Police Accountability Board Notes 14 December 2021


Office of Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime CommissionerNorthants Police Logo

 

ACCOUNTABILITY BOARD

Minutes

14th December 2021

 

1. Welcome and introductions

Attendees:

PFCC Stephen Mold (SM)

Paul Fell (PF)

Helen King (HK)

Nicci Marzec (NM)

Louise Sheridan (LS)

CC Nick Adderley (NA)

DCC Simon Nickless (SN)

ACC Pauline Sturman (PS)

Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen (PB)

C/Supt Ash Tuckley (AT)

Senior Finance Officer Vaughan Ashcroft (VA)

Colleen Rattigan (CR)

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 Proposals 2022/2023

 The Commissioner requests a paper outlining the draft budget requirements for Northamptonshire Police to include capital plans for the financial year 2022/2023.

  • A summary of the 2022/23 proposed draft capital and force revenue budget was provided and reviewed in advance of the meeting.
  • Vaughan Ashcroft gave an overview of the budget proposals and deviations from the MTFP.
  • It was accepted that as the draft had been prepared prior to the provisional settlement, the funding was based on assumptions and the national and local funding uncertainties, together with indicative timescales will impact on the MTFP.
  • This position will be kept under regular review until the settlement and budget discussions are finalised.
  • VA confirmed a zero-based budgeting approach has been taken to calculate the majority of budgets where this was practicable.
  • Budget proposals have been scrutinised by members of the Finance Team including the Finance Business Partner, Joint Head of Finance and both Chief Finance Officers.
  • A table summarising the changes to the draft budget requirement was reviewed.
  • For clarity, the Commissioner highlighted that the revenue budget presented in the paper had increased by £3.7m on the previous year and did not include the additional investment proposals that the Chief Constable has submitted.
  • VA confirmed that was correct and advised that the MTFP is built using professional assumptions on what is forceable at the time and kept under constant review.
  • There was a discussion on inflationary pressures from increased Blue Light insurance costs (a national issue), along with price hikes on utilities and fuel.
  • Whilst some flexibility had already been built in for anticipated increases to fuel, a further £60k has now been budgeted.
  • Forecasts for Officer pay has been impacted by the higher cost of unsociable allowances – more officers joining Response and therefore claiming shift allowances for night-time working.
  • There is an additional cost for extra public holiday in 2022 due to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
  • There was a discussion about the 2022 pay award. Budget assumptions have been modelled on originally 1.75% – then increased to 2% award. However, following the inflation estimates set out in the budget announcement and the fact that pay was frozen in 2021, it is the professional opinion of both HK and VA that this level needs to be reviewed and reconsidered in light of national benchmarking where estimates vary from 2 to 4% with the average at 3-3.5%.
  • A 1% increase would have a cost implication of circa £0.7m in 22/23 and £1.2m per year from 2023 – 2024.
  • Whilst the Commissioner wholeheartedly supports fair salary recognition for Police Officers, he confirmed that he has written to Kit Malthouse MP to ensure that the affordability of any proposed pay settlements put forward by the Police Remuneration Body are fully considered by Ministers within the Settlement envelope.
  • The CC advised that a 3% increase may not be sustainable in the longer term and could result in fewer officers, unless this was funded with additional money.
  • There was a discussion about the precept and the government expectation that PFCCs would increase council tax by a maximum of £10 for the next 3 years.
  • The Commissioner reminded the attendees that even if he were to do so, there would still be a shortfall of around £1m in 3 years’ time and this is without factoring in a pay award above 2% or funding the Chief Constables latest investment proposals.
  • The Commissioner set out his expectation that the Force delivers a balanced budget over the next 3 years and requested that direction be followed in the January budget report.
  • There was a discussion about the profile of officers, many of whom are young in service and therefore on lower pay scales.
  • There was a discussion about pension and NI contributions which are much more difficult to predict.
  • In year 3 the costs include a 10% increased pension cost which is 75% funded. However, this is a national issue for all unfunded pension schemes and these figures are subject to significant variation and negotiation nationally.
  • The Chief Constable confirmed he will have finalised his requirements by February and will put forward his budget proposals for the effective running of the force. The PFCC reminded the Chief Constable of the statutory timescales he is working to – he will be finalising his precept proposals in mid-January after the January Accountability Board for consideration at the February Police, Fire and Crime Panel.
  • It was noted that the Settlement is expected on Thursday 16th
  • Once the detail of the Settlement is understood, the Commissioner asked for a holistic view on utilities, costs of unsold buildings, public holiday working and any potential shaving on the Capital programme to be undertaken.

Action – HK and VA to review settlement announcement on Thursday 16th December.

Action – Force budget proposals to be updated in line with a 3-year balanced budget using increased pay award assumptions for consideration at the January Accountability Board.

