Welcome and introductions
PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
Paul Fell (PF)
Helen King (HK)
CC Nick Adderley (NA)
DCC Ivan Balhatchet (IB)
ACC Ash Tuckley (AT)
ACO Paul Bullen (PB)
Nick Alexander (NA)
Colleen Rattigan (CR)
- 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.
Budget Outturn 2022/2023
The Commissioner requests a report on the Northamptonshire Police financial outturn position for 2022/2023
- Nick Alexander provided an overview of the provisional revenue and capital budget outturn.
- The report provided was taken as read.
- There has been a significant underspend on police officers, largely due to an additional uplift grant of £940k for having succeeded in recruiting the required 47 additional officers during the year.
- NA also highlighted a significant underspend on PCSO’s which was reduced to £0k after a transfer to reserves.
- There was an overspend on pensions which relates to a one-off correction on a historic underpayment.
- The 2022/23 Capital Expenditure Budget was reviewed and reduced to take into account projects that are no longer being delivered or are now expected to be delivered next year or in future financial years.
- The Commissioner asked the Chief Constable what the current trajectory was for getting PCSO numbers back to the agreed establishment.
- The Chief Constable explained that recruitment has been a real struggle with applications coming in in ones and twos.
- The Bi/Tri Service role may help with future recruitment. Alongside this, the force have considered different approaches like recruiting in smaller cohorts with greater “on the job” training.
- He confirmed other forces are facing similar recruitment challenges.
- PB added the national officer uplift programme is also having an impact. Candidates who may have considered a PCSO career are applying to become police officers instead.
- Other forces such as Norfolk no longer employ PCSOs and feedback from community groups suggest there is some fear around the longevity of the role.
- Added to this, the focus on police officer recruitment and the need to maintain officer establishment above 1530 is also a factor.
- There was a discussion about a ‘Community Constable’ role.
- The Commissioner felt that in the short term we should recruit to both roles and if possible, underwrite an additional cohort of police officers from the underspend whilst having the conversation about a different kind of Community constable offer.
- The Commissioner noted the overspend on overtime in Local Policing and asked why there were shortages across all areas.
- AT explained this was due to the new shift pattern and a gap around annual leave already rostered. The number of officers abstracted for training was also a factor.
- In addition, the high number of student officers who are not yet independent leaves gaps which planning must fill. (Tutors spending more time with student officers at incidents etc).
- The overspend on overtime has been offset by income received from mutual aid.
- AT was confident that the use of overtime will reduce as the new shift pattern is embedded and student officers mature. However, the Force is not yet at a point where it can look at minimum staffing levels. This will need to wait until students mature. In addition, there is no science on what demand will be on any particular day.
- PB confirmed that overtime spend was down across the Force.
- The Commissioner asked if the Force had made any decisions on future demand to get ahead of the curve and make recruitment decisions earlier.
- CR confirmed she has written a demand strategy, using Poliscope data and time and motion surveys with the purpose of trying to prevent demand not just staff to the current demand.
- On recruitment, the Chief Constable confirmed the Force was in a better position than others due to some of the decisions they took with additional cohorts and more IPLDP.
- 34% of student officer time is spent by protected learning. Then tutor time and training also needs to be factored in.
- The Force also has to consider the training infrastructure given that the College of Policing training guidelines will see basic training increase from 16 weeks to 26 weeks.
- PB confirmed that the force still needs to recruit around 200 officers each year just to maintain the 1500+ headcount.
- It was agreed that the Force would work up a plan for 1,540.
- The Commissioner confirmed he was happy to invest in both.
- PF advised that the blueprint paper on the future vision for neighbourhood policing is due this month and suggested that the observations on any revised number of PCSO could be built into that as the paper already requested numbers of staff and officers that were expected to form a part of this approach.
- The Chief confirmed he is keen to press on with both police officer recruitment and look at a blended mix/pilot of the bi/tri service officer.
- The bulk of new recruits will go to neighbourhoods as that is the best place to focus on prevention.
- There was a discussion about the overspend on Op Tuckhill.
- IB agreed to ask for a sitrep overview and would share what was possible with the Commissioner.
Action – IB to obtain a sitrep on Op Tuckhill and update the Commissioner.
Action – AT to ensure that the neighbourhood vision paper that is to be submitted to PFCC in August includes any suggested revised numbers of PCSO within it.
- There was a brief discussion on vacancies in the DFU and Firearms and Licensing.
- The Chief Constable was confident that they would soon start to bridge the gap.
- Two peer reviews have been completed and there is planned investment in technology developed in Lincolnshire to reduce some of the more manual processes.
- In relation to DFU one of the issues is staff retention. The Force invest heavily in training but then lose staff to the private sector who pay much higher salaries.
