Locked out? Don't bother the bobby

Public-sector finance: Many officers fear that devolved budgets will undermine the traditional social roles of the police and lose them public goodwill, says Paul Gosling

The use by police forces of devolved budgets is leading to a radical review of key policing roles, according to a report published today by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. But Cima's report criticises the Audit Commission for pushing local financial management without drawing on other public-service experience, or spelling out which budgets are most appropriate for devolution.

Local police managers are enthusiastic about the liberating opportunities presented by financial devolution. This honeymoon period may soon end, the report's authors warn, with local managers beginning to perceive local management as a poisoned chalice that retains centralised control and is motivated by cost-cutting. The process is already being criticised within forces by financial managers who believe that it is achieving only marginal efficiency gains.

"What was surprising was the lack of evidence of the benefits," says Chris Humphrey, professor of accounting at Sheffield University and an author of the report. "The effects have been presumed as a panacea, but it has not been thought through as much as would be appropriate."

Devolved budgets have reduced bureaucracy in purchasing arrangements, enabling new computers and office furniture to be bought, and stations to be redecorated, but in many cases the change has had little influence on core policing. It is, though, beginning to stimulate a real debate about objectives and responsibilities. "It is generating tensions on what are key policing roles," Mr Humphrey says. This is comparable to the debate on health rationing brought about by the NHS management reforms.

Local commanders now have a greater confidence in setting priorities. One has directed that officers should no longer be involved in disputes over the ownership and use of wheeled refuse bins, nor enforce local authority- imposed parking restrictions. Additional policing requested by shops, councils and pubs may now only be undertaken if paid for.

Cima's researchers believe that despite the Audit Commission's sequence of management reports on the police, it has failed to address properly income generation. There needs to be a discussion on whether full or marginal costing is used for recharges. Football clubs commonly employ their own stewards because forces are charging full costs, even though police still need to attend matches outside the grounds.

Devolved budgets have coincided with stronger centralised direction from the Home Office, undermining the principle of local management. Many officers believe that policing by objective is undermining traditional social roles, such as helping people who have locked themselves out of their homes or their cars. This runs the risk of losing public goodwill, which could lead to erosion of policing by consent.

The report points to some bizarre outcomes of the charge process. Some officers are discouraged from making arrests towards the ends of shifts, in case it leads to overtime payments. There has been a reduction in the policing of some city centre streets at pub closing time at weekends. Other officers talk, apparently jokingly, of chasing suspected offenders over county boundaries so that the costs of arrest fall elsewhere. There is anger that there is no compensation for one force in apprehending a suspect sought by another constabulary.

There is continuing anger that officers earning pounds 40,000 a year - who can cordon-off town centres and order the deployment of firearms - often do not have the authority to purchase a pounds 50 chair. Despite the effects of the Sheehy report, which led to the stripping out of much of middle management, there are still complaints that local commanders have too little administrative control.

What is needed is a more rational approach as reforms move forward. The authors argue that the Audit Commission has allowed local financial management in the police to go forward in a way that is "insular", "ignorant of problems elsewhere" and "silent on the rationales".

For more than a decade, the police have been protected from the public- service revolution, not least because of their importance to the Government in achieving political and economic objectives. Now police officers complain that it is the Crown Prosecution Service which has been spared reform, allowing it to make unnecessary, unreasonable and uneconomic demands on forces.

Although arrest rates per officer have increased, there have been continuing increases in other workloads, arising from new rules on disclosure of evidence and safeguards for defendants as well as from terrorism and the greater emphasis on child protection.

It is no wonder that in this environment, and with policing costing the public pounds 6bn per year, the Audit Commission has put such great stress on helping police forces to get value for money. But, the report authors suggest, continuing reform must be accompanied by a thorough review of the effects of the changes to date.

'On the Budgetary Beat', by MR Chatterton, C Humphrey and AJ Watson, is published by Cima.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

    £450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

    Project Manager - Pensions

    £32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

    £200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone