Saturday, 6 August 2011

Investigating the figures behind the facts - The future of policing in Scotland - the one force model

"The projected long-term savings under a new structure are up to £154m a year, every year." (Scottish Government Spokesman quoted in Scotsman, 26 July)

I recently read some newspaper articles about the current political debate on merging Scotland's regional police forces into a single force. One figure kept on being quoted (without reference) and grabbed my attention. The £154m annual savings that would come from this change. Where did this figure come from?

The figure appears to come from the document: "Sustainable Policing Project, Phase Two Report: Options for Reform" (March 2011). This report presents an estimate of potential savings (p.55) which totals £153.9m.

But this figure is not the potential savings from restructuring from the current regional forces into one force: the table shows, to quote: "estimated efficiency potential within the various functions of policing if the Target Operating Model were to be adopted". The "Target Operating Model" is a model for operation which is independent of whether the force is 8 forces, regional forces or one force. To quote, "The majority of these efficiencies are achievable irrespective of structure" (p. 68).

£154m is the estimated savings that could come from other changes to the way that the police forces operate. Some of these savings are quoted as potentially taking up to five years to realise. "Efficiencies were calculated and validated using benchmark data" (p. 54) "from other forces (England and Wales) public and private sector (Industry Standard)", "by considering the potential impact of established and well tested levers, for example: management de-layering, process engineering, shared service economy of scale".

The quality of this report is very poor and the savings take no account of the cost of implementing change. Cosla is quoted (by Scotsman) as saying that a Scottish Government business case, "shows that Scotland would have to spend a whopping £230m (equivalent to 7,600 police officers] in start up and restructuring costs for a single force." I haven't been able to find this document, but it is quite possible that this is just the cost of merging to a single force and not the cost of implementing the "Target Operating Model". Remember, it is the Target Operating Model that is quoted as delivering the savings, not the change to a single force.

I am not interested in politics. I am interested in effective public services.

If the SNP are quoting £154m savings as justification for a single police force in Scotland then they are either badly mislead or badly misleading.

I sincerely hope that those with the power to influence this decision get their facts straight before they make a very costly mistake.

I am disappointed that the media in Scotland seem so keen to present political dispute that they have failed in their job of uncovering the true facts behind the story.

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