To receive an update of progress against the Police and Crime Plan Q1 2019/20, to enable Panel members to scrutinise performance, seek assurance and assess outcomes achieved in the reporting period.
The Panel considered a report informing them of the progress against the Police and Crime Plan and Priorities 2017-2021.
The Vice-Chairman raised a question to the PCC regarding Brexit and the impact on Dorset residents should there be a ‘no deal’ Brexit. She sought assurance from the PCC that for Dorset residents’ life would carry on as normal as it could and that they would remain safe. The PCC advised that he was the National representative for Brexit and as the PCC scrutinised what the Force was doing and some of the issues raised were operational and was therefore unable to comment. However, he advised that the Government had planned for contingency in respect of Martial Law but they were not invoking that. There were no plans to go to Martial Law if there was a ‘no deal’ Brexit. In the PCCs view it was business as usual. He added that Brexit was funded centrally from government and that it would continue to be into next year if it was not resolved. The OPCC had reviewed their commissioned services and did not believe that any services would be disrupted in the short term. The PCC was sighted on local and regional issues and was content that plans were in place and were scenario tested. He would ensure that all local elected members were briefed to a suitable level to ensure members of the Police and Crime Panel that plans were in place.
The monitoring report provided information on the financial outturn position for the year ending 31 March 2019, including updates on the following items which are listed under the relevant Pillars:-
Pillar 1 – Protecting People at Risk and Harm – Cllr Julie Bagwell
The PCC highlighted key areas as set out in the report. The pillar lead did not have any questions.
Following a question about the Police Cadet Scheme and whether there were plans to set up further schemes, the PCC advised that the current one was based at the Bourne Academy and that there were plans for more. He felt this scheme was a good example of the PCC setting something up and then handing it over to the Force. He was aware there was a demand in the west of Dorset and was currently looking at opportunities.
A panel member asked for an update on knife crime as the rating had moved from red to amber. The PCC advised that until the actual issues were known they were unable to commission services. Now that there was a new knife crime profile for the Force and the issues were better understood he was starting to commission services, it was very much work in progress. The Chairman highlighted that a knife crime review featured in the Panel’s forward work plan.
In respect of the improvement of detection in hate crime, hate incidents and domestic abuse, the PCC advised that the overall detection rate was around 16%, which based on national trends, put Dorset favourably in the top 5 nationally. The whole county detection rate had gone down which reflected the issues across the whole criminal justice system.
The PCC explained that hate incidents and hate crime were acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are. Hate incidents can take many forms. Examples include: verbal abuse like name-calling or offensive jokes; bullying or intimidation; hoax calls, abusive phone or text messages; online abuse for example on Facebook or Twitter; or making malicious complaints for example on parking, or noise. Where these behaviours escalate into criminal offences they are known as hate crimes. Any criminal offence can be a hate crime if it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation. When something is classed as a hate crime, tougher sentences can be placed on offenders under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
The PCC noted that members had previously raised questions regarding the percentage changes in recent Quarterly Police & Crime Plan Monitoring Reports (officers report on the % increase/decrease rather than the actual numbers which are generally low). Small numbers of crime and incidents do mean that % fluctuations can appear quite dramatic. This was useful, as the OPCC has now reviewed this matter, and concluded that it was unhelpful to continue to report hate crimes and incidents on a quarterly basis due to these variations, as without the narrative context these can appear extreme.
The Home Office, the College of Policing and the CPS have all undertaken reviews of hate crime data quality in recent years, and it is recognised that the variability and inconsistency of data suggests that that it would be more effective to make longer terms comparisons.
The OPCC will therefore work with Dorset Police to produce rolling 12 month figures on hate crime and hate incidents, or similar, that would offer better opportunity for the identification of trends.
Pillar 2 – Working with our Communities – Cllr Les Fry and Cllr David Taylor
The PCC Highlighted the key areas as set out in the report.
One member highlighted that he was currently engaging with communication officers from Dorset Council when he met with parish councils and was looking for ways to further engage with the PCC. The PCC advised that media officers from the OPCC were available to support him at with his parish council work and would advise him further outside of the meeting.
In respect of road fatalities the PCC noted that there had been a spike of fatalities which was a concern. He advised that there were 2 driving schemes currently in place, in relation to older people (an older driver awareness scheme and an older driver mobility scheme) and he felt that the group that should be targeted now were the ‘silver bikers’ riding 1000cc bikes.
