Northamptonshire Police claims it is ahead of schedule in making the savings required by Government, according to a new HMIC report.
Following the Government’s comprehensive spending review in 2010, the Police Authority was tasked with reducing spending by 20 per cent in the four years from March 2011 – meaning that the force has to close a total budget gap of some £20m.
A little over a year into that period, Northamptonshire Police says it has realised nearly £9m of savings, while figures relating to public confidence and satisfaction in the force are the highest they have ever been.
The HMIC Valuing Police report, published today, looks at the force’s progress in meeting its savings target; the report comments favourably on the savings the force has made while becoming more efficient and effective in the process. Much of this success has been achieved through a new force structure, which places the needs of the public at its core and ensures that ‘back office’ functions are delivered as cost-effectively as possible – developments which have involved regional collaboration with other forces in the East Midlands and an innovative programme of sharing vital support services with Cheshire Constabulary.
Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: “Colleagues across the force continue to work extremely hard to ensure that, as well as identifying the considerable savings required by the Government between now and 2015, we do everything we can to improve the service to those who call on us for help.
“Policing is a people business – and the reality of delivering significant savings is that the organisation has had to reduce in size.
“However, this has to be viewed in the context of the daily dialogue we have with our communities, which ensures that we structure ourselves in the most effective way to meet their needs. This is showing very encouraging results, with public confidence and victim satisfaction in Northamptonshire Police at consistently high levels, while the number of anti-social behaviour incidents has never been lower.”
Since the data for this report was collated, the force has announced a postponement of the reduction in police officers and PCSOs that had initially been planned, as a result of the extra savings that have been identified in the back office. Recruitment has already started and further savings this year may ensure that there will not be a reduction of officers or PCSOs next year.
Chief Constable Lee added: “This is good news for the people of Northamptonshire and, as part of the changes we continue to make, we have also been able to reduce bureaucracy considerably meaning that officers working on the front line face fewer distractions. As an example, in the past year we have removed more than 200 forms and pieces of paperwork that were felt to be unnecessarily bureaucratic – this alone makes a huge difference to the amount of quality time officers can spend dealing with the issues that matter to local communities.”
Deirdre Newham, chairman of Northamptonshire Police Authority, said the last year had been tough while the force works to make the necessary savings.
She said: “Northamptonshire Police has taken significant steps in addressing the challenges it faces, especially when the 20 per cent savings come on top of the fact that for many years the force has not received the level of funding that the Government’s police funding formula states that we should receive. This gap amounts to a further £3.6m.
“The authority has overseen this work very closely indeed and, as this report shows, the force has not shied away from making some tough decisions in order to ensure that frontline services are protected as far as possible. An important step in this regard is the ongoing recruitment of more officers, to bring the Force back up to its establishment level.
“The force is making good progress across many of its priorities, an achievement that is all the more impressive in the context of the financial position. There are challenges ahead however - particularly in terms of reducing violent crime in the county and increasing the number of burglary, robbery and vehicle crime offences that are resolved. The authority is confident that the force is well placed to address these issues.”