Nottinghamshire Police and its Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping are confident robust plans are in place to protect the force’s financial future in response to severe cuts to its funding.
The force and PCC have also agreed on a new approach to delivering policing across Nottinghamshire which puts prevention at the heart of a strategy to reduce crime and keep people safe.
The assurance comes as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published the findings of a recent inspection which said the Force’s preparations to meet the financial challenge in the short and long-term required improvement.
HMIC said the Force had already achieved 73% (£34.3m) of the savings required over the spending review period (March 2011 to March 2015) and had even exceeded its target in 2013/14, allowing for a contribution to its reserves. Much of the savings for 2014/15 and 2015/16 are dependent on the force redesigning the way it delivers policing including further collaboration with other forces and changes to its operating model. However, HMIC was concerned the Force had not made timely decisions about these structures and said any further delay in decision-making or implementation would have an impact on the Force’s ability to meet its savings targets in the future.
In response, the Force said at the time of the inspection the new plan was still in its final development stages and had not been not finalised. However, it has now been agreed and will start to be implemented in the coming months. The Force said HMIC was aware of the progress.
Such a plan is vital to the long-term health of the Force and both the Chief Constable and the Commissioner were keen to ensure it protected the aims set out in the Police and Crime Plan before proceeding.
HMIC also said the Force needed to make improvements to its affordable policing strategy. It said Nottinghamshire Police had shown “strong commitment” to regional collaboration but there were delays in the time taken to reach agreement with other Forces. However, the report added there was now ‘great energy and momentum’ going forward with new shared services partnership arrangements in place.
Responding to the HMIC’s Valuing the Police Programme report, Commissioner Tipping said: “This inspection took place a few months ago and we are already much further ahead in our preparations to meet future financial difficulties. Although some of the findings were fair at the time they were written, we reject the notion that we’ve been slow to implement change. The challenges we face are significant and require careful consideration. We’ve been determined not to make any rash decisions that we later regret.
“That said it’s an interesting report which recognises the achievements we’ve made thus far while also warning of some major challenges which could impact on police services and our ability to meet our savings targets if left unaddressed.
“Together, we have risen to those challenges and have identified a new operating model that gives us a clear direction moving forward. We are currently in the process of implementing this new template which will involve some changes to workforce arrangements and will be talking to staff and partners over the coming weeks about how we proceed.
“We believe our plans will enhance services for the public. The work undertaken by officers in a visible role such as those who respond to an emergency is a small part of the picture. Resources also need to be allocated to other, less evident functions to protect the public such as counter terrorism, serious and organised crime and child protection. Our plan incorporates all risks to public safety, but strong emphasis is placed on providing a reassuring, visible presence within our communities through enhanced use of PCSOs and Special Constables.”
Commissioner Tipping added: “Importantly, we have a balanced budget this year, indications show that will remain the case next year and we are achieving our savings. Let me be clear – it’s tough out there, but we are not in a precarious financial position. HMIC is aware fully aware of our position and the progress that has been made since this inspection.”
Deputy Chief Constable Sue Fish said: “We have made huge progress on developing plans which will fundamentally change the way we deliver policing across Nottinghamshire. The PCC has rightly challenged us to create a model that protects front line services but is also sustainable and flexible going forward.
“We have looked at every aspect of the service we provide to see where we can be more efficient and effective, not only because of the financial climate we are now operating in, but also because it is the right thing for us to do.
“This has rightly taken time to develop because it is essential that the future model for Nottinghamshire Police is one which improves the quality of service we offer to the public, yet is also flexible in that it can adjust accordingly to the operating environment. Prevention will be at the heart of what we do.
“One of the key drivers in developing the plan has been our desire to engage with officers and staff. It is they who have helped shape the future and that is something we were determined would be the case from the outset.
“Clearly, the financial landscape for policing is hugely challenging and will remain so for the next few years. We are also disadvantaged as a result of complicated funding formulas and the fact that Nottinghamshire relies more heavily on government funding than other forces.
“The financial imperative is clearly very important in delivering a sound future operating model but it is absolutely not the only driver. What remains at the heart of our plan is a real commitment from us to deliver the best possible service to the people of Nottinghamshire.”
The HMIC report recognises the hard work Nottinghamshire Police has invested in improving efficiency, saying it has developed a good understanding of the demand for its services and has taken measures to reduce this at the first point of contact to ease pressures on response and neighbourhood teams. It also highlighted the Force’s commitment to protecting key crime-fighting roles and maintaining visible policing with a higher proportion of police officers and PCSOs.
Performance is still strong and public satisfaction with the police remains high at 86.6% - which is the best measure of quality policing delivery.
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Posted on Tuesday 22nd July 2014