Northamptonshire Police is in a good position to continue to provide vital services while balancing its books, according to inspectors.
A report published this morning (Tuesday, July 22) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) praised the county’s force for being on track to deliver savings “while keeping its communities safe”.
HMIC said Northamptonshire Police had made savings which allowed it to increase the proportion of staff and officers in front-line roles and had overseen a larger fall in crime than the national average.
The report also found Northants Police to be ahead of many other forces in terms of collaboration – for example as part of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, which tackles organised crime.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales were inspected by HMIC and judged on how well they have implemented and dealt with financial austerity. The inspection is the latest in a series which followed a 2010 Government announcement of a 20 per cent cut to police force funding within five years.
The Ofsted-style gradings saw 40 forces receive an “outstanding” or “good” rating, with only three – Bedfordshire, Gwent and Nottinghamshire – being told they require improvement.
Northamptonshire Police was rated as “good”, and two high-profile initiatives – blue-light collaboration and a special officers recruitment drive – were highlighted by HMIC as key to achieving affordable policing.
The report said: “Northamptonshire has well-established collaborative arrangements in place with other forces, which have already yielded considerable savings. The force has plans to engage in further collaboration within the region.
“The force is also pursuing collaboration with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service and looking how the two organisations can practically work more closely in frontline service provision.
“Key to enabling the force to have sufficient staff to meet demand is through the use of the special constabulary and volunteers. An ambitious recruitment programme for specials will see numbers increase significantly over the spending review.”
Among other findings, the report said Northamptonshire Police was on course to cut its workforce by 22 per cent by the end of this financial year compared to 2010-11 – but that the number of officers on its books had only declined by eight per cent, less than the England and Wales average of 11 per cent.
The proportion of officers on the front line was set to increase by 2.5 percentage points over that time period, although that figure was lagging the national average slightly.
HMIC found there had been a 15 per cent fall in recorded crime in the county between 2010-11 and 2013-14 – against an England and Wales average of 14 per cent – while victim satisfaction with Northamptonshire Police stood at 88 per cent last year. Nationally that figure was 85 per cent.
The HMIC report has been welcomed by Northamptonshire Police. Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: “Reducing budgets every year has been an increasingly difficult challenge and this report hopefully reassures the public that we provide the best possible service we can.
“The hard work of the men and women of Northamptonshire Police has been vital and they fully deserve the credit for delivering the really good service we give the public.”
The county’s police commissioner Adam Simmonds added: “I’m pleased the HMIC has recognised the significant steps forward Northamptonshire Police has made in what is undoubtedly a challenging financial situation.
“We provide excellent value for money and the force has been recognised in this report for having overachieved on current savings plans and for having good plans to deal with further savings in the future.
“I’m particularly pleased that HMIC have welcomed our initiatives to increase the number of specials and volunteers to increase visibility in our communities and recognised that we are ahead of many other forces in collaboration work, both within the region and with our plans to work much more closely with the fire service.”
Zoë Billingham, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, said: “Northamptonshire Police is on track to achieve its required savings of £22.9 million over this spending review period.
“It has plans in place to achieve further savings in 2015-16. The force faces a particular challenge because is it already a low spend force and so there are fewer opportunities to further reduce its costs.
The force has detailed plans to meet the savings required in 2014-15 and will, over the spending review, exceed the amount it needs to save. This has been managed by over-achievement on savings targets and by annual under spends in its budget.”