With the budget potentially hitting Government Departments hard from 2011, what is the impact on Policing? With the Home Office currently receiving a budget of £9.6bn per annum to fund Policing and Immigration/Customs services and the Police currently working with a budget of £5.6bn, a 25% reduction could have an impact of £1.4bn per annum. So what are the options? Some will initially spotlight the NPIA as a possible casualty with its role as policy writer, national systems supporter and training deliverer. There is no doubt that many will ask what the value of the organisation is with its current costs towards £0.5bn per annum. However, the support for core systems and some level of national training will have to lie somewhere so it’s not quite so easy for this current organisation to dissolve completely. There must however be questions over the viabiltiy of some its current initiatives including ISIS. A good policy to look towards standardisation, but can and will Forces be able to afford change?
IT does play a part in this scramble to save money and most should now look as to how proper and efficient use of IT save time and money for frontline officers, possibly enabling the reduction in required numbers over time. However, these sort of cuts require significant strategies and not just re-organising the deck chairs! It has to be time where the service reviews the provision of back office services, including IT, HR, Finance, Fleet Management etc. more radically than before and looks at utilising Shared/CLOUD/Third Party services to deliver these.
We are moving in to a new chapter of policing in the UK where the landscape of service provision to the public will change forever.
It would seem that pressure is now being put onto many Police Forces to join IT departments and as a consequence combine systems that are being used by frontline operational police officers. Of course historically Police Forces have been quite protective of their resources but more recently Regional Collaboration is seen as the way forward. It is an interesting debate and on my travels I do hear many arguments for and against the concepts of Regional IT systems, I suspect the truth is, they are on the way and certainly here at ABM we are prepared to meet the challenges at all levels.
The Home Office has released a report entitled High Level Working Group Report on Police Value For Money. The report outlines how the UK’s police authorities and forces will meeting savings targets of at least £100 million in 2010/11 followed by £500m from 2013/2014 without negatively impacting upon the level of service provided to the public. This is a tall order on the basis that 80% of expenditure lies in personnel, but it is clear that approaches to purchasing decisions will have to be reconsidered. Spending on IT will come under particular scrutiny as the largest category within goods and services expenditure and the need for better collaborative working and regionalisation of services must be a key driver. ABM has continued to supply both enterprise and workgroup covert systems to policing for the last 15 years and the work which it has conducted in implementing a regional Intelligence system in Scotland must be seen as a model for the future. The key to the delivery of collaborative IT is to make sure that the collaboration delivers both better ‘value for money’ as well as enhanced operational performance. There are plenty of examples of how this works already and these examples must be built upon rather than “reinventing the wheel”.
As reported in The Times today, Peter Neyroud, chief executive of the NPIA, has been speaking out against excessive use of consultants in the Home Office. In the two years that the NPIA has been operating, Neyroud has reduced expenditure on consultancy from £71million in the first year to £19m. This is clearly a successful saving but the positive role of consultants should not be completely disregarded.
When used in a rational manner with clearly defined scope and project management, the role of consultants in delivering substantial time and cost savings is significant. Why invest valuable time and money is recruiting, training and managing internal personnel when the expertise already exists in the form of consultants? Whilst their use needs to be carefully justified and controlled from a business perspective, consultancy has the potential to offer flexibility and affordable changes in these cash and resource-strapped times.