Three forces agree to progress further collaboration proposals
Collaboration across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (BCH) took a step forward this week (13 October) when the three forces agreed to progress Full Business Cases (FBCs) for Custody, Criminal Justice and ICT.

The Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for the three forces met at a Strategic Alliance Summit where they also reached agreement on a Business Case to collaborate their Information Management Department (IMD) functions.

In addition to potentially saving millions of pounds in an effort to meet a predicted £62m funding gap between now and 2019/20, collaboration offers BCH the opportunity to further improve and refine police services to better fight crime and protect local communities.

For Criminal Justice this focus is on fully supporting victims and witnesses whilst ensuring every offender is brought to justice as swiftly as possible. To achieve this, processes and policies will be standardised and streamlined across BCH according to best practice. Greater use of technology such as electronic witness statements (EWS) and digital storage solutions will help modernise the service.

Criminal Justice collaboration has been divided into two phases in line with new technology, expected to be introduced across the three forces in the early part of next year. Phase one affects the teams responsible for Typing Services, Tape Library functions, Policy and Performance, and Virtual Courts. By improving storage facilities and the timely submission of evidential case material to the Crown Prosecution Service, the length of trials could be reduced.
Under the Custody proposals, around £1m will be saved within two years of implementation by aligning and streamlining Custody processes across BCH. Adopting common working practices would help free up staff time to focus more on detainees, ensuring each person is seen as promptly as possible and that their individual needs are catered for. It would also ensure Custody staff are able to undertake additional training to ensure their skills are as up to date as possible.

The Custody proposals are based on best practice, taking into account the needs of detainees and staff as well as statutory obligations, other police forces’ approaches and the expectations of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice (APP).
Custody estate will not be affected by the proposals, though collaboration does not preclude the possibility of further changes being made by individual forces to meet local demand. Both the collaborated Custody and Criminal Justice units will be overseen by a single, centralised senior management team.
In addition, as the forces move forward with collaboration the creation of a single ICT department will ensure that there is a consistent approach to ICT service delivery to enable day-to-day delivery of policing. IMD collaboration aims to provide more efficient, effective and consistent organisational support across BCH that complies with national guidance and legislation.

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, said: “This new agreement builds on several years of successful collaboration where we have managed to achieve efficiencies and savings across the three forces without adversely affecting the services we provide to the public. These new savings will enable us to continue to protect local policing in Hertfordshire and to continue investing in new capability to tackle domestic abuse, cyber-crime and child sexual exploitation.”

Chief Constable Andy Bliss said: “The Criminal Justice System plays a vital role in making those who offend accountable for their actions.  This helps to prevent crime and to keep people safe. It is really important that we, in the police, play our full part and ensure that our systems are efficient and good value for money.  We have excellent staff in these areas and these changes should help by reducing bureaucracy and making systems more consistent across the three forces.”

Staff working within Custody, Criminal Justice, ICT and Information Management across the three forces will be formally consulted with in the coming months before final decisions regarding collaboration are made.