Welcome and introductions
PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
Paul Fell (PF)
Helen King (HK)
CC Nick Adderley (NA)
DCC Ivan Balhatchet (IB)
Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)
Colleen Rattigan (CR)
C/Supt Adam Ward (AW)
Supt Natalee Starbuck (NS)
Supt Rachael Handford (RH)
Emily Evans (EE)
- SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
- There were no apologies.
Previous minutes and action log
- Minutes of previous meeting were circulated with the meeting papers. No changes have been requested.
- Outstanding actions from the Action Log have been updated.
Complaints and Reflective Practice Update
The Commissioner requires a report in relation to the Force handling and management of complaints.
This update should include the following:
- The average time for assessment of investigations in PSD, from the point they are received from OPFCC customer service team to the point a decision is made to allocate either to PSD for investigation or Countywide Complaints Unit for completion.
- In cases where allocation is to a PSD investigator for investigation, the average time between that decision being made and the allocation being undertaken.
- In either case, the average time of completion of investigations in both Countywide Complaints Unit and PSD, measured from the point of initial receipt in PSD to final decision being made and relayed to the complainant.
The figures should relate to both the last 12 month period and should provide a comparison with the figures provided in the October 2022 report on this matter.
Reflective practice and learning – The report should outline the number of times that reflective practice has been used in the past 12 months and any trends in relation to its use, both in relation to an outcome from a complaint but also as a part of general performance management and improvement.
- Natalee Starbuck provided an overview.
- A summary of the numbers of complaints recorded in the last 12 months was provided.
- The use of Reflective practice and learning (PRI) that the Force has also recorded in the last 12 months was provided as comparison data.
- There has been a significant increase in the number of complaints recorded and an increase in the number of complaints that the OPFCC have service recovered, which was welcomed as this meant that complaints were being resolved at an earlier stage.
- Previously around 50% of complaints were service recovered by the OPFCC, that has now increased to over 70%.
- More serious complaints are not eligible for Service recovery and are dealt with by PSD.
- Between September 2021 and August 2022 there were 110 PRIs.
- This has reduced to 97 for the period August 2022 – July 2023.
- PRIs are largely used when a complaint is made about an individual’s behaviour – impolite language/tone/attitude. Or Delivery of Service – decisions/general level of service.
- Work continues to change the perception of PRI from being viewed as a sanction when it should be seen as a supportive, learning and development tool.
- The Commissioner expressed a concern about the increase in the number of complaints being received about officer conduct.
- NS confirmed that the increase has been noted across all Forces and reflects the wider concern the public has with policing and of course the uplift of officer numbers and relative inexperience of the current workforce.
- The complaints are mostly low level and the Forces timeliness in dealing with them has greatly improved.
- Only 3% of complaints were upheld and previous analysis of the complaints received show that most complaints are made by the perpetrator rather than the victim.
- Victim based complaints tend to be around the lack of update and are fed into the Confidence and Satisfaction Board for review.
- The Commissioner questioned if more customer service focussed sessions could be included within the initial training of new recruits.
- The Chief Constable recognised that there was more work to do and confirmed that they are looking at the customer service training offered by Tesco.
- The Commissioner asked NS if there was any trend data around individual behaviour that could provide insight or organisational learning.
- NS took an action to look into this.
Action – NS to find out if there is any trend or insight into individual behaviours and or Delivery of service. NS will also provide examples of organisational learning that has happened as a result.
- There was a discussion on timeliness.
- The comparison figures provided demonstrated an improvement in timeliness overall however, PF questioned why if it took 14 days to assess a complaint, it then took a further 26 days for the case to be allocated to an investigator.
- NS explained that as well as low level complaints, PSD also have to deal with more serious complaints where misconduct is alleged.
- The team are working at capacity with most investigators carrying around 20 cases of complaints or conduct issues.
- The Commissioner was interested to know how many complaints were from members of the public versus internal complaints.
- NS confirmed that a very small number of complaints raised turn into misconduct investigations.
- Internal complaints reflected the increase in confidence to report poor behaviours and also arose from dip sampling of body worn video (BWV)
- NS also confirmed that a number of good practices are also identified in the dip sampling of BWV as well as providing a different view of the complaint being investigated.
- NS confirmed that the overall investigation times have reduced for both PSD and CWC.
- Whilst the numbers of complaints waiting to be allocated to investigation within PSD remain low, the severity assessment numbers have increased.
- A Sergeant has been seconded to support the Business manager in assessing these more quickly.
- There was a discussion about LQC ‘s and there being only two available in the county.
- Interviews have taken place to recruit more LCQ’s to expedite full misconduct hearings.
- The Commissioner asked what the backlog of misconduct cases was
- NS agreed to check and report back.
Action – NS to find out how many misconduct cases are awaiting a formal hearing with an LQC.
