identify changing public expectations. It uses this understanding to shape its operational and financial plans.
With the support of the police and crime commissioner (PCC), the force has invested in services that matter to the public. In particular, it is maintaining its CPT frontline capacity using the increased precept in 2018/19 and plans to continue this way in 2019/20. The 2018/19 budget also included more resources for cyber-crime and child exploitation. Budgets in previous years have allowed the force to increase funding for operators to address its poor 101 call-handling performance.
The force is in the early stages of evaluating its future workforce needs. It is doing the preliminary work needed to understand its existing skills base and align job descriptions with nationally recognised ‘job families’. When this work is complete, the force should be able to predict and address likely future skills gaps. It can then ensure that its staff and officers have the nationally recognised, authorised professional practice qualifications they will need. Until then, its workforce planning for recruitment is based on known numbers, anticipated attrition when people leave or retire, and identified business need.
Over the past 18 months, the force has been confronted with an increase in officers leaving the service. This has affected staffing in other areas. In response, it has set up a strategic group to oversee officer recruitment. This has accelerated new intakes and conducted more transferee campaigns. While the force is now better placed to meet demand, it has an abstraction rate of about 40 percent of full staffing levels. (Abstraction is where officers cannot be deployed for reasons such as training, leave or sickness.)
The force has invested in more vetting analysts and recruitment co-ordinators in response to the increase in police officer recruitment over the past 12 to 18 months. This short-term investment is expected to help return the force to its planned numbers of full-time equivalent posts in 2018/19.
Wiltshire Police anticipates changes because of the introduction of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework. This has raised concerns about sustainability and cost. It will require the force to upgrade the skills of its existing trainers to the higher standard required for the provision of future training. This will be done in partnership with local universities.
The force is trying to increase its diversity. It has made some low-level changes to encourage more diversity among applicants. These include providing more support at application stages, advising on roles, holding workshops and amending the starting salary for experienced ex-military personnel.
The Department for Work and Pensions has designated the force a ‘Level 3: Disability Confident Leader’ in recognition of its support for people living with disabilities. The outcome of the force’s positive action and recruitment activities has not been formally confirmed. However, responses to a positive action survey indicate an increase in BAME candidates who succeed in gaining employment with the force. Wiltshire Police now employs 53 people (2.6 percent of the workforce) who identify as being from BAME backgrounds. Eight people (0.4 percent of the workforce) identify as coming from other ethnic backgrounds. Half of the successful candidates were employed through the positive action team and/or received support from the team during the recruitment process.
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 PCCs time to include the impact in their financial planning. In December 2018, the government announced a pension 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.
Wiltshire Police aligns its financial plans with its service and delivery plans, which focus on frontline staffing. The medium-term financial plan (MTFP) sets out the framework for strategic planning over the four years to 2022. The strategy sets out the net savings requirements and the assumptions on which they are based. The latest strategy assumes that precepts will increase by £24 in 2019/20. This has now been approved. From 2020/21 onwards, the increase in the precept will return to 1.99 percent annually. These assumptions are reasonable and generally consistent.
The force has recently announced that the tri-force arrangement with Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Gloucestershire Constabulary will end in April 2019. This means the force will need to supply the services the tri-force agreement previously provided. This will include firearms officers, roads policing officers and dog handlers.
On the basis of the increased precept funding, the chief constable, together with the PCC, looked at options to resolve the issues connected to the ending of the tri-force arrangements. They also looked at ways to improve the neighbourhood policing element of community policing. The MTFP identifies £1.423m to fund the tri-force service areas. These include firearms officers, roads policing officers and dog handlers, who will transfer back to the direct management of Wiltshire Police. Officers will have a dual role and will also be used to enhance the local CPT response capability. This should give the force enough authorised firearms officers to meet the requirements of the APSTRA. The force currently has 48 firearms posts and 48 officers. Another two officers are in training.
While the force does not expect any change in grant funding in the later years of its strategy, it understands the financial impact of possible changes to the level of the grant. These assumptions and levels of precept would result in a cumulative revenue budget deficit of £5.302m by 2021/22. The force would have to cover that through savings, transformation or other means, such as using reserves. Savings required in 2018/19, after the use of reserves, are £1.34m. The plan requires similar levels of annual savings in each year of the strategy. It includes collaboration and remodelling service delivery.
The force reviewed its use of reserves in 2017. It greatly reduced their planned use to balance the 2018/19 budget from the £1.393m that the original strategy envisaged to £0.250m. The largest reserve is held for capital development, to finance Wiltshire Police’s investment plans. A reserves strategy is in place and has been updated.
The force recognises that other agencies are facing increased demand and reduced levels of resources. As a result, more requests for service will either come from those agencies, or from people who those agencies cannot help. We came across many examples of the types of incidents that often occur after what is called the ‘Friday 1630 hours’ watershed when other agencies close their offices. The force has taken specific action on mental health, introducing a mental health triage. This concentrates on service users who have previously had a disproportionate impact on statutory agencies.
As a result of work with partner agencies, Wiltshire Police has access to a county-wide four-bed place of safety. This has reduced demands for police custody under section 136 arrangements. But the force could go further. It has proposed a collaboration approach that includes setting expectations with the public, clarifying (and where appropriate, sharing) demand with partner organisations, and trialling future models.
Leadership and workforce development
The force is not yet confident it has the right skills and capabilities to meet future demand. It is reviewing its leadership requirements to inform the direction of its future leadership strategy. The aim is to define what the force wants in its leaders so it can meet its objectives.
A clear framework for leadership development sets out the programmes available for existing and aspiring leaders. The force is planning to review this leadership provision to enable officers and staff to achieve its objectives while fulfilling their own abilities and potential. The review is intended to give an overview of how the force identifies potential talent and makes selection decisions. The force is aware of the importance of doing this fairly and consistently.
Succession plans are considered at regular meetings with heads of department. But they do not appear to be in place for the most senior members of the leadership team. The force is in the process of developing career pathways for some groups of the workforce. There has been little engagement with direct entry or external recruitment for police officer roles, beyond reinstating transferee recruitment initiatives. However, the force has used external agencies for some types of recruitment and for specific posts. For example, it has recently used external agencies for procurement exercises and to recruit special constables. Some posts are advertised through a range of companies. The force is making real attempts to develop a more diverse workforce.
Ambition to improve
Wiltshire Police has clear ambitions to improve. These focus on maintaining and enhancing its local policing model and responding to demand. Its plans are realistic, subject to the PCC’s continued support in the precept rises agreed for 2019/20 and achieving savings of over £1m for each year of its financial strategy. The force has opportunities to look more broadly at performance to better meet public expectations. It has already demonstrated this in its call handling and in developing more effective ways to manage demand with local partner agencies. But scope exists to extend this work to other areas.
Savings plans are identified annually through the planning process and make good use of benchmarking information, including benefits from new technology. The force is planning to develop its understanding of where it needs to enhance workforce capabilities to meet future demand. This important action has been deferred from 2018. Once completed, it should give the force greater resilience.Summary for question 2