Following a question about the Bobby Van scheme, the PCC advised it was progressing well and was on track. The van had been designed and procured and would ready for a launch in January 2021. Recently an officer who previously delivered on community safety for the Fire Service had been recruited to the scheme.
The Chairman raised a concern about the failure of Action Fraud and the PCC advised that from a Dorset point of view he was seriously concerned. There had been 4 different suppliers for the Action Fraud scheme since 2013 which had been confusing but confirmed there was a full fraud triage system set up by Dorset Police. He was due to meet with Oliver Letwin, the local MP, and was planning a consultation with the public to say that if you live in Dorset and have suffered badly at the hands of Action Fraud to please contact him so that he and Oliver could then go to Ministers with real examples. It was also noted that Trading Standards were picking up some of this work. The PCC undertook to write to the other Dorset MPs as part of the consultation process.
Pillar 3 – Supporting Victims, Witnesses and Reducing Reoffending – Cllrs Bill Pipe and Molly Rennie
The PCC highlighted key areas as set out in the report.
Cllr Pipe noted that whilst he was pleased to see that 2 of the red areas in this pillar had disappeared he was concerned that the victim satisfaction rate had decreased to an amber rating. The PCC explained the outcome on the consultation on satisfaction of victims. The figures did fluctuate on a quarterly basis but he was comfortable with the rates at the present time and his approach was to consider trends. He undertook to continue to press the Chief Constable for continual improvement in the service his officers and staff provided but remained comfortable with the confidence and satisfaction ratings for Dorset Police.
Following a question about the victim support contract and was the replacement a like for like contract, the Chief Executive, OPCC explained it was different in that the contract had been split to get a better service. The funding for victim support was set by government and hadn’t changed but they did have some local commissioning funds that the PCC could work with which aimed to place an advocate with the complainant to work through court processes. The Chief Executive confirmed there had been a cost saving compared to the previous arrangement of £25k.
In response to a comment about the changes in probation, the PCC advised that the changes were going in the right direction but were not good enough. He was trying to do things locally but accepted that more impetus and drive was needed nationally.
Pillar 4 – Transforming for the Future – Iain McVie and Cllr Barry Goringe
The PCC highlighted key areas as set out in the report.
In respect of a timeline for the new Police complaints system, the PCC advised it was the end of January 2020. This would see all complaints against the Police being fielded by the OPCC.
Members asked the following questions to the PCC:-
As the national lead for use of force, and a former police officer who was assaulted multiple times, you would not be surprised to hear that I am passionate about improving officer safety. However, as the national lead I must ensure that we balance officer safety with the proud tradition of policing by consent and that we consider the full range of options that are available.
Therefore, my short answer is that having discussed this with the Chief, as this is an operational decision, we would both like to increase the number of Taser trained officers. However, that does not mean all officers should carry a Taser, as we know from research that roughly 80% of officers want to carry, assuming they pass the training, which of course many don’t.
There is, of course, a cost associated with this. Northamptonshire Police is roughly comparable in size with DP, and its Chief recently decided to issue Taser to every frontline officer. He stated that this would take around 18 months to achieve, at a cost of £220k. I have asked the Chief to produce a similar estimate for Dorset.
My longer answer is that Taser is but one option available. All officers are trained in personal safety and unarmed defensive tactics, but the national provision for these activities is low. Here in Dorset we have worked very hard to provide a level of training to all officers that is above that which is currently mandated by national guidance, and we continue to encourage other forces and the College of Policing to recognise the improvements that our training tactics have delivered.
Other relevant factors including things like the availability of police officers, so double crewing can be used more routinely, and the availability of dog units to provide an operational capability that can drastically reduce the use of violence against officers.
On the governance side, there are still a number of areas that must be considered:
• There is still a problem with the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act (commonly known as the Protect the Protectors act), as despite Govt agreeing to an uplift in sentences for those who commit assaults against emergency workers, there is no meaningful impact yet.
• Many officers do not wish to carry Taser for fear of trial by newspaper, or being subject to – in their views – a overzealous investigation by the IOPC.
• There is also the recognition that BAME individuals are disproportionately Tasered by officers, and this issue continues to be subject to national study.
