Watchdog warns on deteriorating police performance

20 Oct 15

The performance of the police service in England and Wales has worsened in the last year, according to the Inspectorate of Constabulary. Fewer forces are judged to be “good” and, for the first time, one has been named “inadequate”.

The Police efficiency 2015 report, which examined the countries’ 43 police forces, found five were rated “outstanding”, 29 considered “good”, eight were judged “requires improvement” and for the first time, one force – Humberside – was named ‘inadequate’.

This represents a deterioration on last year’s figures, when five forces were also named “outstanding”, but 35 were “good” and only three graded as “requires improvement”. None was found to be “inadequate” in 2014.

Mike Cunningham, who led the inspection programme, said forces had been through change on an unprecedented scale since 2010, where a four-year funding settlement had led to a 20% reduction in government grant. It was a tribute to the leadership and staff that the service had, on the whole, been able to absorb that change while measured crime has continued to fall, he sad.

However, the next five years will be more challenging for forces as they strive to make further reductions as a result of next month’s Spending Review while also dealing with increasingly complex crime.

“Policing is entering uncharted waters,” Cunningham warned. “Forces have made great strides in assessing the current demand for their service, however they need to improve their ability to forecast demand. Only by achieving this level of understanding can forces make informed decisions on how to make best use of their resources.

“Typically forces think in terms of numbers of officers and staff when developing workforce plans, rather than their skills and capabilities that will be required in the future. They need to start building their capability now, informed by a clearer understanding of future demand.”

The report is based on inspections of forces under HMIC’s PEEL system –Police Efficiency, Effectiveness and Legitimacy – which assesses whether a force maximises its available resources. 

As part of this, inspectors found forces’ financial planning skills varied considerably, with many planning large reductions in their reserves in the years ahead.

Given current uncertainty around police funding, both ahead of the Spending Review and possible revisions to the police funding formula, there was a need for constabularies to improve understanding of future demand and link it to financial planning.

Chief inspector of constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said HMIC was developing a template for a new Force Management Statement to help forces improve. Each force will be required to produce an annual update forecasting demand, capacity, capability and efficiency improvements for the next four to five years in order to improve planning.

The five forces found to be “outstanding” in today’s report were: Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire, Norfolk, and West Midlands.

The eight requiring improvement were: Bedfordshire, Cleveland, Dorset, Dyfed Powys, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire, and Surrey. The remaining 29 were judged to be “good”.

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