“…but it is possible” – the words of Sir Dennis O’Connor as two reports on value for money in UK policing were published yesterday. HMIC’s report, Valuing the Police, found that only 11 percent of total police personnel are visible and available to the public at any one time and highlighted a need to improve shift patterns to more accurately match demand. It finds that too much time is increasingly spent on investigation and specialist functions while the number of police officers working in the community has fallen over the last four years.
A seperate report by the Audit Commission, HMIC and the Wales Audit Office, entitled “Sustaining value for money in the police service“, found that, crime has fallen by 45 percent since 1995, but this has been coupled with significant increases in police spending which has, according to the report, been poorly scrutinised and challenged.
The report shows that 80% of police spending is on the workforce which suggests that, if real cost and efficiency savings are to be made, police forces need to think carefully about the deployment of personnel resources, reducing unnecessary management and over-skilled back-office workers. The report goes on to challenge the police service to make savings of up to £1 billion (12% of current expenditure). £420m of this is accounted for through savings in procurement, back office, reducing overtime, workforce modernisation and reducing management overheads. But the report suggests that an additional £500m can be saved through productivity improvements - i.e. reducing the number of police officers or making them work harder… Whether such savings are truly achievable remains to be seen.