Budget Cuts May Prompt Police Force Mergers

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  1. Thin Blue Line Comment

    As our readers know, we have been beating the fewer forces, regional or national service drum for many years now. We cannot help but wonder why BHH and any of the other new found supporters of mergers did not have the courage and vision to make the proposals earlier. It seems unlikely that his position would be weakened by any mergers that might take place. It is lamentable that Chief Officers will only put forward radical innovative views when the consequences do not threaten the individuals career progression.

    If you were the Chief Constable of a smaller force for example, are you likely to support reducing 43 forces down to 9 or 10, thereby threatening your fiefdom, career and political progression? The answer to this is only yes if you can put the public and the service above your own career aspirations. Unfortunately, the bulk of ACPO ranks have shown themselves to be self-serving and greedy, so the jury is out on whether or not such proposals would receive the majority support.

    FORCE MERGERS

    A popular view is that the time has come to seriously consider merging police forces. We have suggested that there could be as few as 10 to correspond with the regional areas. Finally, ACPO are being forced to accept this possibility, with Sir Hugh Orde previously conceding that the “overwhelming majority” of chiefs want to talk about merging 43 forces into more regional units.

    These chiefs now accept that mergers will save money. The historic problem is that mergers were politically unacceptable to government, allegedly hard to sell to communities and don’t sit easily with the plan for locally-elected commissioners.

    When a member of the public calls for a police officer, does he/she look at the officers cap badge or insignia and say “Sorry you can’t deal with my problem, you’re not from my force area” Of course not, all they care about is that a police officer has turned up to help them. It is no more complicated than that, and any other objection to force mergers is pure obfuscation.

    Until now, we would hardly expect Chief Officers to support a strategy that might reduce their number by 75% – after all, “Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”. Times have changed though, and mergers must now be given serious consideration going forward.

    EFFECTIVE USE OF RESOURCES

    * 130,000 police officers
    * 60,000 staff – cost £2.7 billion
    * 17,000 PCSO’s – 484 million
    * 17% Increase in ACPO ranks 1997 to 2010***
    * 16% Increase in SMT ranks 1997 to 2010***
    * 11% Increase in PC rank 1997 to 2010***
    * Only 11% of warranted officers available for “Visible Policing”
    * ACPO and SMT ranks basic salary £230million

    *** These figures prompt the question: “Over the period of the Labour years, in view of there being a 17% increase in ACPO and 16% increase in SMT ranks and only an 11% increase in PC ranks, is there not an argument that there are in fact TOO MANY CHIEFS and an ineffective use of the resources of indians?”

    Force by force, there is a top heavy ACPO/SMT and Police Staffing level. Force by force, there is a disproportionate number of specialist or non visible roles.

    The policing cuts debate fundamentally comes down to a balancing act between visible and invisible work. Half a century ago, more than a third of a constabulary’s manpower was spent on those foot patrols – nabbing burglars with their swag bags.

    Today there are forces that dedicate just 11% (and by now rapidly decreasing) of constables to patrols because they have expanded forensic units, intelligence teams and largely invisible public protection work like child abuse, domestic violence and sexual offences.

    Given the political and community pressure to protect the “front line”, most chief constables wanted to cut specialist units, even though they argue they prove their worth. And many chiefs think the pressure to focus on local “visible” crime grew following the arrival of Police and Crime Commissioners.

    But surely that’s the point of policing? Dealing with what matters to local people?

    The time has come to strip away those roles whose value is doubtful, and there are plenty of them.

    The time has come for the rainy day reserves to be used to protect the front line. It’s not just raining chaps, it’s chucking it down.

    The time has come for some tough decisions, the right decisions about how the tax payers money is spent. Locally elected police commissioners may not be popular among ACPO ranks and perhaps we should ask ourselves why.

    Could it be that a fiscally wise commissioner might actually apply some common sense to the way our money is spent? Whilst this may expose the weaknesses and activities of our Senior Police Officers and their advisors, perhaps the public would welcome the return of the common sense, back to basics, no frills coppering. Perhaps then, we might actually see the good guys start winning and more of the bad guys being caught and dealt with.

    The Government set its heart on 43 Elected Commissioners being appointed to replace the police authorities. This was a poorly thought out strategy and the pathetic turn out for voting confirms the public apathy of the subject.

    10 regional forces as opposed to 43 at present, would bring major benefits:-

    • The ACPO and SMT ranks could be reduced by as much as 75% (Basic salary costs are in the region of £230million)
    • 10 regional HR departments (or even 1 central unit) would shave thousands of duplicated police staff roles, save millions and prevent the necessity for front line cuts. (Police staff costs were in the region of £2.6billion in 2009/10). This could be repeated for IT and other departments.
    • 10 regional forces could save millions on an ongoing basis through centralised procurement of uniform, vehicles and other non staffing services. (Forces currently spend £2.7billion per year on non staffing costs).
    • 10 regional forces would enable the more appropriate allocation of the reserve funds in force bank accounts amounting to £1.2billion which is coincidentally the amount forces are being asked to shave off their budget.
    • 10 regional forces would require only 10 Locally Elected Police Commissioners instead of 43. Perhaps someone from the Government would explain why this rationale seems to have been overlooked or ignored? Or perhaps there are local authority jobs that are being protected rather than ensuring front line resources are ring fenced?

    The pressures Chief Constables are under to deliver the Government cuts, is creating a short sighted approach. Without a more long term perspective that would save many millions or billions more, Chief Officers are forced to be parochial and consider only their own forces and how they will meet the Government demands. This could indeed have disasterous consequences to essential services, unecessarily in our view.

    Perhaps this is a consequence of a system that compels a Government to want to be seen to be achieving something within that period, rather than implementing a longer term strategy that would be more effective?

    Many of the cuts and savings could have been more effectively delivered by smarter volume central purchasing arrangements and sharing of resources. HR is an example. Why do 43 forces have 43 HR departments when massive savings could be achieved with one central HR function?

    The same principle should be applied for all areas of procurement. Equipment and services sourced centrally would deliver millions in savings. HMIC predicted that £5billion could be saved by better procurement over a ten year period.

    A few highlights from our previous report about the cuts are increasingly relevant:-
    •Police Force Governance – remove many ACPO & PCC’s SAVE ??? Millions
    •Police Force Mergers – saving predicted by HMIC £2.25billion (over 10 years)
    •Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of ACPO ranks SAVE £11million
    •Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of SMT ranks SAVE £80million
    •Remove Chief Supt & Chief Inspector ranks (alternative to mergers) SAVE £12million
    •Increase constable to manager ratio (recruitment cost savings) SAVE £169million
    •Increase sergeant to inspector ratio SAVE £178million
    •If ratio of 1 frontline staff to every officer of management rank SAVE £1billion
    •Police staff levels halved through mergers SAVE £1.3billion
    •Police staff overtime halved by mergers or tighter control SAVE £31million
    •Return 25% of office based police officers to frontline (recruitment savings) SAVE £670million
    •25% reduction in police staff support numbers SAVE £500million

    Any one or combination of these measures was always achievable without the decimation witnessed to front line resources. Any one of them would return hundreds if not thousands of officers to the front line where they are needed most.

    Yes there will be pain, but far better that than continue to risk the lives and safety of over stretched officers and members of the public who actually deserve a better quality of service.

    The first challenge for Cruella and her team, is to root out those senior officers who have been singing off their own self serving hymn sheets for far too long.

  1. August 4, 2015

    […] So reads today's headlines. It may indeed be true. Personally I have always thought that the current Home Secretary and her gang have been pushing us towards a National Police Service. …  […]

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