I observed Cambridgeshire Police Authority’s full meeting on the 20th of December 2011.
The Deputy Chief Constable noted the two reports which have been published this week on the causes of the riots:
- The rules of engagement: A review of the August 2011 disorders – HMIC.
- Report-Policing Large Scale Disorder: lessons from the disturbances of August 2011 – Home Affairs Select Committee.
The key question he is going to be reading them looking for the answer to, is if similar disorder will happen again or if it was a one off coincidence of factors.
Cambridgeshire Police’s costs relating to the riots amounts to £781,000 (This is in the Financial Report). This will not be reimbursed by central government, as central government extra funding only comes in if a force spends more than 1% of its budget on a particular event. I was surprised when the Chief Constable said that much of this money was spent not in London, but locally, particularly in Cambridge. He said:
Things could have got out of hand, particularly in Cambridge City, if officers had not been on hand.
A new explanation for the problems with answering the phones was given to the authority.
They were told the force had decided to get rid of its switchboard. This had resulted in the calls going to the public service centre.
Cllr Lee said that not answering 5,000 calls a month wasn’t good enough.
The Chief Constable responded that £2,000,000 had been taken out of the service. He said that given the scale of the cuts something was inevitably going to be dropped, and touch-wood, so far, it was just this. The Chief Constable said this was the only significant dropped ball and that the force had run out of boxes of staff in the cupboard to move across. He said the force was many dozens of people lighter than it had been in the past.
For more on the background to this see my previous articles: Cambridgeshire Police Getting Even Worse at Answering Phone and Cambridgeshire Police Not Answering Phone.
Speed Camera Funding Uncertainty
There may be no money to run speed cameras in the force area next year.
A magistrate member of the authority noted the magistrates and judges had written to the force asking them to exclude domestic violence from the force’s restorative justice protocols.
The Deputy Chief Constable said the force would not be using restorative justice in relation to domestic violence.
The force’s detection rate is at 32%, the highest ever.
The Deputy Chief Constable said that about 50% of crimes were essentially not detectable, and a law of diminishing returns was effective approaching that.
The authority were told the force were now looking at different plans (I think during the expected transition to a national air support service for the police). The authority was told the force are now looking at “co-operation within the eastern region”, rather than working with the Chiltern Air Support Unit. The 18th of January 2012 Finance and Resources Committee is to receive a report with details of the new proposals.
Cllr Lee asked why the helicopter was at nil-value in the books. He said he thought it ought at least be listed at scrap value. He said it was important that value for taxpayer’s money was obtained and something got for it if it was sold into the national contract provider.
The force’s treasurer explained that it had been accounted for over five years and it was five years old so the book value was now nil even though she accepted it had a value and something would be paid for it if/when it was moved into the National Police Air Service.
The force’s treasurer said the helicopter could not be sold unmodified as the force has a special licence to allow it to fly a hybrid ‘coptor.
Police Authorities Joint Working Group
It was noted the Joint Working Group had met on the 26th of October.
(I would like to know if this meeting is secret, or private, and if the papers are online anywhere)
- The Police are running at 3% under budget, the authority said it was good to be ahead of the curve, prepared for forthcoming further budget reductions.
- If the Police Authority want to increase their council tax precept above 4% then there has to be a referendum. The referendum costs have to be paid locally. This is the main reason the authority are hesitant about accepting the offered central government “council tax freeze grant” (which covers the money which would be lost if council tax doesn’t go up). The authority are concerned that in future years a commissioner will be faced with either needing a referendum or further making deeper cuts. The authority was told central government would not set the 2013/14 trigger point for a referendum until next December.
- The authority was told that there was an “overhang” of [expensive long serving] police officers who had two years left to reach their 30 years service so the could then “retire”. The Chief Constable said he was working with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire to “mange staff between the three forces” so that the surplus of senior officers could be redistributed and used.
- The authority were told that when police staff were leaving there were generally two things behind it. One was IT staff leaving for more continuity elsewhere and another was those staff who had been subjected to too much change and had decided “enough is enough”.
- Police staff have higher sickness rates than police constables. No one is sure why (PC’s are generally younger and fitter and do a more active and healthy job?)
- It was reported that police officer numbers were slightly higher than had been expected.
- 740 of the force’s 1011 constables are to be “local officers” after Operation Redesign.
- The Deputy Chief Constable said the force was the second worst funded per head in the country, so was doing well to have performance in the 2nd and 3rd quartiles compared with forces nationwide.
- The Chief Constable constantly referred to his aim not to reduce the amount the force was spending on Constables (notably he didn’t say PCSOs). He repeated his mantra of taking from anywhere he could before taking anything out of operational policing.
- Peterborough city council is spending £100,000 per year focusing on the 12 families who are the biggest drains on the state. Asked if the police would contribute to funding such work if an impact on crime could be shown, the Chief Constable said it would be hard to show value for money, and every £30K spent elsewhere was a full time police officer.
- The authority resolved to abbreviate Police and Crime Commissioner as P&CC not PCC. I think this was, seriously, the only clear decision they took.
- The authority were told members of the public, and the media, read their attendance records and expenses on the authority website. (I think attendance records need to be improved to cover local meetings, and for the chair, Cambridgeshire County Council meetings; someone should also keep tabs on how often the Chief Constable attends the Police Authority).
- In terms of saving money through outsourcing / partnership working, authority members noted there was another force which had bought in “vanilla” ie. largely unmodified commercial software at low costs. Authority members complained the report on outsourcing wasn’t really consistent with the oral update. They sought assurances that the force was still considering all options, including outsourcing itsself as well as looking at sharing services with other forces.