Multi-million pound funding to help Bedfordshire Police collaborate with colleagues in neighbouring counties has been announced.
A successful tri-force bid for Government funding, cited by the Home Office as one of the most innovative proposals it received, is set to help to transform the way policing is delivered across three counties.
The Home Office has revealed that it has awarded £2m for 2013/14 and £6m for 2014/15 from the Government’s Innovation Fund to a joint bid from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police.
The three forces will use the money to bring together their operational and organisational support services, which they estimate will save them up to £23 million over four years.
Recent funding proposals from the Government mean that Bedfordshire Police has a £9m gap in its budget over the next two years, with a requirement for further savings expected beyond that period.
The Commissioner and the Force, in partnership with their counterparts in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire who also face financial challenges, feel that collaboration and transformation in working practices will help bridge that gap and protect frontline policing.
The inherent development costs, particularly in terms of essential technological requirements, will now be largely met by the funding announced.
Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “This is a clear demonstration of Home Office approval of the three forces’ innovative approach to joint working. It will provide us with a better opportunity to make the savings we need to make, without reducing frontline capability. It is a silver-lining at a time of ongoing financial challenge.
“In Bedfordshire we still need to find more than £9m in savings over the next two years. This funding will not overcome that gap but it will help us to modernise and transform the way the force works, reducing bureaucracy and making better use of our limited resources through technological innovation, which will deliver financial savings for years to come. This really is a case of invest to save.
“Across the three forces, the award heralds a huge leap forward for public sector working. It will help us make the best use of our services in fighting crime by sharing Operational and Organisational Support.”
The plans show a fundamental shift in the delivery of policing across the three forces, bringing extensive opportunities for cross-border operational activity and resilience.
Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, Colette Paul said: “The funding will help us to transform the way we deliver our services to the public, making us more efficient and effective as we seek to protect our frontline services. I would like to thank the cross-party support we have received from our local MPs, who helped us to achieve such success in bringing this money to our three forces.”
Mr Martins added: “It will put in place the infrastructure necessary for our officers and staff to do their job on the move, thereby putting them where and when they are most needed. Having the tools they need on the spot, wherever they are, will mean they won’t have to use up valuable time by going back to the police station to fill in a form. This should also help make our officers more visible to the public, something people tell me they think is important.”
Bedfordshire aims to be ‘an agile force’ that provides solutions from any location, reducing costs while protecting frontline delivery. Officers will be spending more time doing what the public want. Freed from bureaucracy, they will be able to make timely decisions by using new tools and access to information, capturing data through multiple channels.
While local policing will continue to be tackled according to local priorities in line with each Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan, all three forces are bound by the Strategic Policing Requirement for joint and partnership working where there are national threats.