1. Welcome and introductions
PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)
Paul Fell (PF)
Nicci Marzec (NM)
Helen King (HK)
Louise Sheridan (LS)
CC Nick Adderley (NA)
Colleen Rattigan (CR)
Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)
Sarah Crampton (SC)
- SM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
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 Outturn position 2021/2022
The Commissioner requests a report on the Northamptonshire Police financial outturn position for 2020/2022
- Vaughan Ashcroft confirmed an underspend of £50k and explained that this was due to a number of factors.
- In addition, there was a further £92k underspend on funding and bank charges.
- VA requested that the underspend is transferred to earmarked reserves in order to contribute to funding pressures identified in 2022/23.
- The Commissioner agreed the three requested carry forwards as outlined in the paper, to a total of £142,000
- There was a discussion on one of the requested carry forwards, relating to Poliscope. Whilst the Chief Constable accepts that the Force need to become more self-sufficient in understanding and predicting future demand, in the interim they need the support to understand demand across all areas. There is also an element of skill transfer amongst the analysts working with Crest Advisory on the project.
- The demand analysis that Poliscope will provide is interlinked with efficiency savings as it will save a huge amount of internal work and ultimately ensure that departments are resources more effectively.
There was a discussion about bank holiday pay and OT; The Commissioner questioned why this appeared to be increasing and sought assurance from the Chief Constable that it was being gripped.
- The Chief Constable advised that much more needs to be done to work though some of the current issues, these included double crewing due to the high number of probationary officers, additional resource to cover DHEP protected study time and PQF student abstractions.
- Bank holiday OT has increased due to the additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday however, on OT, the Chief Constable advised that he has a focus group tasked with working through the optimal minimum cover.
- There was a discussion about meeting police officer uplift.
- Paul Fell expressed a concern regarding the 1,501 target which is under pressure from higher-than-expected drop-out rates and the current level of officer attrition.
- PF advised that whilst he had a level of confidence that the Force will hit the uplift requirement by January 2023, modelling of future attrition means the Force will dip below establishment from April onwards; This will impact on the Commissioners precept commitment.
- In addition, PF cautioned that unless new applicants are in the recruitment cycle by November 2022 that won’t be in by March 2023.
- The Chief Constable agreed to take this away and review.
- He also advised that he has commissioned three peer reviews. The first one will be in HR.
Action – NA to review police officer recruitment plans
It was noted that there was an underspend for PCSOs but that they were at full base strength at the start of the financial year.
- Subsequent attrition created the majority of the underspend but a further intake of PCSOs is planned in October.
Local Policing Areas
Officer overtime made up the bulk of the overspend and was incurred to reach minimum staffing levels
- The Commissioner questioned why the Force was not able to meet minimum staffing levels and therefore having to resort to paying overtime.
- VA advised that the Finance Team have been working with budget managers to identify the reasons for excessive or avoidable overtime to ensure that levels are driven down where possible.
- Detailed reports and analysis have been provided to budget holders which highlight areas of concern so that corrective action can be taken.
- Overtime analysis tables have been built into Qlik, to improve immediacy of management information for budget managers.
- VA confirmed that spend on overtime was reducing as establishment levels increase and that he expects reliance on overtime to decrease.
- The Chief Constable added that whilst minimum staffing levels on Response have been set, they are constantly under pressure from annual leave, sickness, DHEP and PQF protected study time and officer abstractions for courses.
- The Commissioner was interested to know how well managers are managing and supervisors are supervising requirement for minimum staffing levels and overtime.
- The Chief Constable confirmed this is a key area of focus and he is challenging any evidence of poor practice or adherence to overtime rules; for example, he has challenged and put an immediate stop to overtime claims on shift handovers.
- A focussed piece of work is underway to drive down overtime expenditure in 2022/23 led by ACO Bullen.
- In terms of comparisons on 2020/21 data and how this compares with adherence in 2021/22, VA agreed to check and clarify via HK
- A shift pattern review is also underway.