- Overall, the Commissioner was pleased with the progress that had been made to reduce the backlog of complaints within PSD and the use of PRI to support and improve officer development and practice.
- It was noted that the regular complaints meeting between the OPFCC Customer Service Team and PSD are to be reinstated.
Action – EE to ensure regular complaints meeting between PSD and the OPFCC customer Service Team are reinstated and diarised.
The Commissioner welcomed and acknowledged the fact that since he last received a report on this matter the timeliness of complaint handling within the Force had seen some improvements but reiterated that he still saw this as an area where improvements could and should be sought, as this was a key part of the legitimacy of policing.
He was particularly interested to see in the future how the use of techniques such as practice requiring improvement could be used more widely to improve customer contact and improve confidence and service delivery.
The Chief Constable stated that he saw this whole area as an area that will require investment in the future and had requested an update from the Head of PSD as to what a future structure might look like. This was welcomed by the Commissioner.
Neighbourhood crime update
In the July accountability board the Commissioner discussed his concerns with regard to both the rising levels of neighbourhood crime in the County and the Force response to it.
As such, he requires an update paper that articulates the current performance relating to neighbourhood crime levels, suspects identified, arrests made, positive outcomes achieved and victim satisfaction levels.
While reporting these numbers the report should focus on the changes made in approach since July and the impact of these.
- Supt Rachael Hanford provided an overview.
- From the most recent performance update the Force is in a good position having the third highest reduction nationally.
- The challenge will be sustaining the overall reduction given the rise in burglary and vehicle crime.
- The Commissioner asked if the comparison was against baseline data for 2019.
- RH confirmed that it was.
- There was a discussion about robbery offences which have increased by 4.5%. This is largely attributed to high volumes of this crime type in the autumn of 2022.
- In recent months, robbery has stabilised and there is now a downward trajectory with the volume of all robbery down by 7.4% in the last 3 months.
- There was a discussion about the contrasting performance between the North LPA and the West LPA.
- RH advised that an analyst had been tasked to review the different robbery profiles to understand what is driving the increase in this type of offence in the west.
- The differing performance trend is also replicated in terms of the number of arrests made and there are significant differences between the north and west LPA arrest rates.
- RH confirmed robbery is taken very seriously and now sits within CID, as a trial response and a DS now reviews all robbery with injuries. It will be a 3-month trial on the west LPA.
- A part of this trial was the secondment of a small number of response officers to CID, with an interest in investigations to make this pilot plan deliverable.
- The Chief Constable added that CID oversight is a significant step forward but the caveat remains that CID cannot take all robbery offences but will focus on those where there is a level of injury.
- On robbery related crimes in general there may be other areas where improved focus could be applied, and he will review.
- AW confirmed that the Force has a more sophisticated allocation policy to ensure the right resource is allocated as quickly as possible. There is also a post allocation policy review – was knife involved, was it DA related or a commercial robbery etc.
- There was a discussion about Op Revive which is tackling the know links between serious violence and Serious Organised Crime.
- Op Revive has been very successful in Wellingborough and is now in operation in Kettering; concentrated in the highest harm areas.
- There was a discussion on co-location (NAB and WWCJ being co-located as opposed to Weston Favel and the CJC in different locations).
- AW confirmed that co-location in the North was preferable and more effective, but reiterated that working relationships between the Superintendents and Chief inspectors on both LPA’s were strong and that they are sharing best practice.
- Residential burglary was also discussed as part of overall neighbourhood crime.
- As with robbery, the North has experienced reductions in Home Invasion burglary over the past few months and is projecting an overall end of year reduction.
- The West however, is predicting an end of year increase linked to a sustained high levels on the NN3 area and a small spike in offences at Northampton University.
- There has also been an increase in attempt burglaries as a result of digital doorbell footage.
- RH confirmed that they have already identified patterns of offending in this area and key nominals have been arrested and charged.
- There was a discussion about Northamptonshire Talking.
- This is a great communication/engagement tool and RH is keen to get as many people signed up as possible.
- The Commissioner confirmed that he was supportive of any work to supercharge this.
- Moving on to vehicle crime which also falls within the neighbourhood crime definition, the 12-month period to the end of July 2023 has shown an increase and this is mirrored nationally.
- There is a notable difference across the LPA’s; the North has seen an increase in the theft of motorcycles whereas the West has seen an increase in the theft of motorcars.
- No recent patterns or trends have been identified so the Force is looking at vehicle crime over a much longer period to establish any trends and ensure that all active lines of enquiry are reviewed.
- AW confirmed that he is working on a plan for vehicle crime and tackling it very much in the same way as he did for knife crime.
- The Commissioner whilst there is a level of grip and understanding in relation to burglary and to a lesser extent robbery, he was less convinced in relation to vehicle crime.
