I want to use this blog to ensure you get a clear view from me on where the force is.
The last few weeks has seen a great deal going on nationally, and in force, and I want to help put this in context.
The financial position of policing nationally is coming to a critical juncture.
The National Audit Office (NAO) Report on Police Financial Sustainability 2018 largely says policing is showing the strain of austerity which is falling unevenly. As the graph shows, West Midlands Police has suffered disproportionately.
The real criticism in the report is that the Home Office does not really understand the impact of budget reductions. Police and Crime Commissioners, unlike bodies like health service trusts, always have to set a balanced budget.
We balance, but are cutting services to fit in the envelope.
On the 25th October the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee produced its Policing for the Future report. It echoes much of the NAO report but is more strident in its criticism of a “hands off” approach by government, a funding problem and the need for more coordinated national change.
Both reports point to some key areas for the future in England and Wales:
We need to evolve policing to meet a more data driven future and the threats of organised crime.
Core parts of the service the public would identify as policing – call, response, investigation including PPU, neighbourhoods – are simply too small.
We have to change more at a national level and work harder to share as more money alone will not meet the demands we face.
This is very clear in technology and skills. This work is informing the spending review submission policing is preparing with the Home Office. The government generally allocates its money in five year tranches and next year is the last year of the current period. We need to prepare our case for policing well which is why we have seconded T/ACC Alex Murray to this work.
However these reports have been put in the shade by the increased pension contributions police forces are being asked to make from next year.
This is complex so let me explain. As police officer pensions are a national scheme, and there is no fund held for them, the government periodically revalues them to assess sustainability. A huge review was carried out in 2012 that led to employees and employers paying more and some rules designed to create more predictability.
The revaluation was announced in September. There has been no consultation and it starts next year. The national bill is £165m next year and £417m the year after and every year onwards. To put this in context West Yorkshire Police is the fourth largest force and its operating budget is about £417m.
This is a huge financial hit for every force. I have seen almost every Chief in the country express real concern over what this means. For West Midlands Police it’s £8.6m year one and £13.9m after that each year. That is worth at least 450 officers’ posts.
Let me be clear: Chief Constables do not accept this. It was not known in advance. We are inviting the treasury to reconsider and will look at any option to do this. It will seriously harm policing and we must act.
Expect more on budgets this week as Police Chiefs and Commissioners meet in London at our annual conference.
The context does however mean the PCC and I need to take steps if the pension changes happen.
This now cuts into the DCC’s recent blog which you can read here.
We are under resourced for the mission we have.
That message is now loud and clear at a national level. However we have more than £500m of public money to apply to the challenges the public face here in the region.
These are, at times, quite simply life and death challenges.
We must rise to them. I am sure when Eisenhower looked across the channel on D-Day a few more ships, troops and tanks would have been handy but you have to do the best with what we have. There is space for better and the challenge the DCC set out is correct.
I was energised by the frank conversation senior leaders held two weeks ago. We all have to lead WMP through this tough phase. I saw good plans to tackle serious problems in crimes that matter to the public. I saw us crack a few issues that have been log jammed. I also saw a good desire to engage all staff in solutions.
Be clear there is no silver bullet. It’s going to be tough to meet the demand from the public as there is a resource issue. We can however lift our game in some important areas. We have a plan to do this. My confidence is high in our leaders and you to do this.
It will require some hard prioritisation. The “just in case” world is unaffordable. There is either a threat or there is not and tough decisions are what we all said we would do in our values.
There will be a change made to our operating model that ACC Johnson will lead on. The Force Support Unit concept is not working as we intended and despite a review last year it’s time to look at this with fresh eyes and make swift changes. We are not getting the best out of these officers.
This is all going to have to happen as we plan how we meet these pension costs if they happen. I intend to keep you up to date on this as we develop a plan.
Does this mean we have abandoned our vision of preventing crime, protecting the public and helping those in need? Our values? Our diversity and inclusion promise?
Not at all. An intense period of focus on all these areas has begun. Everyone at WMP has a role to play. This is not a working harder exercise. It may well need us to do fewer things well.
Strong leadership is vital to the successful running of the force and to help us do this effectively we are about to launch a series of key leadership events (Lead2Achieve) aimed at sergeants, inspectors and first-line leaders who directly supervise and manage individuals and teams. I believe you are integral to the delivery of our vision I look forward to meeting you at these events over the next few weeks.
The force is delivering some terrific results day in day out and a period of focus will help us deliver more effectively on the things that matter most to those we serve.