Police Accountability Board Minutes 14 January 2022

1. Welcome and introductions


PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Helen King (HK)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

DCC Simon Nickless (SN)

ACO Paul Bullen (PB)

Colleen Rattigan (CR)

Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)

SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies were accepted from CC Nick Adderley

2. 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.

3. Budget 2022/2023

 The Commissioner requests a paper in relation to the final budget requirements and settlement for Northamptonshire Police for the financial year 2022/2023 to include treasury management and reserve strategies.

  • The Chief Constable’s Chief Finance Officer Vaughan Ashcroft provided an overview of the revised budget paper. This is an updated version of the paper presented in December just before the funding settlement was announced.
  • Have now reviewed the impact of the funding settlement which was lower than expected, and also met the challenge to deliver a 3-year balanced budget at £10 assumption for all three years (excluding any pension impact).
  • In order to fund inflationary pressures and requested investment, the Force are looking to ensure that they are as efficient and effective as they can be.
  • A review of the capital budgets has identified some notable cost reductions and coupled with the re-timing of projects, should not only aid/smooth the savings challenge but also ensure projects are deliverable.
  • The Commissioner welcomed the 3-year balanced budget being presented.
  • Given the Chief Constables absence it was agreed that his new Investment proposals will be reviewed at the Next Accountability Board on 7th
  • If approved, the budget presented is agreed on the principle that it does not include the funding of any new investment proposals, but an element will be ring fenced to enable investment and confirmed after February budget discussions.
  • This proposal was accepted.
  • The revised MTFP was reviewed.
  • The requirement is to find at least £0.7m of permanent annual budget savings by 2023/34 with a part-year achievement of this in 2022/23.
  • Vaughan confirmed that the ambition is to exceed this with a target of at least £1m with plans to deliver further savings and efficiencies to balance the MTFP over 4 and 5 years.
  • There was a discussion about revising the table to better represent the unallocated budgets which currently show as surplus funds.
  • Vaughan advised that the savings targets are indicative and rely on a number of factors which include a £10 precept increase per year over 3 years, the use of some earmarked reserves and the ability to use £1m investment monies raised as part of the 2021/22 uplift to fund the investments over the first 3 years.
  • There is also an assumption that any net pressure of pension employer contributions estimated from 24/25 are addressed separately when more details are known. If this doesn’t happen then will have to revise.
  • The Commissioner agreed that it had been prudent to make the savings in order to repurpose the money to resource the Forces additional requirements; The sooner these are realised, the quicker we can get on with delivering new things.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that he was minded to support the additional investments adding that he has sufficient confidence in the Chief Officer team,
  • Whilst there will be pushback on some and some nuances to work on others, he is confident these can be worked through on 8th February at the next accountability board meeting.
  • There was a discussion on the updated recruitment milestones in 2022/23
  • The Commissioner questioned the establishment figure of 1,511.
  • Vaughan explained that the Force added a new cohort of officers in March rather than April. Broadly budgeted establishment is 1,501 but 1,511 are the plans which provide flexibility to ensure we keep to the base line target of 1500.
  • It was agreed that any further additionality that might be gained via a change in the funding formular might support the recruitment of more specialists, not necessarily police officers.
  • There was a discussion on regional budgets.
  • The Commissioner asked for reassurance that regional capability is fit for the future and is keen to understand what regional and sub-regional collaborations the Chief Constable wants to be part of.
  • In the Chiefs absence the Commissioner will require an update.

Action – Chief Constable Adderley to provide the Commissioner with an update on regional and sub-regional collaborations and that they are fit for purpose.

  • There was a discussion about EMSOU; the structure, workforce plan and requirement of the ROCU will be the biggest pressure on the budget.
  • Colleen confirmed this is in hand and will be discussed at the Chief Officer Away day in February.
  • It was agreed that DCC Nickless would brief The Commissioner after this meeting.
  • There was a discussion about the disposal of some sites which have been taking a considerable amount of time. The additional running costs associated with maintaining these has an impact on the budget as they need to be absorbed. They have also been factored into the 1% efficiency savings so need to be achieved.
  • Paul Bullen provided an update; Corby police station is back on the market and there is significant interest.
  • Kettering police station is now progressing.
  • Overall, the Commissioner commended work that has been done to produce what he terms a ‘collaborative budget’.
  • The Commissioner reiterated his confidence in the budget presented is testament to great work everyone has done.
  • There was a discussion about the PCSO establishment. Due to the uncertainty of this, (integral part of the Neighbourhood strategy) the Commissioner confirmed that any underspend from 1st April will be held in a PCSO Reserve fund. (Currently under establishment by 7 or 8 PCSO’s and likely to increase further) and it would be reflected in the budget letter
  • It was agreed that DCC Nickless would determine the right level of PCSO resource within the NPT with the Chief Constable

Action – SN to discuss PCSO establishment with the Chief Constable.

  • Returning the affordability of the Chief Constable new Investment proposals, the 3-year balanced budget relies on a little investment in year 2 and the Force achieving agreed savings targets to make them affordable.
  • He noted that the investment proposals have already been through a number of thresholds and either address a risk or opportunity to tackle demand in the future.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that in the absence of the Chief Constable it was not sensible to discuss them when there is no pressing need to make a decision on them today.
  • With that caveat, the Commissioner commended the budget.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner received this paper and offered his thanks to everyone for the work undertaken to present a balanced budget over three years.

The Commissioner welcomed the ambition being shown by the Chief Constable and his senior team to identify savings in the core budget that would assist ongoing investments in areas of operational business.