The variance against budgets results from additional legal fees and settlement of legal claims in line with the year end professional assessments of legal reserves and provisions.
- The Force have also increased the amount that it has put aside to cover potential future claims to avoid unplanned pressures in future years.
- The Legal provision and reserves are based on a professional advisor report which the Force/OPFCC are required to account for.
- There was a discussion on the performance of PSD and the timeliness of their investigations.
- The Commissioner was interested to know if there was any causal link to officer activity and the increase in legal fees incurred and compensation claims.
- PF agreed to ask the OPFCC Complaints and Customer Service Manager to look for any parallels – would improvement in the process reduce pay outs.
Action – PF to ask the OPFCC Complaints and Customer Service Manager to review and share with NA and SM.
Force Control Room
Staff pay was over budget across the department partly due to lower than anticipated attrition, higher levels of sickness and Covid isolation cover.
- However, Vaughan confirmed this has improved dramatically and will be reflected in the new financial year.
- The Chief Constable advised that he has reviewed the overtime policy in the Control room enabling FCR staff to be paid an enhanced overtime rate rather than just a flat rate. it is hoped this will increase the uptake of FCR staff willing to do overtime if required and negate the use of police officers who already benefit form an increased overtime rate and typically earn a higher salary.
- VA provided an overview of some of the budgetary pressures within Enabling Departments
- There was an underspend in the main HR budget due to delays in recruitment and recent leavers.
- VA highlighted a risk from a recent recruitment campaign from Barclaycard who are looking to employ an additional 300 staff. Private sector salaries and benefits are typically much higher than the public sector. This is impacting on the Forces ability to recruit and retain HR and Finance staff.
- On transport, there has been an overspend on fuel due to process continuing to rise.
- The Chief Constable advised that the Force is keeping a close eye on fuel costs and is satisfied that maintaining a supply of bunkered fuel is the most cost-efficient course of action.
- Vehicle repairs and maintenance costs exceeded budget due to ongoing issues with BMW X5s nationwide and as a result of vehicles being kept in fleet for longer.
- The Commissioner highlighted a request for him and other Commissioners from BlueLight Commercial to enter into a Standstill Agreement with BMW for a period of two months, to allow further time to assess the extent and nature of a potential claim on behalf of forces against BMW.
- The Chief Constable did not think that Northants were adversely impacted as they had already chosen to move to another make and model. However, as the Head of Fleet, Transport and Logistics was on annual leave he agreed to look into this.
Action – NA to check whether the Commissioner needs to sign the BlueLight Commercial standstill agreement with BMW.
- There was a discussion about savings work undertaken in the last financial year.
- This included the removal of an ACC post budget in year
- The Commissioner asked if the ACC saving was a 1 year and not a 3-year saving.
- VA confirmed that was correct.
- VA confirmed that funds had been retained in reserves following 2020/21 to cover a number of specific investments and pressures.
- Most have now been spent with the exception of the Digital Forensic Unit and the Sexual Violence Fund which account for £230k of the £262k being carried forward.
- The Commissioner thanked Vaughan for the report adding that he continues to be assured by the work done by him and his team.
The Commissioner received this report relating to the out turn position of the Force for the financial year 2021/2022.
He was again assured in relation to the processes in place for the effective understanding and monitoring of the Force budget, as well as the reducing volatilities in budgets.
The Commissioner agreed to carry forward requests from the Force to the value of £142,000.
The Commissioner did challenge the ongoing costs of overtime, in relation to delegated budgets considering the Chief Constable had reduced overtime budgets within the last two years. Following a discussion on this matter, which included an explanation of additional abstractions that needed to be covered for PEQF student officers, the Commissioner was assured that the Force were aware of these issues and the need to try to manage some aspects of overtime spend more effectively.
The Commissioner reiterated the need, considering current inflationary pressures for the Force to continue to make progress on the delivery of efficiency and financial savings that had been agreed.
