A government report has praised Warwickshire and West Mercia Police’s responses to the funding challenge and hailed its alliance as one of the most ‘ambitious and extensive collaborations in the country.’
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has produced a report for every police force in England and Wales, which examines how they are responding to the funding challenges.
The reports examine what strategies forces are using to manage the reduction in budgets, and the effect on front-line policing, levels of crime and response times.
Warwickshire Police identified that it needs to save £27.6m over the four years of the spending review. (i.e. between March 2011 and March 2015.)
West Mercia Police needs to save £36.6m over the same period.
Warwickshire has already successfully made 62% (£17.2m) of the total savings required by March 2015 in the first two years of the spending review period. West Mercia has already saved 45% (£16.6m) and the reports note that both forces have plans in place to meet their overall savings targets.
The reports highlight how the forces are working to combine support functions and make better use of resources: ‘At the heart of the alliance is a commitment from both forces to delivering the best possible policing service in their areas and make the best use of resources available now and in the future.’
The reports also note that both forces are successfully protecting frontline posts despite the cuts; between March 2010 and March 2015, the proportion of police officers in frontline crime-fighting roles is projected to increase from 87% to 94% in Warwickshire and from 92% to 94% in West Mercia.
The forces are commended for having made good progress in making savings, without having a detrimental effect on the services they provide to the public.
Over the first two years of the spending review, recorded crime fell in Warwickshire by 9%. Victim satisfaction remains high at around 83%.
In West Mercia, recorded crime fell by 16% over the same period. Victim satisfaction remains high at around 85%.
The reports note that both forces have maintained and improved their responses to emergency and priority calls.
It is acknowledged within the reports that difficult decisions are being made to cut police and staff posts, as well as closing some police bases. However, the report does detail the work being done to change how the public can access services.
The reports conclude: ‘The forces have put the needs of the community it serves at the heart of the change programme. At chief officer level they have sacrificed some of their autonomy to ensure an effective policing service and to minimise any reduction in service due to the funding cuts. The forces are worthy of recognition for their willingness to develop the most far-reaching collaboration between forces in England and Wales, which balances individual identity and delivery of local policing with benefits of economies of scale and removal of duplication.’
Chief Constable Andy Parker from Warwickshire Police said: “It is encouraging to receive this endorsement of our work to protect the effects of the funding cuts on front line services. We have achieved a great deal already, particularly in our alliance with West Mercia police, but there is still much do be done.”
Chief Constable David Shaw from West Mercia Police said: “The HMIC report focuses very closely on collaboration; in these times of austerity it is absolutely critical that we continue to work with partners and to pool resources, where possible, to help provide the best possible protection to people. We will continue to focus on making improvements to the way that we deliver policing services, alongside our partners, which needs to be our focus regardless of funding issues.”
Ron Ball, Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The Alliance was commenced by the former Police Authorities but was immediately embraced by both the Warwickshire and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioners as a way of maintaining services in the face of substantial spending reductions.
“A major stage of implementation of the new ‘combined services’ model will be implemented this autumn and both Commissioners have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening and deepening the alliance between the two forces, building on the success already achieved and continuing to unify the delivery of agreed outcomes.
“Change has been very rapid and the new model of policing will be implemented across the alliance from October of this year.”
Bill Longmore, West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “The HMIC report is most encouraging and underlines the fact that West Mercia is on track to make the necessary savings. This is particularly encouraging as no further cuts to police officer numbers are planned during my period of office and the number of Police Community Support Officers will be sustained at 235 posts in accordance with my pledge within the 2013/17 Police and Crime Plan.”
Today (Thursday 18 July) the Home Office has released figures which show that crime in Warwickshire and West Mercia reduced by 12 per cent in the year 2012/13 compared to the previous year.
This is three percent more than the national figure of nine percent, and places Warwickshire 16th (out of 43 forces) in England and Wales and West Mercia ninth for crimes per 1000 population.