- PF added that he couldn’t see from the paper provided anything to explain what the strategic approach to neighbourhood crime is and that the response feels mostly tactical.
- PF suggested a NPT reduction strategy for neighbourhood crime was missing.
- RH confirmed there is a “We don’t buy crime” strategy which includes property marking, vehicle crime working groups and Pacesetter action. In addition, Northamptonshire Talking is used to push crime prevention messages when a hot spot or trend is identified.
- The Chief Constable agreed to take this concern as an action, adding that there is a lot of work going on, but it needs to be more joined up.
Action – NA to review the overall neighbourhood crime reduction strategy to provide reassurance to the Commissioner.
The Commissioner received this update. He acknowledged that looking at the Home Office 2019 baseline figures for Neighbourhood Crime the Force is not an outlier and its performance was strong against peers. He recognised the improvements that have been made especially relating to offences of robbery but expressed his desire to see a more joined up approach relating to vehicle crime specifically and questioned as to why there was not a cohesive Neighbourhood Crime prevention of reduction strategy and approach.
He looked forward to receiving a further update when the Force had considered this point.
Medium term financial plan paper
The Commissioner requires a paper that provides an overview of the revised medium term financial plan for Northamptonshire Police, taking into account the budget out turn position and any other available information since the 2023/2024 budget setting process.
- Vaughan Ashcroft provided an overview.
- The MTFP is refreshed every year as part of the budget setting process.
- All assumptions made as part of this process have been reviewed and compared against both regional and national trends.
- The precept assumption for 2024/25 is £10 as set out in the three year funding settlement for Police.
- Whilst the 2023/24 budget is balanced with achievable savings assumptions, there remains a significant challenge from 2024/25.
- Many of the original assumptions made are still appropriate with the exception of the future tax base increased.
- HK confirmed these have been reduced from 1.75% to 1.5%each year from 2025/26 to better align with the unitary authority forecasts.
- This will create an additional pressure of £0.25m.
- There has been no announcement of any changes to the funding formula and the expectation is the usual formula will apply.
- HK agreed to check with regional colleagues to see if they were aware of any changes to the timing of the funding formula implementation.
Action – HK to check if there will be any changes to the funding formula for 2024/25.
- The 7% police pay award was announced on 13th
- A grant will be provided by the HO to offset the difference between the 2.5% that was expected and the 7% awarded.
- It is assumed that no further grant will be made available to cover police staff/PCSO pay awards over what has already been budgeted.
- Overall, this will still leave an £800k gap in 2024/25
- On a positive note, the charges for NPAS were lower than expected.
- The rise in interest rates increases revenue on cash investments following underspends in the capital budget.
- VA advised that the most expensive item in capital financing is IT as the life span is considerably shorter.
- Other potential investments captured within the Estates Masterplan remain part of the strategic planning process and have not yet been approved. This includes substantial investment in buildings, electric vehicles and other decarbonisation programmes that will be required and built into capital and revenue planning in the near future.
- Other investments in areas where demand levels are expected to increase are being considered as part of the annual strategic planning cycle.
- Following the closure of 2023/24 budgets, the level of earmarked reserves is higher than budgeted, and a further contribution of £1m to the cost of maintaining officer numbers has been built into the revised MTFP.
- Even after this contribution, the level of reserves is still higher than previously estimated and could help to provide some flexibility for supporting MTFP and/or future investments.
- VA highlighted areas where savings can be found if the funding is worse than anticipated. For example, although the vacancy factor, increased on average from 2.5% to 4.5% it is still lower than many other forces. If needed, a decision could be made to hold staff vacancies to make short term savings on top of this.
- In summary, VA confirmed that they use best endeavours to not be too risk adverse but be realistic and prudent with the budget and capital investments available.
- The Commissioner commended VA and his team for a very thorough report.
- It is now appropriate to consider what investments will deliver the require efficiencies that will make a difference.
- HK also thanked VA for the excellent work on the MTPF.
- HK confirmed have the team have worked on a £10 precept assumption – however, that would be a 3.5% increase and government grant is forecasting a 1.7% increase, but inflation is nearer 7%, so funding is half of what is needed to meet the additional costs.
- If there is flexibility to consider £15, that would represent 5.447%
- There is no expectation of any further grants to help with the pay award.
The Commissioner thanked those that had been involved in the development of this revised MTFP. He stated that he had high levels of confidence in the assumptions made and the projections demonstrated in the paper as a result. It was pleasing that we had a sound understanding of any potential challenges that lay ahead.
He was assured that the paper was thorough and well presented.
- There was a discussion about the business case for the FCR and whether the space could accommodate the additional operatives.
- Right Care, Right Person. DCC Balhatchet agreed to provide the Commissioner with an update on staffing.