Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary (BCH) say that the series of significant breakthroughs they made in the last 12 months have paved the way for rapid progress on collaboration between the three forces in 2016. The aim is to provide a better, more efficient service to the public and to cut costs.
The most recent development was the formal signing of Section 22 Collaboration Agreements between the Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners for Public Contact, which includes force control rooms, and the newly collaborated Firearms and Explosives Licensing and Human Resources functions. Agreement has also been reached to progress collaboration of Custody and Criminal Justice.
The BCH Firearms and Explosives Licensing and BCH Human Resources units both launched on 1 December following staff consultation and are expected to save the three forces a total of £4.5m over the next three financial years.
The BCH Firearms and Explosives Licensing unit, which has a northern office in Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire, and a southern office in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, provides a single, consistent approach to the granting and renewal of firearms and explosives licenses across the three counties.
The BCH Human Resources team, which encompasses Learning and Development, is responsible for the coordinated delivery of various core functions across BCH, including employee relations, workforce planning, recruitment, training, development, pay and conditions, health and wellbeing and support for change projects.
A further £10m is expected to be saved over a three-year period following the approval in 2015 of business cases for Criminal Justice, Custody, ICT, Information Management and Public Contact, which incorporates force control rooms and crime recording teams. It is anticipated that these units will collaborate in 2016/17.
To ensure a smooth transition to a fully collaborated Public Contact function, the signing of a Section 22 Collaboration Agreement has led to the appointment of Chief Superintendent Jane Swinburne as the Head of BCH Public Contact. The next stage will be to appoint a single Senior Management Team who will have responsibility for both day to day business and implementation of any future change. Agreements have also been recently signed for Firearms Licensing and Human Resources functions with others due to be signed in the first quarter of 2016.
The ambitious Strategic Alliance between BCH is an ongoing programme of work that focuses on the collaboration of operational and organisational support functions as a way of protecting frontline policing while achieving savings to meet the current financial shortfall.
In addition to increased resilience and economies of scale, collaboration is an opportunity to implement best practice and new technology across the three forces and refine processes so local communities benefit from the most efficient and effective services possible.
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “The government has announced a grant cut of £400,000 to Bedfordshire Police for 2015/16, which due to cost and pay pressures means we need to make further savings of £5.8million. Tri-force collaboration therefore has a vital role to play in enabling us to balance the books without making further reductions to frontline policing strength. However, transforming our processes and working together where we can also enables the three forces to use the resources we do have to optimum effect in protecting people and fighting crime.
“Such joint working is not an easy option, especially for the officers and staff involved. But their dedication to serving the public has ensured this programme of massive organisational change is being successfully delivered”.
This on-going programme of collaboration supports the three force collaboration already in place across a number of Protective Services functions (operational functions that are delivered to support locally-based crime investigation, response and neighbourhood policing, e.g. Firearms and Roads Policing) with these areas also being reviewed and refined.
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher added: “We have already achieved some significant savings and efficiencies through collaboration with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire and it is only right that we continue exploring how we can provide the best service possible to our communities for the best use of tax payers’ money.
“Alongside that work we have embraced a range of technological solutions to improve our effectiveness and ensure our officers are able to spend the most time possible out policing our communities and protecting those at risk of harm.
“Our funding issues at Bedfordshire are well-documented and we will continue to look for ways to make savings as well as pushing for a fairer funding deal from the Government.”