  • Other budget lines discussed were IT Systems and Support and the cost of regional collaborations. Further work is underway, and any additional costs will be reviewed and approved via the Regional PCC/CC Board.
  • There was a discussion about cashable savings that were identified during 2021/22 which have been incorporated into 2022/23 budgets. These have reduced the need to request additional funds in most cases, containing the majority of inflationary and demand pressures within the agreed funding envelope.
  • There was a discussion about transfers from reserves which have been captured against the relevant cost centres.
  • HK confirmed she has been consulted and is content.
  • As last year, the 2022/23 budget includes £27k for the revenue implications of the Emergency Services Network, which was based on the latest projections provided by the regional team. Update projections are awaited, and further delays are anticipated as a result.
  • There remains a degree of financial risk regarding Brexit, which has so far resulted in increased shipping and inflationary pressures.
  • There are still capital and revenue slippage due to the worldwide shortage of electrical components.
  • Assumptions on the budget requirements for the closure of MFSS have been included including costs associated for bringing this work back in house.
  • There was a discussion about the precept scenarios and assumptions in the MTFP which have been modelled on 1.99%, 2% and £10.
  • The Commissioner confirmed that any increase will have to demonstrate that the public are getting the service they deserve.
  • Helen King confirmed that a lot of work had been undertaken to pull the budgets together and expressed her thanks to Vaughan and his team which was reiterated by the PFCC.
  • She also thanks them for keeping her up to date throughout.
  • Returning to the Chief Constables latest investment proposals, it was agreed that the OPFCC would review these in the first week of the New Year.
  • Even if some are not affordable at the moment in order to keep us a modern, progressive and forward thinking it is important to give these full considerations.
  • The Commissioner reminded everyone that is why the 1% efficiency target was set; important to stop doing things that no longer add value in order to create the opportunity to do the things that do.
  • The Commissioner also pointed out that the current budget envelope contains a £7.5m or 3% increase so it is incumbent on us to look carefully at the money we spend.
  • The Commissioner also pointed out that it is now timely to have some robust conversations with the two unitary authorities on what they will do.
  • Important to remind them and the public, that not everything is for the Police to resolve.

Assurance statement:

The Commissioner commended the Force, the Finance Team and the OPFCC S151 Officer for providing him with a comprehensive report to enable him to consider the budget requirements for the Force in 2022/2023.

In terms of the highlighted risks in Year 2 of the medium-term financial plan, the Commissioner reiterated his view that he wanted to see a plan for a three-year balanced budget, as a part of the ongoing budget setting process.

Whilst he considers the Force’s budget proposals, he will also want to reflect on the results of the public consultation on raising the precept when these results are known in the New Year.

The Commissioner also made it clear that the Chief Constable’s new Investment Proposals would be considered alongside everything else as a part of the overall budget setting process, as these were key to shaping the future direction of the force.

4. Neighbourhood Policing Blueprint

 In January 2021 the Chief Constable presented to the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner plans for the expansion and shift in focus for Neighbourhood Policing Teams in Northamptonshire. This was to see a doubling in Neighbourhood officers over 18 months as well as sharper focus on interventions and proactivity against local criminals and a sharper focus on problem solving activities.

The Commissioner request a report demonstrating progress against this expansion, as well as providing a narrative demonstrating how the problem solving and proactive approach is being achieved.

  • A briefing paper was provided in advance of the meeting and taken as read.
  • C/Supt Ash Tuckley provided an overview of progress made to date confirming that the Force are just four officers shy of the 100 promised.
  • Problem solving is at the heart of the new NPT strategy, predominantly using the OSARA problem solving model.
  • Neighbourhood officers also focus on proactive prevention and early intervention to reduce the likelihood of harm.
  • Involving communities in the problem-solving processes is the next area of focus
  • There was a discussion about OSARA and how it is used to problem solve.
  • The OSARA model is the process for problem solving within the police and is used to identify issues within the communities whilst developing solutions to recurring problems.
  • The acronym OSARA stands for objective, scanning, analysis, response and assessment.
  • Following HMIC feedback C/Supt Tuckley is also looking at the 4P plan and will weigh up which is better.
  • During 21/22 every PC/PCSO/Sgt and Inspector working in Neighbourhood Policing will have received training on problem solving, including OSARA models and the Problem Analysis Triangle.
  • Several sessions have already been completed with further training schedules in January and March 2022.
  • In addition, a level 4 qualification is being introduced. This is being delivered via the University of Northamptonshire. and is believed to be one of the best schemes nationally.
  • 50 NP staff will complete the 10 credit Level 4 certificate over 3 days.
  • The qualification is believed to be one of the best schemes nationally. The Commissioner would like all officers to complete this and offered to fund the remaining 50.

Action – Ash Tuckley to let HK know costs of remaining level 4 training.for Neighbourhood staff.

