Inspectors have warned Northamptonshire Police that the force requires improvement in its approach to efficiency.
The force has been told that it must get better on how it uses its resources to meet demand and to ensure that its workforce model is sustainable and affordable, in a report published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
However, the HMIC said the force had shown good planning for the short and long term.
The report, published this morning, shows that the force is forecast to save a further £19 million by the 2018/2019 financial year. It is expected to reduce the number of officers by two percent, compared to a national average of six percent, and is expected to cut its overall workforce by nine percent, compared to a national average of six percent.
The proportion of its officers on the operational frontline is expected to increase to 95 percent by March 2018, compared to 90 percent in 2015.
The cost of a police officer per head of population in Northants is £84, and the cost of the overall workforce per head is £138, compared to £115 and £165 nationally respectively.
Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said the report was a “wake-up call” for the force and echoed his own assessment of Northamptonshire Police’s performance. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the force said a “great deal of work” had been carried out since the report was conducted in April of this year.
In the report, HM Inspector of Constabulary, Zoe Billingham, said the force did not have a detailed enough understanding of the future demands on its workforce to be able to plan accordingly.
“The force has balanced the budget and has a good track record of achieving savings, although plans beyond 2016 are still in the early stages of development.
“The force needs to improve its understanding of the demand on its services and will need to change its structure and processes significantly to meet demand and address this deficit.
“Due to its lack of understanding, the force cannot be certain that its workforce model is designed efficiently or being developed to meet current and future requirements,” she said.
“The force faces a significant challenge in ensuring it can develop a more efficient and modernised workforce while also sustaining police officer numbers at 1,220 and creating an establishment of 900 special constables.
“It will also have to consider the skills of the different elements of its workforce carefully so that in future the force can ensure it meets the requirements of the public.”
Ms Billingham said Northamptonshire Police had a good track record of delivering savings and collaborating with other police forces.
“The force also works well with local partners, particularly the fire and rescue service. It is an area of strength for Northamptonshire Police and is helping the force to work more efficiently and to provide a more resilient policing service to the public.”
A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said the report acknowledged that “good work” had started to address issues with the force using its resources to meet demand.
“[This work] includes the creation of the demand management unit and the Force’s positive response to new emerging threats such as cybercrime and CSE, both areas which have received additional resource in the past few months,” he said.
With respect to the future structure of his workforce, the spokesman said: “While concerns are raised about the ambitious growth of the Specials – due to reach 900 by 2016 – in terms of their training and support, significant improvements are being made in Force since the time of the inspection.
“Its central recommendation is for Northamptonshire Police to understand better its demand and develop a workforce model that is “evidence-based and aligned to the needs of the community”. This strand of work is well underway in the shape of the Service Delivery Model being led by Supt Mick Stamper,” the spokesperson said.
With regards to the sustainability of the force, the spokesman said: “Northamptonshire Police has made savings of £22.9m since 2011-12 with a further £7.6m of savings due this current financial year, but remains one of the very few forces where frontline officer numbers have not fallen.
“Once again, it praises collaborations with other forces as well as a successful utilisation of the Police Innovation Fund which has delivered £16.6m, allowing the Force to invest in technology giving officers remote access to police information without the need to return to a police station.”
Chief Constable Simon Edens said: “While the overall rating is disappointing, a great deal of work has taken place since the inspection was carried out last April.
“I am extremely hopeful that the work being done to deliver a Service Delivery Model will address the key areas of weakness identified, specifically the better understanding on demand.
“Since the inspection in April, we have also started moving towards the formation of a Strategic Alliance with Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire which is a significant move to help the force and its neighbours to secure financial sustainability in the future.
“It’s heartening to see within the report recognition of many areas of business in which we are performing particularly well, including regional working, partnership working with the fire service and, against a background of austerity the creation of extra resources to tackle emerging threats such as CSE.”
Responding to HMIC’s assessments, Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The findings of HMIC and this judgement are important and echo my own assessment of the performance of Northamptonshire Police to this point.
“HMIC have made it clear that improvement is necessary, which is a clear wake-up call for Northamptonshire Police and one I fully expect them to respond to.
“We have protected the number of frontline officers at 1,220 throughout my term in office, and are on course to have an additional 900 warranted Special Constables on the streets by May next year - any reduction in the number of frontline police officers identified in the report was prior to my appointment as Police and Crime Commissioner.
“However, Northamptonshire Police needs to better understand the public’s expectations and thus the impact on its workforce. Likewise, the public need to ensure they are directing matters to the relevant authorities that aren’t best directed to the police, to ensure the police can provide maximum value for money and productivity in this tough economic climate. At the same time I’m very pleased and encouraged that we have more police officers spending more time on the frontline.
“The force has made considerable progress in the last three years – serious acquisitive crime has reduced, the most serious violence is down by 50%, it has radically altered its approach to stop and search and safeguarding and is building an ever closer alliance with other emergency service agencies - but in my view there has been a lack of good consistent leadership; a sense of what excellence looks like and how to deliver transformational change.
“With the recruitment of Simon Edens as Chief Constable, I believe the force will be demonstrably different and that he and his new team will deliver a new, effective model for the delivery of this vital public service. There are real challenges facing Northamptonshire Police, just as there are for the whole UK-wide service, but I believe the new Chief Constable understands those challenges and what needs to be done.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner I was appointed to hold the Chief Constable and Northamptonshire Police to account, and I will continue working closely with Simon Edens and his staff to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to turn Northamptonshire Police into a top performing public service and ensure Northamptonshire becomes the Safest Place in England.”