Agenda item

Report of the Police and Crime Commissioner

The Report is attached for consideration and comment by the Panel.



The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) introduced his report which provided an update on key activities since the Panel meeting on 7 April 2022.


In response to Councillor Humphreys, the Commissioner advised that he chaired the Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership which was focused on achieving a reduction by 50% of the number of incidents of death and serious injury on Warwickshire roads by 2030. He advised that there had been significant investment in this area by the two principal partners, Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire Police. It was proposed to install more speed cameras, these would be deployed at sites where there had been a higher number of killed or seriously injured (KSI) casualties. He advised that an action plan had been developed to achieve road safety targets. This included a grant scheme, enabling local communities to access funding for highway safety initiatives.


In response to the Chair, the Commissioner advised that KSI figures had been influenced by the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns. As road usage returned to pre-pandemic levels, it would be possible to evaluate the success of the initiatives in place to improve road safety.

The Chair commented that it would be helpful for the Panel to be able to contrast KSI figures of recent years with those of the pre-pandemic period. He suggested that, in future, KSI data be supplied over a longer period to allow the Panel to take account of the effect of the Pandemic on highway safety.


The Commissioner emphasised that road safety depended upon partnership working between the Force, County Council, National Highways, and others. A balanced assessment of the effectiveness of interventions required an awareness of the collaborative nature of work in this area. He agreed to provide data that enabled a comparison to be made with KSI figures that predated the Pandemic.


In response to Andrew Davies, the Commissioner acknowledged that the rate of 101 call abandonment had been high in recent months. He advised that in some instances, callers were disinclined to wait for a response within three to four minutes during busy periods. Performance figures had been influenced by callers choosing to redial, rather than wait. He advised that the Single Online Home service provided an alternative means to report crimes. Take up of this service had increased, reducing the pressure on call handlers. He advised that the Operations Communication Centre experienced periods of intensive demand. Efforts had been made to modify shift patterns to provide improved cover when required.


The Commissioner stated that, at present, the Operations Communication Centre was understaffed due to challenges affecting recruitment across public sector organisations. However, good progress had been made to increase staffing levels. He reported that the Chief Constable would review the arrangement whereby call handlers were responsible for both 999 and 101 calls. In these instances, 999 calls took priority. By assigning sole responsibility for 999 calls to specific personnel, better provision could be made for the 101 service.


Dave Patterson (Assurance and Scrutiny Officer, OPCC) advised that 101 calls were often complex in nature, leading to delays. He advised that the Commissioner had taken steps to hold the Force to account for performance in this area. He stated that 101 call abandonment was an issue affecting police forces nationally due to rising demand for the 999 service. It was proposed to examine the issue in detail with the prospect of additional resources and training.


In response to Andrew Davies, the Commissioner advised that the budget setting process was predicated on assumptions in specific areas, such as fuel and energy costs. In January 2022, it had been possible to make sound assumptions based on an assessment of known costs pressures in the year ahead. However, it was not possible to foresee all cost pressures. Reserves had been set aside for this reason. He expressed confidence that a balanced budget had been set which allowed for increases in pay. The effectiveness of the budget could not be gauged until later in the year. He expressed confidence that it would be possible to achieve officer recruitment targets, deliver improvements to the police estate, and capitalise on the advantages of investment in ICT, despite the prevailing economic headwinds.


The Commissioner advised that the Budget Working Group would be regularly updated on delivery of the budget, including any mitigations to offset increased costs.


In response to the Chair, The Commissioner advised that following successful delivery of the Evolve Programme, the Chief Constable would seek to shape Warwickshire Police as a standalone Force by means of the Empower Programme. This was an entirely operational consideration; however, he was supportive of the Chief Constable’s objectives. A focus on local policing would be enabled by decentralisation of the Force into three separate commands for the north, south, and east of the County. A Chief Inspector would be instated at each command with responsibility for engagement with communities. He advised that the structures in place would lead to improved accountability with benefits for Community Safety Partnerships (CSP) and Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT). It would be cost neutral and aligned with the priorities of the Police and Crime Plan. This was a long-term project; the Panel would be regularly updated.


In response to the Chair, The Commissioner advised that implementation of the Empower Programme would be monitored with reference to the key priorities of the Police and Crime Plan. He would not seek to alter the structures outlined by the Chief Constable. However, reporting systems would be in place to determine the effectiveness of the Empower Programme to reduce crime and prevent reoffending.


Councillor Poole stated that there had been significant investment to modernise custody facilities at Rugby Police Station. However, under the current arrangement, officers were required to transport those in custody to Nuneaton.


The Commissioner advised that he had raised this subject with the Chief Constable. He acknowledged Councillor Poole’s concerns. However, it was considered that the cost of updating the Custody Suite in Rugby to modern standards was prohibitively expensive. Additionally, operating costs would exceed the expense of transport to Nuneaton. He emphasised that this was an operational decision; however, he would not wish to see a reduction in the number of custody suites in Warwickshire.


In response to Councillor Humphreys, the Commissioner advised that the allocation of resources to SNTs was unchanged. However, there were challenges associated with recruitment and retention of staff, leading to vacancies. He highlighted his commitment to serving rural locations which had led to creation of a Patrol Base at Coleshill. He highlighted the operational demands that required reposting of officers to support incidents elsewhere, such as policing of the protests at Kingsbury Oil Terminal. He would continue to hold the Force to account to ensure that SNTs would be fully staffed as soon as possible.


In response to Councillor Jarvis, the Commissioner acknowledged that staffing of SNTs was an important priority. He highlighted the role of SNTs to engage with communities, address social problems, and provide visible policing. However, he emphasised that Warwickshire was well supported by other officers who could respond to emergencies across rural and urban locations. He stated that SNTs were properly funded; it would be necessary to attract capable personnel to the current vacancies.


In response to the Chair, the Commissioner acknowledged the value that experienced officers brought to the Force. However, he emphasised the importance of recruitment to progress the ambition to achieve a Force establishment of 1100 officers during 2022/23. In recent years, the average age and level of experience of officers had significantly decreased. This was an unavoidable consequence of expanding the Force.


Dave Patterson advised that there could be scope to provide the Panel with details of the level of experience across Warwickshire Police. To do so, it would be necessary to take account of how officers were deployed. For example, to support their development, a high proportion of new starters were deployed as patrol officers.


In response to the Chair, the Commissioner advised that most officers chose to retire after serving for a period of 30 years. These accounted for the highest proportion of leavers. He stated that very few officers elected to transfer to other police forces; however, Warwickshire Police attracted a good number of transferees from elsewhere. He emphasised that the alternative to recruiting younger, less experienced officers was to revert to a Force establishment of approximately 800. This was not a viable proposition.


There was discussion of how data showing the proportion and deployment of experienced officers could be presented. The Commissioner asked that a written request be made to clarify the Panel’s expectations.


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