Overall, whilst I am supportive of increasing the availability of Taser to officers, we must recognise the need to establish an evidence base for the effectiveness of Taser. Indeed the NPCC are undertaking a national safety review, and have approached Chiefs and PCCs for evidence. At the same time the College will be issuing a safety survey to every police officer and police staff member this week asking about their experiences of being assaulted; supervisory support; whether there were criminal proceedings; their feelings of safety and views on personal safety training and equipment.
Unfortunately, the Panel has been provided with inaccurate information by the GMB union. Firstly, and most importantly, members should note that the current regional services are already not located in Dorset.
The current issue we are facing is there is an imbalance of demand and capacity, and the current structure is costly. Demand has significantly reduced in traditional forensics services (crime scene investigation and identity services) which means that the current structure is over resourced. At the same time, demand has increased in digital forensic services and the department is under resourced.
At the same time, this imbalance is exacerbated with a number of further challenges:
1. We are facing significant cost and resource impacts due to the new accreditation requirements that will be bought in from 2020;
2. There are ongoing difficulties with the recruitment, retention and training of skilled employees, and this has resulted in a backlog of work;
3. At the same time, higher than usual levels of absenteeism have increased pressures of work and increased exposure to sensitive material; and
4. The forensics senior management team has difficulties in providing effective leadership due the size of the teams and their geographical spread.
Proposals were therefore developed to consolidate traditional forensics services, thereby freeing up estates to meet the current and expected growth in digital forensics. These options underwent the usual, extensive staff, staff association and union consultation, before going to the SW Collaboration Strategic Board for decision last week, which was attended by my Chief Executive and the Chief Constable.
Based on the feedback submitted by staff, the Strategic Board directed the project team to reconsider the site locations for the consolidated hubs and determined that a single chemical laboratory did not have to be co-located with a single fingerprint bureau as these functions are complimentary but separate. In addition, the Board determined that both chemical laboratories should be accredited and have capacity to expand for additional posts.
For Dorset staff particularly, the equality impact assessment shows that there would be minimal impact as a result of the proposed changes, as the new structure is comparable with the current structure (in that both labs are already outside Dorset) and changes are being managed through vacancy management. Additionally, there would be the benefit of additional staff (6FTE) which should reduce the current demand and expectations on existing staff.
I remain comfortable with the direction of this work.
The Panel agreed to write to the original letter sender, GMB, saying they were satisfied with due diligence and request that any future letters be sent centrally and not to individual members. The Service Manager for Assurance added that he had already written to GMB to remind them of the process.
Of course, this is an operational matter for the Chief Constable and he has made his feelings on the matter very clear. The role is not how some sections of the national media have depicted it – the post holder will help the Force identify and engage with a wide range of online communities; provide expert advice on how best to spread important crime prevention advice and support investigations; and assist with 24/7 digital content on behalf of two police forces. Ultimately, this is someone who will be communicating with tens of thousands of people on behalf of Dorset Police – when emergencies happen police social media feeds are a vital part of the response, supporting officers and saving lives. That is very important indeed. The Chief also raised his views that comparisons of salaries with police officers were unhelpful and he encouraged a debate on police starting salaries.
As for my opinion – I endorse the Chief’s position. Tens of thousands of police staff make a significant difference to frontline policing – bringing in different skills and backgrounds – and it is seriously disappointing if the Home Secretary doesn’t realise this. Indeed, the Home Office, Number 10, the Conservative Party etc, all employ media, marketing and engagement roles and I have to tell you they do so in far greater number than police forces do! The College of Policing is currently recruiting a senior media officer role at a salary up to £40k, some £12k more than our role.
Some commentators have described the comments as ‘dangerous and disingenuous’ and I don’t disagree.
The McCloud / Sargeant case originally related to the Judges and Firefighters pension schemes and claimed that the transitional protection’ offered to some members as part of the reforms to their pensions amounted to unlawful discrimination. The case was successful and the Government were denied leave to appeal in June 2019. The Treasury has accepted that whilst the case only related to 2 pension schemes, the ruling applies to all public sector pensions.
Whilst the ruling has been made, the remedy for the discrimination has not been identified and could range from applying protection to all scheme members at the point of change, significantly increasing scheme costs, to a once off payment of compensation to each member affected. The decision on which remedy to adopt will significantly change the impact on the Dorset Police budget.
The 2018/19 annual accounts were required to be adjusted for the latest ruling with the actuaries making significant assumptions on the likely outcomes. The value of the pension fund liabilities increased significantly as a result of this ruling – by £33.174m for the Police Pension Scheme, and by £3.341m for the police staff Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).
