Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ringing in More Changes

I have been having a look at Force collaboration projects recently and other initiatives that Forces are putting in place to restructure. We have gone through a great deal of change over the last 25 years and it is clear there is an awful lot more to come.

A number of Forces, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Surrey, to name but a few are looking at a complete change in management structure. There will be some similarities to Norfolk, where last year they removed the Divisional structure and just have one HQ based management structure controlling all operational policing.

The other Forces are looking at a similar structure but will want to put their own mark on it. It appears that we are going down the route of having a few strategic police stations where you base your custody, response and investigation teams. Neighbourhood teams will be housed with partners or in a few local rented premises. Depending on the model, there will be no one over the rank of inspector or chief inspector at these stations.

At HQ you will have a number of senior managers responsible for investigation, response, custody and neighbourhoods and protective services. Savings can be made selling off, but more significantly, not having to maintain many police buildings. Further significant savings will be made by reducing the number of senior managers, by as much as 50%. Finally, centralisation of all HR, Finance and other services is made to reduce costs further.

All of this will be made more palatable to partners and the public by increasing the number of front line officers with some of the savings made. The former Chief Constable of Essex, Roger Baker, tried something similar in Essex, albeit his savings were largely coming from general cost cutting. I think this sowed a seed with many other Chief Constables.

The thought of losing 50% of our senior managers will appeal to many, but there are risks and negative points too. If we reduce all officers of Chief Inspector and above by 50% where does this leave those with aspirations to reach the dizzy heights of senior management? If you are not on the High Potential Development Scheme your chances of progressing beyond inspector may be very small for a number of years to come. What pressures will there be on the managers that are left?

Even the mighty Metropolitan Police will come under pressure to review their management structure. Can they really justify almost 100 ACPO equivalents?

Force collaboration projects are progressing at an ever increasing pace. Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire are heading towards a merger, probably within two years. Kent and Essex are in bed with one another with joint IT, recruiting and shortly major crime. HR and Finance are likely to follow with one centralised service for a number of forces.

Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Thames Valley are collaborating on aircraft, technical support, IT, uniform, protective services etc. Officers from those forces have already been transferred to Thames Valley to provide a regional counter terrorism unit. Secondments in some other areas are planned to take place next year.

Publicly the Chief Officers deny that this will lead to regional police forces. Privately, I can assure you, they are already speculating which of them will be taking over the new super forces.

I would be genuinely interested in others views on all this.


  1. It depends whether there is any democratic accountability in this. The current government would clearly love this because it has already tried to force mergers onto the services. Local taxpayers will want to know whether they will get a better police service.

  2. Cost efficiency does not come from scale of back office functions. Savings are likely to dissapoint. The system will be doing plausible things to save money which won't deliver while moving the work further from the front line. See the systems thinking review for examples

  3. John Seddon has written that focusing upon costs will counterintuitively lead to an increase in costs and a reduction in quality.

    We hear a large number of claims coming from government and the companies that are likely to benefit from these changes, with no real evidence whatsoever.

    Systems Thinkers know that many of the things that command and control managers do are all about targets, standards and lots of other junk, that damages learning and improvement.

  4. Try the Systems Thinking Review to hear more about these ideas and learn more about why they will and are damaging public sector services:


  6. 'the systems thinking review' - with videos available from some bloke from a commercial company - says it all.
    Will it give us more officers available on the streets?
    Will it stamp out the inherent fascist attitudes of so many of our current Plods?
    Will it increase knowledge of the law amongst our current Plods?
    Answers on a post card please......

  7. Regional Police Forces? I think this is actually the first small step of many that will ultimately see someone being appointed Chief Constable of England and Wales.

    I don't know yet what my thoughts are on a National Police Force.