There was a discussion about several investment proposals from the Chief Constable. It was agreed that if the Force made the savings proposed and, with the agreed use of balancing reserves, the proposed three-year budget was affordable. This was commended by the Commissioner.

During the discussion on the investment proposals, it was made clear by the Commissioner that while these appeared to be affordable, he would wish to discuss these in more details with the Chief Constable before agreeing to them and as such, given the viability of the budget proposals, this could be agreed at the next accountability board meeting on 8th February.


4. Budget conditions letter update

 The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner agreed a budget conditions letter with the Chief Constable as part of the budget setting process for 2021/2022.

The Commissioner requires a report outlining progress, to this point in implementation and progress of the matters agreed in this letter.

  • Vaughan advised that the quarterly updates provided throughout the year track the progress in each area and reference any separate accompanying reports that look deeper into specific areas as requested by the OPFCC.
  • The Commissioner expressed his gratitude for the quality of the reports and how budgets are being monitored. This gave him confidence.
  • Vaughan confirmed they were a team effort, and he will feed back the Commissioners thanks to the team.
  • A progress summary was provided and reviewed in advance of the meeting so it was agreed that the Commissioner would ask questions on areas where he wanted further clarity.
  • On Police Officer Uplift, the Commissioner asked if the FTE or absolute numbers could be used consistently so that there was no confusion.
  • The Commissioner was pleased with the work that the Force continues to do to reduce burglary. (Third consecutive year of reductions)
  • The Commissioner welcomed the work the Force is doing on ASB along with reductions in repeat victimisation. He expressed an interest in more information, when available, on matters that are not recorded as ASB to ensure they are captured in the appropriate category.
  • On Op Alloy, stated that he will be looking to complete a separate evaluation on this as it appears that CPN resourcing is still an issue and officer requirement/commitment is unclear.
  • There was a discussion about Place based hubs and the commissioning on Mental Health services.
  • DCC Nickless sits on this panel and DCI Ally White is looking at how we connect to the seven mental health hubs.
  • It was agreed the £80k set aside for sexual violence education would be ringfenced and held in reserves. Due to Covid, the in-school education programme has not been possible and is unlikely to change in the short-term.
  • It was agreed this was a sensible approach, the landscape has changed and this may no longer be the best use for the money set aside.
  • HK agreed to transfer the sum of £110K from earmarked reserves to the PFCC reserve and reflect as appropriate in the PFCP Budget Report and Reserves Strategy Action – HK to update the Reserves Strategy and narrative accordingly.
  • It had previously been agreed that any PCSO from 1st April will all be ringfenced and held in reserves.
  • On PCSO’s the Commissioner reiterated his original commitment to underwrite up to an establishment of 93.
  • The Commissioner commended Paul Bullen on the work he is delivering under Enabling services adding that it would please him to see the same passion being bought to Interoperability.
  • This is one of the few areas where he is disappointed in the progress being made and he is keen to know who will be picking this work up on behalf of the Force when ACC Sturman retires.
  • The rollout of Office 365 enable laptops Office 365 has been hampered due to delays in the delivery of replacement laptops from Lenovo.
  • This has impacted many police forces in the country and is due to a global shortage.
  • Despite this, Paul Bullen confirmed around 2000+ laptops have now been issued and work continues to ensure the benefits identified in the original business case are delivered included Agilisys work which spans both police and fire (What can be done more efficiently if done at the same time).
  • Paul advised that support for Windows 7 and 2008 servers have been signed for final time. This is to mitigated risks, managed through the risk register, and provide assurance that doing as quickly as can. Paul will keep the pressure on in this regard.
  • The Commissioner suggested that it might be worth reaching out to the Police Digital Service to see if we can learn anything from other forces and any benefits they might be seeing. (Not just emails and Teams)
  • There was a discussion on the HTC Unit. The current backlog in the digital hub is decreasing slowly as processes introduced over the last few months start to have an impact and, investment in replacement technology begin to improve efficiency.
  • In terms of a number of ‘proof of concept’ submissions of digital devices to a private sector provider, the Commissioner is keen to see the results of this work.
  • The commissioner also asked what plans there are to prepare officers to better manage digital files.
  • Digital media investigations and speed of investigations was a HMIC Area for Improvement (AFI).
  • I was agreed that PF and DCC Nickless will pick this up separately.
  • The Commissioner commented that he saw evidence of good progress at a senior level but doesn’t see the same progress at sergeant or Inspector level.
  • DCC Nickless reference a revised approach to the selection, training and development of sergeants that will help.
  • There was a discussion about the new ‘Brand’ work which is a 3-year programme being led by Rich Edmondson.
  • DCC Nickless agreed to provide more information.

Action – DCC Nickless to provide an update on the Brand work being manged by Corporate Comms.

  • There was a discussion about Integrated Offender management and Out of Court Disposals.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that he will be asking for a formal report on this at the point that it has been running for 6 months.
  • DCC Nickless welcomed this along with a review of the support received in the wider partnerships.
  • The Commissioner would also like to review the money we pay out to the wider partnerships to ensure they are delivering on the contracts and the benefits are having an impact on demand. NFT and Mitte contracts in particular.
  • Overall, the Commissioner was pleased with the progress being made against the Budget letter. In most areas, real progress has been made or is in train.

Assurance Statement :

The Commissioner agreed that in most areas there had been positive progress and he thanked the Force for this.

There was a discussion about progress in relation to interoperability; Whilst the Commissioner was satisfied that progress on the enabling services agenda was positive, he was less assured in relation to the operational interoperability workstreams.

He also reiterated that he wished to quickly see the promised PCSO review.

5. A.O.B

  • No further business was raised.