4. Matter of priority update
The Chief Constable has adopted a suite of measures and targets relating to the Force matters of priority for 2022/2023.
The Commissioner requires a report that outlines the progress to date on these against the agreed baselines.
- Two papers were provided in advance of the meeting; a PowerPoint presentation which outlined the measures and the current position against them, and a summary table of the key performance questions and indicators.
- Having previously reviewed these, the Commissioner stated that he did not think some of key performance questions and indicators were challenging enough or as well defined as they could be.
- Sarah Crampton explained that the questions and indicators have been set with the intention of providing a baseline for year 1. They will then be reviewed.
- The Year 1 measures were realistic given the young in-service workforce and changing landscape.
- The Chief Constable confirmed that his vision remains ambitious, and he is pushing for excellence however, the Force is on a continual journey of improvement, and he did not want to over promise and underdeliver.
- Paul Fell challenged the clarity of the targets, highlighting one relating to neighbourhood crime levels which have three measures of success: (Top half of forces, 4th or better in MSG and positive direction of travel) and asked how the Force will measure success.
- The Chief explained why he was reluctant to set an arbitrary X target but accepted why there could be some confusion by using a number of methods of judging success.
- It was agreed that PF would discuss some of the less well-defined performance questions and indicators with Sarah Crampton, DCC Blatchly and OPFCC Insight Analyst Tom Smith.
Action – PF and OPFCC Insight Analyst Tom Smith to review some of the performance questions and indicators with Sarah Crampton and DCC Blatchly.
- There was a discussion on KPQ7: How well are the Force supporting victims of VAWG through their investigations.
- Whilst DA positive outcomes remain high, too many cases are discontinued due to victims no longer willing to proceed.
- Court backlogs are still creating issue.
- Multiple listings and adjournments at court and the length of time it takes to get to court are key reasons given.
- The current barrister strike will continue to make the backlog even worse.
- It was noted that RASSO recorded offences continue to rise but at a lower level than nationally.
- DA rates continue to reduce, and work has been commissioned at FEM to better understand this.
- There was a discussion about Response times
- Grade 1 demand at a 22-month high and seeing an increase for the 5th consecutive month in a row.
- Arrival times for grade 1 response (within 15-minute SLA) fell to a 2-year low.
- The Commissioner reminded the Chief Constable that whilst they had reached a compromise on measuring against a national 15-minute target rather than the local target he did not expect to see response times continually decline, and that he would look at response times in conjunction with other measures such as detection rates, victim satisfaction and file quality, as the Chief Constable had previously indicated that officers were spending longer at incidents to provide a better service.
- The Commissioner noted that response times on the West LPA had risen significantly, and analysis confirms sustained challenges across the month particularly at Weston Favell and Daventry hubs. This is in stark contrast to the North LPA which is performing well.
- The Chief Constable advised that Chief Supt. Adam Ward is looking at this and also at vehicle availability.
- There was a discussion about PPNs and the cessation of the MADRA.
- The Commissioner raised concerns about the initial processing of PPN’s within the MASH which have seen a significant deterioration in the past 3 months.
- Nicci Marzec advised that funding for the MADRA posts was never intended to support the MASH, they are two distinct and separate processes.
- The Chief Constable confirmed that police officers are supporting MASH on overtime, and it will take a few weeks to reduce the backlog that has built up.
- The Chief Constable agreed to take an urgent action to review.
Action – NA to review the timeliness of PPN processing in the MASH
- In terms of Service delivery as a whole, the Commissioner, accepting that the report was first quarter data of a 5-year programme, he was keen to see how the Force demonstrates its ambition to become outstanding.
- There was a discussion about visibility and accessibility.
- The Chief Constable advised that his original target of officers spending 60% of their time being ‘out of station’ was not a realistic measure of true visibility.
- The original measure for calculating this did not capture their ‘available time’ which was a much more important measure as this encapsulated their ability to respond to an incident when out.