- The Chief Constable expressed his thanks to Steve Watkins for gripping the issues in FELU which will be discussed in more detail under agenda item 5.
- There was a discussion about the considerable overspend on the transport department.
- This was mostly on elevated inflationary fuel costs, vehicle parts, repairs and maintenance costs.
- The Commissioner asked if the Force was seeing any benefit from the work that Lemuel Freezer had done around accident causation and reduction.
- The Chief Constable expects to see reductions, but this will take time to become business as usual.
- The Commissioner confirmed that he was satisfied that the Force showed good budgetary control with limited variance and volatility.
- The Commissioner was confident that both the budget and Reserves are well manged
The Commissioner was pleased to receive this paper. He commented favourably in relation to the budget monitoring and management processes in place within Northamptonshire Police and was assured that they were robust, meaning that the Chief Constable and he were able to have confidence in this.
During the presentation of the paper there were discussions about Police Community Support Officer vacancies and staff vacancies in Digital Forensics Unit (DFU) and Firearms Licensing Unit (FELU).
The Chief Constable provided some assurances that observations about PCSO numbers and role played in neighbourhood policing would be answered in the paper that the PFCC is to receive relating to the future vision of neighbourhood policing by the end of August. The Commissioner was assured that all available efforts were being made to fill vacancies in the DFU and FELU, and there were additional details relating to this in the paper relating to FELU later in the meeting.
The Commissioner formally agreed and accepted the report as the final Northamptonshire Police budget outturn report for 2022/2023.
Investment proposal update
As part of the budget setting process for 2023/2024, the Chief Constable presented to and sought from the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner several investment proposals, a number of which were agreed.
To ensure that these are being dealt with in an effective and best value way, the Commissioner requires an update paper in relation to all agreed investment proposals and their implementation to date.
- CR provided an overview of the headlines from the report.
- All investments are governed through the Force Strategic Planning Board.
- The Chief Constable is updated monthly and reviews these across two financial years.
- There was a discussion about the additional investment in Occupational Health.
- The Psychological support contract has been awarded. Comms on the service and what it will provide will be communicated across the Force this month.
- The Clinical Supervision contract is already up and running and going really well.
- Feedback shows that officer wellbeing and morale has improved, and absenteeism is down.
- The Peer support provision is now in place
- Overall CR reported this investment is going well and where there has been any slippage, there has been rigour and grip to resolve.
- The Chief Constable commented that the significant investment in high quality occupational health support is and will continue to make a big difference.
- Investment was agreed for an uplift for Forensic Collision Investigators (FCI’s) and the four-year training package required to become fully qualified.
- All trainee FCI’s have now been recruited and enrolled on the appropriate courses shadowing fully qualified FCI’s on live deployments.
- The post implementation review will take place in December (Around the 9-month mark).
- The Chief Constable was briefed on progress at the Strategic Planning Board in June.
- He commented on the need to recognise the skill of trained FLOs and the significant benefit they provide in terms of positive outcomes.
- Extended clinical supervision has now been offered to FLOs.
- The Force is currently drafting the TORs
- This and the work of the Road Policing Team will be continually assessed as part of the overall learning on how the Force is performing
- CR advised that the investment in drones is on track.
- A new PC Drone Management and Training Officer has been recruited.
- The procurement process has started for purchase of a new fleet of drones alongside a rolling replacement programme.
- Two drone officers have been trained to the newly required standard from the CAA.
- The Chief Constable is the national lead which will provide additional benefits to the Force.
- AT confirmed the investment in this programme will be fully utilised.
- The rebranding of Neighbourhood Alert to Northamptonshire Talking has been successful.
- User satisfaction scores are 4.75 out of 5, suggesting that messages received are useful to the recipients.
- It now has around 35k subscribers and rising.
- This investment in the upgrade was small but is expected to deliver strong benefit.
- It was agreed that AT will meet with the Commissioner and PF to demonstration the visualisation of it working.
Action – LS to set up the meeting.
- PF commented that the Force should consider future funding for the post in place to support this activity. It was only agreed for one year so if the Force wish to reconsider this they need to build into the efficiency plan to create the funding for it.
- There was a discussion about the next area of focus – to be proactive in ‘seldom heard communities’.
- The Force has improved the percentage of users from these communities but aspires to be in the top quartile of all Forces. (Currently mid-table)
Rapid video response
- The Rapid Video Response investment has not yet progressed.
- This is due to the number of potential suppliers
- The next state in the procurement process will be to request quotations from providers.
- DDAT have been assisting with scoping out the full requirements of the investment to ensure that any procured solution is fit for purpose.
- Currently two providers now meet all essential criteria. By Friday (11/8) the Force should have identified a preferred supplier and be in a position to award the contract.
