At a meeting last Thursday (9 July), the Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire agreed to progress proposals for collaboration of their Force Control Rooms.
This is the first contact response function that deals with 101 and 999 calls, evaluates and assesses what should be an appropriate response, deploys officers and staff, and ensures the recording and appropriate early investigation of crime or anti-social behaviour.
Under the proposals, which are subject to staff consultation, the three forces are expected to save £4 million through the collaboration of their public contact functions which include the force control rooms, crime recording teams and support functions.
This will be achieved by introducing new technologies to facilitate digital contact, allowing public access to be improved. Equally, the proposals are about increasing resilience in this function across the three forces.
Collaboration would see the three forces sharing two Control Rooms based in Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire by March 2017.
The proposals will also see a consistent approach to public contact adopted across the two locations which will offer increased resilience and responsiveness. It will happen on a phased basis and is subject to detailed design to inform staff consultation which will take place over the coming months.
Temporary Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said: “Budget cuts and the current funding provided to the force have meant that we need to explore new ways of working to make the best use of the resources we have. Working together with our neighbouring forces to deliver collaboration in appropriate areas, along with introducing new technology, the force can better meet the necessary savings without compromising our frontline capabilities. We continue to explore further options to increase efficiencies and improve the effectiveness of our service delivery.
“In Bedfordshire we started working with our new ‘Fast’ and ‘Fixed’ operating model on 22 June and have already seen improvements to the effectiveness of our Control Room function as a result of using a new assessment process called THRIVE. This involves control room staff assessing the Threat, Harm and Risk to the public, of considering Investigative opportunities, identifying potentially vulnerable people and considering Engagement with communities to decide the urgency of our response. It is still early days but we are seeing a reduction in response times and an increase in successful telephone based resolutions.
“With a number of operational functions already shared across the three forces, it makes sense for there to be a consistent approach in the way we manage calls for service and deploy resources.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “Our financial circumstances mean that we have to take some really tough decisions about how to make savings, protect our frontline and invest in service transformation through new technology, all at the same time. I am convinced our three police forces working together is the answer to this conundrum when it comes to the best future for our control rooms, and looking at what we have achieved combining functions such as forensics, major crimes, roads policing, and armed response gives me considerable confidence in this conclusion.”
The three forces have recognised the need to provide the public with alternative ways to contact them and are also exploring ways in which enhanced technology could provide access to key services online.
The ambitious Strategic Alliance between the three forces and Police and Crime Commissioners is an on-going programme of work focusing on collaboration as an effective way of protecting frontline policing which is helping the three forces to meet a predicted funding shortfall of £56.6m between now and 2019/20.
The figure for Bedfordshire is £17.5m. By 2019, it is anticipated that a wide range of further joint operational and organisational support functions will have been established to bring economies of scale and increased resilience.