- The Chief explained that officers could now press a button on their radio to provide a status update, for example doing a crime file, waiting for CPS, interviewing a prisoner, on a refreshment break etc.
- In addition, live time resources on laptops show where officers are.
All crime highlights
- For the third month in a row, Northamptonshire remains first for the lowest increases in crimes when compared nationally over the last 12 months.
- Overall crime levels are down year on year although this reduction is not expected to last.
- Victim based crime is showing a slight increase (a slight reduction in repeat victimisation and more ‘new’ victims coming forward to report crime.
- There was a discussion on what the Force and the OPFCC could do collectively to address this along with the possibility of investment later in the year on what could be done.
- The Chief Constable advised that he is concerned that victim satisfaction rates have declined, and he has tasked DCC Blatchly to look at the reasons for this.
- Crime levels have increased recently with youth violence emerging as the main theme from the data.
- The profile of knife crime is stable with threats rather than use being the main offence.
- Whilst the Force knife crime lead has a good grip on overall numbers more clarity on where issue is needed so that they can then move resources around to tackle it.
- If a knife is seen or threatened the Force have to record it under the Home Office Counting rules..
- The most recent trend of this from the analysis undertaken is older white males offending against younger males.
- It was agreed that
- A profiling exercise is underway to identify opportunities with offenders, victims and locations.
- Op Revive focus on Wellingborough continues to focus on high-risk offenders.
- The Chief Constable advised that Northants did not qualify for any Violence Protection grants from the Home Office.
- However, whilst he is not an advocate of VRU’s he may consider a dedicated resource should it become necessary to do so.
- Paul Fell provided an update on a PCC/Home Office workshop on Serious Violence Duty he attended on behalf of the Commissioner.
- The purpose of the session was for PCCs and their offices to receive an overview of the new Duty and to assist the Home Office in the development of a grant design for the Home Office new burdens funding which will be channelled via PCCs.
- PF advised that he has had conversations with CSPs and violence leads in Force
- There was a discussion about pump prime funding for an analyst to complete a strategic needs assessment.
- Supt Emma James has already commissioned some work on this.
- Grants are expected to be available in the next 12 months.
- There was a discussion about Regina crimes and NDQIS data.
- The Commissioner stated that he would be interested to see the most recent report on this.
The Commissioner welcomed the paper in relation to the adopted matters of priority for the Chief Constable.
He was assured that there were areas where the Force had and continued to see improvements.
There was a detailed discussion about several areas where the Commissioner required further assurances about how the Force would seek to improve performance. These included response times, serious violence and knife crime.
There was a discussion about the need to improve the clarity of some of the measures of success for these matters of priority. To make them more ambitious and further work was requested on these to be presented back to the Commissioner.
- The current backlog and delays in processing firearms licenses was raised.
- PF commented that these do not appear to have returned to pre-covid delays, despite assurances that they would by the end of 2021 and the Customer Service team are seeing an increase in complaints.
- The Chief Constable confirmed that ACC Balhatchet is gripping this issue and has put additional resources in place.
- Automation solutions are being considered and a peer review is being arranged.
- The Commissioner expressed his concern that the number of outstanding visits within MOSOVO had increased and were higher than the target of 50 set by the Chief Constable.
- The Chief Constable confirmed that the current backlog was 94 visits but none of these were for high-risk or very high-risk offenders.
- The Chief Constable advised that backlogs in other Forces were far higher for example, Nottinghamshire 580, Gloucestershire 346 and Derbyshire 187.
- The Chief Constable also advised that the number of sexual offenders requiring visits has increased by 10%
- There is a plan in place to train NPT officers to conduct the low risk visits
- The Commissioner was reassured that the Chief Constable has good oversight of this area.
- It was agreed that rather than a numerical target for outstanding visits a percentage target related to risk might be better.
- The Chief Constable agreed to look at this adding that high risk and very high risk must always be zero.
- No further business was raised.