- Once procurement is done, delivery should move quickly as the solution will be cloud based.
- There is currently an underspend of £268k but it was noted that only 5 months into the financial year.
- NA are confident the full investment will be spent across the financial year.
The Commissioner had requested this paper, as an update on the implementation of the investment proposals that had been agreed with the Chief Constable as part of the budget setting process for 2023/2024.
The paper described the governance process that was in place for the monitoring of these. The Commissioner was assured that the Chief Constable had direct oversight of these.
All investments were examined and the Commissioner was overall assured with collective progress. He expressed some concerns over the length of time taken to procure and implement a rapid video response facility as described in the initial proposals but was pleased to hear that this was nearing completion and that an operational system should be in place ahead of Christmas 2023. He was particularly pleased and assured that the investments made in additionality for occupational health and clinical supervision were proving to be highly effective, well used and well received with staff.
The Commissioner has received a number of updates in relation to the work of the Firearms Licensing function in Northamptonshire Police. In the most recent at the June 2023 accountability board meeting proposals were agreed for a range of interventions to reduce backlogs and improve internal processes.
The Commissioner requires an update on progress against all of these.
- DCC Ivan Balhatchet provided an overview
- The Force is still completing weekly governance reports
- The Force feels that temporary permits are now within acceptable control limits. PF challenged this and asked on what basis was this made. Was it because the number was now small, on a percentage of overall holders or something else. The CC stated that this additional detail would be provided.
Action – NA to ensure that additional details are provided to the Commissioner on why the paper stated that temporary permit numbers are now within acceptable levels and on what basis this assumption is made.
- Grants remains a challenge as the focus has been on temporary permits and renewals.
- The FELU has had two peer reviews, a Mazars audit and an internal demand profiling review.
- There are currently four vacancies however to provide resilience staff have been seconded to the department.
- These are a Detective Inspector, two police officers acting as FEOs and five police officers and a PCSO assisting with administration.
- The Force has a short-term, medium-term, and long-term recovery plan.
- The backlog in temporary licences has been turned around and renewals queue has reduced significantly.
- Whilst the grant backlog remains high, the greatest risk exists in renewing existing licences where members of the public have access to firearms rather than issuing new licences to those that don’t.
- IB confirmed that the Force had decided against pausing grant applications due to the increased levels of staff now working in the FELU.
- The new Superintendent and DCI will provide a fresh outlook and new ideas. As well as getting into the detail and start working through anu issues.
- The Force is also exploring digital solutions to reduce the amount of paperwork.
- There was a discussion about Police Digital Service case management. IB confirmed the Force is looking at the feasibility of doing their own.
- It was agreed that the Force should have sought a digital solution years ago
- The Commissioner advised that he is looking to meet with Accenture who may offer a cost neutral solution.
Action – LS to arrange meeting with SM/IB and Accenture.
- IB confirmed that there has been some good progress and he is confident that the Force is moving into a different phase with new leadership and new ideas.
- The Commissioner noted the improvements but questioned if the Force was measuring the right things – Picking the right measure is important to get right outcome.
- Renewals will be a problem next year, so the Force have to address this.
- There was a discussion on SLA’s and how to apply a robust position.
- For example, if the requirement is 12 weeks beforehand, perhaps the position should be that the Force does not issue a temporary licence but removes the guns until a permit is approved,
- PF confirmed he has written to the Home Office regarding the £88 fee for a shot gun grant.
- A renewal costs £62 and lasts for 5 years.
- PF has written to ask if fees should be increased – at the very least to make them cost neutral.
- The Commissioner confirmed he is open to innovation and any other safe options that speed up the process.
- There was a discussion about whether it would be possible to apply for a renewal licence in year four, rather than year five, in an attempt to smooth the peak expected in 2025. (Invite to apply early at discounted rate)
- Overall, the Commissioner noted the significant progress made but reiterated that he will continue to watch with interest.
The Commissioner received this paper which was the most recent in a series of these recently received.
The Commissioner noted the positive progress that had been made in recent months to remove the backlog, relating to renewals. He acknowledged this and was assured that this was moving in the right direction. He was also assured with balance that the Force was taking to manage risk rather than customer expectations, as borne out in external peer reviews was the right approach and should not be compromised, but he reiterated points made previously that there still needed to be a good quality of service.
There was discussion about the feasibility of alternative charging models for grants and renewals and Paul Fell confirmed he had written to the Home Office in relation to this and was awaiting a response.
The Commissioner raised some concerns that the focus on renewals, while being right did not lead to a backlog in grants of applications. This was noted by the Chief Constable and assurances were provided that additional staff recruitment was in progress and this could be managed.
The Commissioner indicated that he was likely to seek further assurances on this subject in the coming months.
No further business was discussed.