Response to HMIC Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) report
I welcome this report from HMIC. Scrutiny by an outside body is always valuable and I am pleased that the Inspectorate has recognised that Dorset Police has “good governance and financial controls in place” and that the Force has set a balanced budget for next year.
The recognition of the Force’s use of resources is welcome and I am pleased that the increased percentage of frontline officers, despite the cuts, has been noted.
It is important to bear in mind that this report does not look at the present and that the future remains fluid.
At present there are three unknown elements, all of which will become clear by February:
- The decision on the Police Funding Formula – this could potentially reduce the shortfall of £4.6 million highlighted by HMIC to £1.8 million.
- The Chancellor’s announcement of the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review which will reveal the extent of future cuts.
- The decision about how much money for policing should be raised through council tax, which may help reduce the shortfall further.
The report highlights three main areas of concern:
- READ THE HMIC REPORT HEREThe need for a clearer workforce plan for the next 4 years.
- The need to develop clear and realistic plans for meeting the cuts.
- Our financial reserves.
In relation to the first point, the Chief Constable and I see the advantages of a joint workforce plan with our alliance partners in Devon and Cornwall. We are currently drawing up a 4 year blueprint to meet the challenges we face. I have faith in our collaboration and strategic alliance, indeed our 27 business cases are now well advanced, and savings are already starting to be achieved. The alliance plan is on track.
In relation to the second point, we have plans in place however it is clearly difficult to plan for the unexpected. We will know a lot more in the next few weeks. Once the financial picture is known, we then have to consult the public before we plan 4 years in advance - the public must have a say in how its police service delivers. I urge the public to take part in Your Dorset, Your Police, Your View.
In relation to the third point, our reserves are proportionate to the risk. We have a debt free prudent force which has also removed the pension deficit liability, unlike most forces. I am happy with our reserve position, and disagree with the HMIC view.
Finally, for anyone who may be worried that potential reductions in staff are “scaremongering”, this report provides the clarity that is the unfortunate reality. Eighty percent of the police budget is spent on our workforce and if you are facing cut upon cut, that inevitably means we will lose more staff. We are already facing the need to reduce the workforce by 140 police officers and 134 staff in the medium term and HMIC is suggesting that is not enough. When you are the lowest funded, and one of the smallest and most efficient Forces in England, cuts will have consequences. All I hope is that through continuing to drive through efficiencies and regional collaboration, we can minimise the loss in numbers.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner