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Focus on common sense policing as Government frees up more time for police to spend on the beat

Focus on common sense policing as Government frees up more time for police to spend on the beat

HOME OFFICE News Release (024/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 16 February 2008

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today announced the next step in common sense policing by scrapping a police timesheet freeing up an estimated 260,000 police hours to focus on cutting crime and driving up public confidence. From today police officers will no longer have to complete the annual police activity analysis form accounting for their activity for each 15 minute working period of their shifts over a two week period - a step which alone frees up approximately 150 extra officers and staff.

Today's announcement is the latest in a series of cuts to red tape and builds on actions already underway including:

* axing the foot-long stop and account form earlier than promised - saving 690,000 hours per year;

* reducing by 80 per cent the amount of form-filling police must do when recording 80 per cent of crimes;

* 10,000 extra hand-held devices are now available with further investment made to deliver 30,000 devices by March 2010. This £80m investment in mobile data devices will save officers up to 30 minutes per shift as they send and receive information while on the beat.

These radical reductions in bureaucracy have been made possible by the reforms in accountability structures announced by the Home Secretary in last summer's Policing Green Paper. Police forces are being empowered to engage with the communities they serve and tackle the issues that matter most to them. By scrapping all central targets except one - to increase public confidence - it is local people, rather than central government who are telling the police what service they need and holding them to account via the policing pledge.

The latest reductions in red tape take us even further in delivering on Sir Ronnie Flanagan's ambition for reducing bureaucracy by "not less than 5 to 7 million hours" of officer time. This would save the equivalent of every police officer a whole week each year to patrol your street more often and tackle the crimes that matter to your community. By freeing up the police we are returning to common sense policing - trusting officers to use their professional judgment to understand and deliver the service that their communities want.

The Home Secretary announced today that she accepted all of the recommendations made by Sir David Normington, Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, in his Review of Data Collection, which could halve the number of data requests the Home Office issues to police forces. In addition the Home Secretary welcomed the interim report by Independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate Jan Berry, also published today.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"I have a single-minded focus on building public confidence in policing - and that means that the police should be answering to the public, not the government. I have listened to frontline police officers who tell me they want to spend less time on paperwork and more time on the beat. That is why I committed to cutting unnecessary paperwork in last year's Policing Green Paper. To support our record number of police officers we have already invested £80m in 30,000 mobile data devices for the police, abolished all but one government target for the police on public confidence and axed the lengthy stop and account form for all forces freeing up 690,000 hours of police time over the next year.

"The measures I'm announcing today go even further. These changes will halve the number of Home Office requests to the police for data and by scrapping this lengthy timesheet I hope to free up around 150 extra officers and staff. I challenge all police forces to make the most of these common sense cuts and trust the expertise of their officers to get down to business focusing on the issues that matter most to communities - driving down crime and driving up public confidence.

"I am delighted that Jan Berry recognises the progress we are making and support her call to Ministers and chief constables to think twice before creating more forms or bureaucracy."

In his review Sir David Normington made the following recommendations which could lead to a 50 per cent reduction in Home Office requests for data from the police that will now be implemented. For example:
* as forensic science has matured we are now in a position to achieve the same investigative forensic success with less form filling by front-line forensic experts - this means we are now able to reduce forensic data collection by 33 per cent.

* reducing the Serious Crime Analysis System and replacing the current survey with a more effective process will reduce this data requirement by 80 per cent and will give investigating teams more time to investigate crimes and will save between 2,500 and 5,000 hours of investigative time each year.

To prevent any new red tape creeping back in, the Home Office will set up a bureaucracy 'star chamber' to form a wall against the creation of any unnecessary police red tape. This group will scrutinise all proposals to stop any unnecessary red tape being created that could impact on frontline policing.

Alongside these measures the Independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate, Jan Berry, today published her interim report on delivering further cuts in red-tape. In her report Jan Berry recognises the amount of work being undertaken across Government and the police service to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and the benefits that are already being delivered.

Her full report will be published later in the year but her initial findings and recommendations are now being considered by the government and include:

* support for scrapping time-sheets for police officers;

* reviewing working practices within forces to simplify processes;

* making more use of technology to free up officer time and maximising the use of existing Airwave equipment; and

* reviewing police charging practices to reduce unnecessary burdens on officers and help them to use their discretion more.

Jan Berry, supported by a practitioner group made up of police officers and staff, is also looking in detail at the bureaucracy involved in ten time-consuming policing processes in order to identify where further savings can be made.

Jan Berry, Independent Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing Advocate said:

"I am pleased to report real progress is being made. I welcome the enthusiasm across government and the police service to bring about change and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

"Whilst intentions are good, the change has yet to be fully embedded and this presents a real challenge. Firstly in maintaining the momentum; streamlining processes, restoring discretion and rebuilding confidence, and secondly, identifying and consistently implementing national standards and best practice.

"We have reached the point, I believe, where we know the problems and we also know most of the solutions. Ee now need to get on and deliver them.

"From now on I see my job as being to make sure that every Minister and every chief constable thinks twice before creating more forms or additional bureaucracy."

Chief Insp Phil Standish, from Thames Valley Police, said:

"Anything that contributes to reducing the burden on our frontline officers and allows them to focus on policing issues is to be welcomed. Indications are that the changes introduced so far, such as the new handheld devices, are having a positive impact. We look forward to any further reductions in red tape."


1. Sir David Normington's Review of Data Collection can be found at http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/police-reform

2. Activity Base Costing (ABC) is an exercise that requires officers to account for their activity for each 15 minute working period of their shifts over a two week period. We estimate this will alone save the equivalent of 146 full time police officers and staff across forces. They estimate that scrapping ABC will free up to an estimated 260,000 hours of police service time. This is based on it taking the police service 260,000 hours in all each year - i.e. 198,000 hours of officer and staff time for activity analysis and a further 63,000 hours of staff time for the costing exercise. We estimate that 79,000 officers and staff would have been surveyed, including about half of all officers. They would be expected to spend half an hour on training for the survey and around two hours over the two-week period actually completing the forms. For the costing exercise, we assumed an average over forces of around 0.8 full time equivalent costing practitioners per force engaged on this - using a figure of 1800 hours per person-year. Both sets of figures are based on advice from practitioners.

3. Independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate Jan Berry's interim report Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing can be found at http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/reducing-bureaucracy

4. The Policing Green Paper was published on 17 July 2008 and can be found at http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/police-reform/Policing_GP/.

5. Our response to the Policing Green Paper was published on 28 November 2008 and can be found at: http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/police-reform/green-paper-responses?view=Standard&pubID=599543

6. From 1 January 2009 police forces are no longer required to complete a form during a stop and account encounter. Officers are now required to record only ethnicity and need only provide the person stopped with a pre-printed receipt on what to do if they are unhappy with the conduct of the encounter. In 2006-07 there were 1.8m stop and account encounters and the use of Airwave and other electronic recording systems has the potential to save up to 690,000 hours each year.

7. We are making further investment in new technology to free up officer time (£80m for mobile data devices). 10,000 extra hand-held devices are now available with the infrastructure to make this impact on time on the street (rising to 30,000 devices by March 2010).

8. There has been significant progress in implementing the recommendations from Sir Ronnie Flanagan's Independent Review of Policing in England and Wales. Of the 59 recommendations made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan (covering both his interim and final reports), 19 have already been implemented and we are making good progress against the remaining recommendations.

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