Last week HMIC published the first PEEL reports on each Police Force in the UK. PEEL stands for Police Effectiveness Efficiency Legitimacy – a mnemonic which in itself rather stretches the realms of credibility but >https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/2014-peel-methodology.pdf shows the thinking behind the ‘three pillars’ of Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy. The first PEEL reports concentrated on Efficiency, which leaves me wondering why they didn’t just put that E first in the mnemonic. Each Force received their own report but as they were graded between Outstanding and Inadequate, it is impossible not to view PEEL as a league table. It seems a shame that modernising Police Forces, often in pursuit of innovation, are judged in such a limiting and old fashioned way.
Efficiency is covered by three questions for the purpose of PEEL. In the link given above, in November 2014, the questions are straightforward, if more than a little unappetising. The first seems to negate any need for further questions – To what extent is the Force efficient? The following two questions are: To what extent is the Force taking steps to ensure a secure financial position for the short and long term? and To what extent has the Force got an affordable way of providing Policing? It is disappointing in the extreme that HMIC equate efficiency to value for money. Interestingly, in the Peel overview in October 2015, https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/peel-police-efficiency-2015.pdf the questions have changed somewhat. How well does the Force use it’s resources to meet it’s demand? How sustainable and affordable is the workforce model? and How sustainable is the Force’s financial position in the short and long term? An interesting rewording of the same value for money based questions.
Despite what must have been hours and hours of work, both for those in Forces and for HMIC, there is a simple pattern evident in the grading of each Force. ‘Outstanding’ Forces all showed significant projected savings. So far so good – until we look at the Forces rated as ‘Requires Improvement’, who each are in the process of evaluating appropriate savings or awaiting further information from Government on funding, at the time of their individual HMIC inspections. It is far easier to tell HMIC that you will save a lot of money by cutting Officer numbers than it is to be honest and say you are trying to do your very best for the public and your staff but because of this, you do not have a future monetary forecast at present.
Which brings me to the central problem with PEEL reports. They are a snapshot, a moment in time, the fabric of which is stretched across a year long frame and displayed publicly as if it were a whole picture. Allow me to show you how ridiculous this is…
EEL – HMIC Efficiency 2015
Overview: How efficient is HMIC at improving Forces?
HMIC say the following about their purpose:
“In preparing our reports, we ask the questions which citizens would ask, and publish the answers in accessible form, using our expertise to interpret the evidence. We provide authoritative information to allow the public to compare the performance of their force against others, and our evidence is used to drive improvements in the service to the public.”
It is not clear which members of the public would ask the three questions covered in the Efficiency PEEL reports. We know that all members of the public judge Police efficiency to be about answering calls, sending Officers to scenes, swift reporting, robust investigations, protection of the vulnerable. Very few members of the public ask about value for money when discussing Policing.
The efficacy of allowing the public to compare ‘performance of their Force against others’ is a further cause for concern. League tables are widely recognised now as counterproductive and leading to unintended consequences, like gaming. There is evidence to suggest Forces who were judged Outstanding had a plethora of other problems which were not Inspected. As an example, Cheshire CC was loudly celebrating their Outstanding grade, whilst having a reduced public satisfaction level, an unhappy workforce, a target culture despite the Home Secretary telling Forces they should not use targets and the following day, a direct criticism from the Home Secretary regarding their lack of diversity as a Force. None of the above demonstrates an outstanding Force.
Information has been requested from HMIC to explain how their inspections drive improvements. Whilst some soundbite answers have been forthcoming, HMIC has been unable to answer this query satisfactorily. They have offered to email a more detailed answer to this and other questions but at the time of this Inspection, that information was not available and therefore they must be judged accordingly.
I judge HMIC to require improvement. They have been given more money whilst almost all other Criminal Justice Agencies are coping with slashed budgets yet they do not know the value for money of their inspections. They cannot give a cost analysis and they cannot measure that against the efficacy of their recommendations. They have also failed, at this date, to provide information showing improved efficiency due to PEEL reports. It may be that HMIC can provide further and more detailed information but on the day of this report, I have no choice but to judge them as requiring improvement.
Areas for Improvement
HMIC should recognise that putting Forces into league tables is fraught with difficulty and encourages poor practice in the pursuit of narrow targets.
HMIC should review Forces over a longer period and make clear to the public in their reports that even this is only a snap shot.
It is not HMIC’s place to judge whether Forces should comply fully with Government imposed funding cuts. HMIC is wholly independent from the Government.
HMIC needs to augment its well intentioned staff with some Inspectors who have served in Policing at middle and lower ranks.
In conclusion, I looked at the Q&A session on Twitter with HMIC and was not suprised to find that it was dominated by serving and ex Police Officers. Who are HMIC writing their reports for? Does the public care about the questions HMIC are asking? I really don’t think they do. In which case, can HMIC ever be value for money? I would like to see a proper study into the amount of hours each Force now spends on PEEL. The amount of time and money PEEL costs Forces seems counterproductive to the hard working, flexible Forces we are insisting on today. Having read several of the reports fully, the pattern in them was obvious: save money at any cost, be judged outstanding – even when your public satisfaction score has lowered but, be open and put the public and your staff first or engage in proper analytical work to determine demand and be penalised for it. This is not what the public would call fair scrutiny. There is no body to scrutinise HMIC, yet they appear to have a mandate to ride roughshod over caring Forces and mislead the Public with a fairly arbitrary judgement system. I would like to see modernisation of HMIC thinking and a full reconsideration of PEEL. Otherwise HMIC really need to revise their ‘About us’ page https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/about-us/ where they explain their ‘independence’.