A three-force Strategic Alliance could be viable – operationally, financially and politically. That’s the conclusion of a meeting of the Chief Officers and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.
Following on from months of work conducted by a project team of officers and staff from all three forces, the Chief Officers and PCCs have agreed that the ‘proof of concept’ work was persuasive.
At a meeting held on Thursday 17 December, the overarching view was that there is a real potential for the creation of a single policing model for all three forces.
As a result, it was agreed that a more detailed business case will now be developed to define what a Strategic Alliance could constitute, with an intention to introduce unified leadership, a single way of working, uniformity in systems, training, policy and procedures so as to ensure a consistently high quality standard of service across the three forces.
On 3 November, the three forces announced that they had asked G4S to carry out a feasibility study into contact management. G4S has provided its report. Although an urgent need to explore the options for contact management capability has been identified, for the time being this will not include outsourcing.
First phase of the Strategic Alliance
The first phase of the Strategic Alliance will look at early alignment across the contact management departments by June 2017. The three forces and the Office of PCCs will also be talking in detail with staff, staff associations, partners and with the public.
For their part, the three Deputy Chief Constables will help shape the vision for the Strategic Alliance. If the detailed business case proves viable, a full Strategic Alliance could be in place by 2020.
PCC Adam Simmonds said: “We’ve already scoped out an exciting programme of work and activity to enable better value and efficiency and effectiveness for our respective communities. We believe, for instance, that we need to enable the public to engage with the police in ways fit for the 21st Century. Therefore, we’ve identified contact management as a key and pressing area for early and deep collaboration as three forces not as individual ones.”
Simmonds continued: “The work of the Alliance will require many partners over the coming years. The Alliance is currently in no discussion with any provider for any service at this time. This Alliance is not the merger of three forces, but rather it’s a level of collaboration not yet experienced anywhere else in the country. Three unique and individual forces with proud histories believing that, together, they will be more efficient and effective and more powerful to the benefit of local communities. The Alliance will be able to protect the quality of local policing services in difficult financial times, while each force retains its own local identity.”
Opportunities for collaboration
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Frost explained: “Working across the three force areas offers us a number of opportunities to collaborate further. We can benchmark against other forces, look at the most effective and efficient ways of working and ensure that this is how we deliver our service to the public.”
Frost went on to state: “A Strategic Alliance offers more resilience, more integration and consistency which will ultimately give the public the best service we can provide for the money we have available.”
In conclusion, Frost commented: “We need to look at how we can deliver a wide range of services differently across the three forces. Technology, for example, can open up new channels of communication and enable people to report and track crime online or, where appropriate, talk to an officer online. There will inevitably be changes to the service the public receives. However, what’s paramount is that we work together to keep people safe and operate in the most efficient and effective way.”
Input from G4S on contact management scenarios
As part of its proposals for Northamptonshire, G4S looked at the current performance of the force Control Room which showed that 14% of 999 calls are unanswered for ten seconds or more and that over 54% of non-emergency calls are unanswered within 30 seconds.
Responding to the forces’ decision not to outsource at this juncture, John Shaw (managing director for G4S Public Services) said: “The announcement shows that, despite the recent funding settlement announcement which protected police from spending cuts, the pressures on force finances remain. Police leaders continue to look at new structures and ways of working to improve performance and efficiency.”
He continued: “In November, we were asked by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire to develop proposals which would improve the force Control Room performance and save taxpayers’ money. Our experience in Lincolnshire shows that this can be done at the same time as improving callers’ satisfaction with the service, and so of course we’re disappointed not to be taking forward our proposals with Northamptonshire and the other two forces involved in the Strategic Alliance.”
Shaw concluded: “There are hard choices ahead for everyone in policing, but the debate should be much more nuanced than a simple choice between cops or cuts. In a world of shrinking budgets where the vast majority of budget is rightly spent on people, we firmly believe that we can help police forces to unlock resources in their support functions in order to release more money for front line policing. We will continue to work with police forces around the country to bring our experience and innovation to bear in helping them to meet their funding challenges and deliver an improved service to the public.”
*The feasibility study, which was sent to Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner in late November, has been published on the G4S website alongside an addendum which was provided in response to additional questions raised in early December