Avon and Somerset Constabulary has been praised for meeting the challenge of the spending review imposed on forces across England and Wales.
In its “Policing in Austerity: Meeting the Challenge” published today (Tuesday July 22), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says that Avon and Somerset’s budgetary work is “outstanding.”
They applauded the force for responding “extremely effectively” to the spending review challenges and for taking a longer term view, taking the “necessary decisions to ensure future sustainability.”
Avon and Somerset along with Norfolk, Lancashire, Staffordshire and West Midlands were highlighted as “outstanding” forces in the report.
Avon and Somerset was inspected by HMIC in May of this year. They looked at the force’s finances, including plans for the future. They also sought the views from staff and members of the public to find out whether they had noticed any changes in the service following the budget cutbacks.
The “valuing the police programme” allows the HMIC to track how forces are responding to the financial challenges presented during this period of public sector austerity.
The year 2014-15 represents the fourth year in which HMIC has carried out these annual inspections. To make the inspections and the findings more accessible for the public they have introduced a clear judgement which is scored for the first time this year.
The “valuing the police” inspection allows the HMIC to judge all forces on the extent to which they are taking the necessary steps to ensure a secure financial position for the short and long term; to what extent they have an affordable way of delivering policing and how efficient they are.
In reaching this overall conclusion, each of the three questions were reviewed in detail by HMIC, with the following judgments reached for the force:
- Secure financial position – “Outstanding” The force was seen to have a strong track record of achieving savings, including early delivery of savings through underspends; set balanced budget, and have robust plans for future savings to help close predicted budget gaps; developing plans for greater collaboration and partnership;
- Affordable way of delivering policing – “Good.” The force has established a change management programme which is integrated, cohesive and well managed; has been at forefront of collaboration through its Southwest One initiative; action has been taken to bear down on non-pay costs through procurement savings and from its plans for reconfiguration of the estate; a comprehensive engagement and communication plan has been used to consult staff and partners on our plans for change.
- Efficient – “Outstanding.” The force has undertaken an “systematic, comprehensive, rigorous assessment of demand” providing the evidence base to inform the design of our new operating model; a new operating model will align resources against the policing challenges we face; has in place a comprehensive ICT strategy which will realise savings and enhance our effectiveness; and continued to cut crime and seen improvements in victim satisfaction and public confidence.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “I am pleased that HMIC recognise how Avon and Somerset are positively responding to the financial challenges and have awarded us an overall judgement of “outstanding”, which is the highest banding and only given to the top police forces.
“The Constabulary continue to be focused on delivering the level of service local communities expect ensuring they are safe and feel safe while making savings. It is tough and finding savings of £36m over the past four-years has not been easy. We have had to make difficult decisions however we are taking a long term view and the necessary steps today to ensure the future of the service.
“HMIC recognise that Avon and Somerset is not only committed to finding savings but also to being innovative. Residents should be reassured that Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s focus on fighting crime has not been deterred despite a 20 per cent cut from central government funding.”
Acting Chief Constable John Long said: "This HMIC report is warmly welcomed and shows as a force we are moving forward in the right direction.
"Like all public funded bodies, the police is having to find innovative ways of working more efficiently with the limited resources available. It is great testament to our staff that they have embraced the challenges posed by the tight financial restrictions placed on us and are committed to keeping our communities feeling safe and are working to continue to drive down crime."
Posted on Tuesday 22nd July 2014