If this increase in liabilities does materialise, it will translate into additional employer’s contributions at the next actuarial valuation for each scheme, assuming that no further changes to the scheme benefits are made. The Police Pension Scheme is due for the next valuation in 2020, with payments following the valuation expected to commence in 2023/24. The next LGPS valuation is due to take place later this year (2019), with the effect on employer contributions expected to be felt from 2020/21.
· across the OPCC domain and what management tools are in place in order to hold Dorset Police to financial account;
Financial risk is managed continuously throughout the year for both the Force and OPCC, starting initially with setting the budget by making sure estimates are robust, maintain appropriate levels of reserves to deal with any unexpected expenditure, to regular budget monitoring to ensure appropriate action is taken to address any variances which occur during the year. Medium Term Financial Planning is also critical to ensuring actions to mitigate future risks are developed.
The main mechanism for the PCC to hold Dorset Police to financial account is through the Resource Control Board, which is co-chaired by the PCC and the Chief Constable. The Board is also attended by both Section 151 officers, the Chief Executive, and various relevant officers of the Force. This monthly meeting’s terms of reference includes:-
- Maintaining effective oversight and scrutiny of revenue and capital expenditure through the year, including the achievement of financial targets.
- To consider the impact on the medium term financial strategy of in year budget variations.
- To oversee the use of reserves and balances.
- To have regard to the financial impact of any major projects. Where requested by the Dorset Joint Leadership Board, to approve funding for business cases.
- To monitor and review treasury management performance and outcomes
- To receive reports from the Section 151 Officers and approve and monitor any resultant action plans
The Board receives regular reports from the Force, including:
- MTFS updates
- Monthly revenue monitoring reports
- Quarterly capital monitoring reports
- Treasury management monitoring / policy / outturn
- Outturn reports
Which allow every aspect of financial performance to be scrutinised
In addition, regular meetings take place between the S151 officers to ensure financial appropriateness of any business decisions, and to ensure full transparency.
· for the increased costs of the capital programme which are scheduled to be funded through capital receipts and further borrowing (whilst a small amount - circa £0.5m).
The capital programme is subject to regular review through the Resource Control Board, and also as part of the annual budget / MTFS process. The financing arrangements are considered alongside the programme. Progress of schemes and associated funding will be reviewed next at the end of Quarter 2 and any resulting actions agreed at the Resource Control Board.
Work on the capital programme from 2020/21 onwards is already in progress with the revenue effects of capital funding being built into the Medium Term Financial Strategy. The impacts will be considered as part of that process, alongside other budget pressures.
3. For the minutes and for the new panel - could the OPCC please provide an overview of their Financial Year 19/20 £2m budget (ie Office costs, commissioning budget etc).
The budget for the OPCC is broadly split 50:50 between the costs of the office (Staff costs alongside office expenses) and the budget for commissioning projects in support of the Police and Crime Plan. The Office undertakes the administration of scrutiny panels, consultations and engagement with the public, support volunteers such as Independent Custody Visitors as well as co-ordinating the commissioning and spend of the project budgets. In addition to this are the costs of the Independent Audit Committee (shared with Devon and Cornwall) and audit fees.
The Community Safety Fund and Local Innovation Fund provide funding for schemes with statutory partners and voluntary sector providers which support the four pillars of the Police and Crime Plan. The Community Safety Fund is focused on long term contracts and grant agreements whilst the Innovation Fund is directed to more once off funding.
The Ministry of Justice provides grants to PCC’s to be spent on services that support victims of crime, with funding confirmed on an annual basis.
A breakdown of the 2019/20 budget is shown below:
Joint Independent Audit Committee
Internal / External Audit Fees
Community Safety Fund
PCC Local Innovation Fund
Victims Fund - Expenditure
Specific Grants - Victims Fund
*In 2019/20 a further £507,000 is earmarked to be added to the PCC Innovation Fund from reserves set aside in previous years. This will increase the total funds available in the fund to £816,000 but the contribution to reserves will maintain the net cost to the budget of £309,000.
1. In respect of Action Fraud, the PCC would write to the other Dorset MPs as part of the consultation process.
2. In respect of South West Forensics, that the Panel agreed to write to GMB saying they were satisfied with due diligence and request that any future letters be sent centrally and not to individual members.