Northamptonshire Police is a more efficient force than 12 months ago, according to a new report by the HMIC.
The police watchdog’s key PEEL assessment of how efficiently the force is performing has rated Northamptonshire “good,” a step up from the “requires improvement” rating they received last time.
Against a background in which police forces have experienced a 20 per cent cut in central funding since 2011, inspectors said: “Northamptonshire Police has been assessed as good in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime. It is taking steps to understand current and future demand better and is developing tools to allow effective monitoring of changes in demand.”
The report said significant improvement had been made in the way the force responds to emerging threats, such as domestic violence and child sexual abuse, adding: “The force has done a great deal of work with partners to understand how the community is changing and to manage demand collectively with partners. It realises that it also needs to engage with harder-to-reach groups to prepare for changes in demand.”
Those changes have included the way the force responded to cyber-crime where growing demand has required resources to be moved from other areas, with vetted volunteers with specialist skills brought in to improve capability.
HMIC praised the force’s joint working arrangements with other forces, including its ongoing collaboration in areas such as armed response, roads policing and police dogs.
In addition, the force worked “very closely” with the fire service as well as sharing premises with local authorities, sharing a safeguarding lead on emerging threats such as modern slavery and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Inspectors said Northamptonshire had a good understanding of the current demand it faces, including working with partners more effectively to tackle domestic violence.
The report said: “The force has done a great deal of work with partners to understand how the community is changing and to manage demand collectively with partners. This puts it in a strong position to deal with changing demand in the future, although the force accepts there is more it could do to understand its communities.”
However, HMIC also highlighted how the force needed to plan better for dealing with future demand, an area in which it judges that Northamptonshire “requires improvement”.
It said the force, while developing an ICT strategy alongside Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, lacked a clear ICT strategy itself and that it should develop one in order to meet future demand more efficiently.
Concerns were raised with regard to the sale of Wootton Hall headquarters in May 2016: “The lack of certainty in terms of the new headquarters site and its cost has meant the force has been unable to develop a properly costed estates strategy, potentially inhibiting the future efficiency and effectiveness of the force. HMIC is looking further into the circumstances relating to this matter and how the situation has come about. We will return to consider this matter in future PEEL inspections.”
Northamptonshire Police’s Chief Constable Simon Edens said: “I fully welcome this report because good inspection helps us deliver better outcomes for our communities.
“We are here to protect people from harm and we have a responsibility to use public money wisely in order to maximise the protection we can provide.
“The results of this report were very positive for Northamptonshire Police; HMIC said we are a ‘good force’. It confirms that we have made significant progress since last year’s efficiency inspection.
“However, that does not mean we will be complacent about the future. We need to make sure we do not rest on our laurels and we will continue to work hard and strive for the best positive level of protection and service to the public.
“We do accept that we need to do more to improve our plans for demand in the future and we will, for example, be working with the PCC and with other forces in the region to expedite work on our ICT strategy.”
HMIC will now look at how the force progresses the points made in its report.
Stephen Mold, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, said: “I’m delighted to see HMIC recognise Northamptonshire Police as an improving force and I’d like to congratulate Chief Constable Simon Edens and his team on achieving this rating. This is a hugely positive step for the force and for Northamptonshire.
“I have recently appointed a new Director for Technology and Digital Transformation to work with Northamptonshire Police to produce a new ICT strategy, while work continues on a daily basis to finalise our estates strategy, so I am confident we are already working towards the two areas highlighted by HMIC in this report.
“This is a good baseline with which to now grow from as we look to reach the highest standards across policing and criminal justice in the county. Ahead of this journey I’d urge anyone who hasn’t yet given us their views on our proposed Police and Crime Plan to do so now at YourPCC.co.uk, to ensure their voices are heard as we move forward.”
To see the full report, visit www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic