An increase of 25 detectives is needed, says Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey
PUBLISHED: 14:03 15 November 2017
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
Managing the Constabulary finances so that we can continue to deliver an excellent service despite increasing costs and a shrinking budget has been my priority throughout the development of our Norfolk 2020 proposals.
To achieve this we need to develop our budgets and our financial plans in such a way that it takes into account our reserves and our need to spend money on capital assets. Our capital assets can be anything from our buildings or our information technology to our police vehicles. All our investments are made on the basis of driving down day-to-day costs and improving our efficiency.
As I mentioned in my last column, the government has recently had a lot to say about police reserves. They acknowledged the outstanding work and dedication officers and staff make to policing with an additional, unbudgeted, 1% bonus (costing us £0.6m this year and on top of the expected 1% pay award). However, they also told you and every other county in England that they expected it to be paid out of police reserves. Unfortunately, I had already fully committed this money so we will now need to make even more savings.
Our reserves currently total £25m yet we will see them fall to £11m (7% of our £150m budget) by March 31, 2021. In financial terms this is close to our minimum and it’s important to remember that reserves can only be spent once. For example, within this amount we hold £4.5m for exceptional operational policing demand (such as a complex murder case) and some reserves are held to meet other costs that might arise such as a significant increase in insurance claims or similar. I also use it to support our future budget, improve our efficiency and in particular help us introduce new technology such as Body-Worn Video or drones.
Supported by Lorne Green, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), body-worn cameras are being rolled out across Norfolk at a cost of around £1m along with mobile devices for officers at a cost of around £700,000. These investments in frontline policing will help us make savings in the future.
I also expect these cameras to help reduce the number of assaults my officers have to face every single day and help us understand the circumstances when there are complaints made regarding their behaviour. I am sure that some of this video evidence will help us reduce the amount of ‘not guilty’ pleas in court and in return decrease criminal justice timescales and costs. In addition, the PCC has also made it possible for us to deploy a number of drones to aid investigations, and undertake a major expansion to our Automatic Number Plate Recognition capability to help us police the roads of the county in an even more effective way.
The variety of mobile devices my frontline officers now have access to will help us reduce the need for officers to travel back to the station, ensuring they are spending more time out in our communities. They will be able to check police databases remotely and record statements immediately, sending and receiving real time information while still at the scene of an incident. Of course, this technology will need to be replaced after a few years and this will again add to my costs in the future.
Our police estate is always under continuous review. At the moment we are working closely with Norfolk’s Fire and Rescue Service to increase the number of joint police and fire stations. We are also exploring the possibilities of sharing buildings or other facilities with other public sector partners.
As a force we have invested a lot in our estate over the last 10 years, including our Police Investigation Centres. To be more efficient and effective we needed to improve our old custody suites and refurbish our old police stations, such as King’s Lynn. We are also discussing possible plans for Bethel Street and Great Yarmouth. This will help me make significant savings on running costs as well as repairs and maintenance. By the end of 2020/21 I hope to have stopped leasing any properties, saving another £500,000, while making sure we relocate affected staff.
Finally, as part of the Norfolk 2020 announcements I made in October, I spoke about the need to increase the amount of investigators we have to help us tackle the significant rise we have seen in reports of rape, serious sexual offences, indecent images and serious violence. Analysis shows an increase of 25 detectives is needed, at a cost of around £1.25m a year. However, the centralising of investigations into the two new hubs (East and West) means we can reduce this cost to only £300,000 a year, again investing to save in the long term. This also allows important technological support to be provided to investigators, reducing their travelling and freeing up more time.
Using our reserves wisely and investing for the future is always our focus when making any medium- or long-term financial plans. However, this doesn’t mean we will avoid having to make more difficult choices ahead as we balance the budget for 2018/19.