  • C/Supt Tuckley provided examples of how the NPT’s are starting to make a difference in communities.
  • The volume of intelligence submissions from NPT’s has increased significantly as has the use of Section 60 and Stop and Search powers.
  • There was a discussion on abstraction issues which were raised in the HMICFRS report.
  • C/Supt Tuckley was clear that as long as a Neighbourhood officer is dealing with an issue in their area they are not abstracted.
  • He has written a new policy so can measure and give clearer data going forwards.
  • ACC Sturman reiterated the mindset of localised ownership and accountability.
  • Want Neighbourhood officers to take it personally when someone comes into their area and commits a crime.
  • The Commissioner commended all the work that has been undertaken to get to this point. Along with the sharper focus on problem solving.
  • It wanted it noted that the North unitary had offered a vote of thanks for the renewed focus on NPT’s and it was even mentioned in House of Commons.
  • There was a discussion about the 34 different beats within Neighbourhoods
  • The Commissioner was keen for this information and the officers assigned to them be more easily accessible.
  • It was agreed that it would be helpful to add the northantscalc.com/plr, added to the OPFCC website

Action – LS to ask Stuart McCartney to add links to the Force Neighbourhood policing pages to OPFCC website.

  • There was a discussion on the reintroduction of JAG meetings and Community one meetings.
  • The Commissioner explained that the two biggest complaints are speeding and ASB so was keen to understand how effectively these are working and how they link into more rural areas of the county.
  • The Commissioner asked if the Op Citadel partnership in Kettering had been evaluated.
  • C/Supt Tuckley confirmed it had and was in the process of being written up.
  • The Chief Constable expressed his thanks to the leadership that C/Supt Tuckley has bought to local policing.
  • HMIC commented on the new NPT strategy in a positive way and the focus on prevention in performance and tasking.
  • They also commented positively on the co-ordinated problem solving between police and partners on a tactical level, investment in problem solving training and the current direction of travel
  • It was agreed that more could be done to communicate the work going on in NPTs.
  • Positive outcome rates are currently the highest in the country and the vast majority are from Neighbourhood policing.

Assurance Statement:

The Commissioner thanked the Chief Constable and the wider force for the progress it has made in Neighbourhood Policing both in terms of the increased numbers of officers and focus on problem solving and crime fighting.

He added that North Northamptonshire Council had recently offered a vote of thanks for the Neighbourhood policing model and this had also been commented on positively in the House of Commons.

The Commissioner was assured that there was now a greater focus on tackling criminality with these teams in a manner that made their local communities safer as a result.

The Commissioner and Chief Constable agreed that there was a need to better articulate to the public the benefit that these additional Neighbourhood officers are making in dealing with local issues.

5. Specials and volunteers

 The Commissioner request a report that describes the Chief Constables overall approach to the recruitment and use of special constables and volunteers.

The report should describe the overall numbers of these, the use that is made of them and the plans that the Chief Constable has to integrate or continue to integrate them in the aspirations of the police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to make Northamptonshire safer.

  • A briefing paper was provided in advance of the meeting and taken as read.
  • C/Supt Ash Tuckley provided an overview on the number of special constables which has managed a healthy attrition/retention rate since 2017, considering the significant recruitment by the force over the same period.
  • Most leaving the special constabulary do so to join the regular workforce; the vast majority opting to join Northamptonshire Police.
  • Almost 40% of special constables are independent with the remainder at various stages of their development, including 8% still in their training period.
  • There was a discussion about the number of hours special constables contribute to the force.
  • Whilst most specials do more than the minimum hours, there are a number of officers who have not met the minimum requirement or logged any hours at all.
  • Supt Chris Hillery has taken overall responsibility and officers not completing the required number of hours will be asked to leave.
  • In terms of police volunteers, further work is needed to capture their skills and experience to make wider use of volunteers beyond the original recruitment
  • A Citizens in Policing (CiP) review will address this with a policy and process evaluation.
  • The CiP review will seek to address any gaps by introducing a new governance structure, strategy, centralised tasking linked to local tasking through the Head of Local Policing and CiP manager.
  • There was a discussion on how the Force recognises the contribution made by specials constables and volunteers.
  • The Commissioner confirmed he is still lobbying the local authority to offer a council tax discount. This has been successfully implemented in Lincolnshire and is something that he would like to see introduced in Northants.
  • There was a discussion about the optimum number of specials and volunteers.
  • C/Supt Tuckley confirmed this is difficult to quantify until the CiP review is complete but there are no plans to set a target.
  • The Force is not unhappy with the current number of specials and volunteers but has an ambition to attract more specialisms particularly in areas such as cyber.
  • The Commissioner thanked Ch Supt Tuckley and commended the report received.

Assurance Statement:

 The Commissioner accepted that the number of Special Constables in force had reduced, acknowledging that some of this attrition was due to the them applying and being accepted as Regular officers.

He was pleased that the recently completed Citizens in Policing review had identified some positive areas of learning and that the adopted recommendations were aimed at delivering additional and more effective governance, accountability and tasking of the Force’s Special Constabulary and volunteers.

The Commissioner led a discussion on what might be the optimum number of Special Constables and volunteers. It was agreed that once the recommendations of the recent review had been put into place the Force might be in a better position to fully answer this.

The Commissioner was assured that the numbers of Special constables remained strong in comparison with other Forces, as did the hours committed by them and endorsed the direction of travel agreed by the Chief Constable on this matter.

6. A.O.B

  • No further business was raised.