‘SERIOUS concerns’ have been raised by a government inspector about how Warwickshire Police will provide some services when its alliance with West Mercia Police ends in less than two weeks.
An annual assessment by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found the force ‘requires improvement’ in operating efficiently and providing services to the public.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “I have serious concerns about the force’s efficiency.
“The force currently provides many services through an alliance with West Mercia Police, which will end in October. I am concerned there is no certainty as to how it will provide these services in the future.
“Warwickshire Police has a good understanding of demands for its services but needs to fully anticipate future pressures.”
The forces merged services including firearms, police dog officers, IT, HR and communications in 2013, saying they would save £30m by 2015.
Local policing services, including safer neighbourhood teams, patrol and response teams, are still based in Warwickshire.
But around 80 percent of the alliance’s shared services – such as criminal justice, specialist policing services and financial services – are currently based in West Mercia.
Inspector Williams added the force needed to improve the way it investigates crime, and bring offenders to justice more quickly.
“I am concerned crimes are not always allocated to appropriately trained staff, and that they are not investigated thoroughly enough,” she said.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said West Mercia Police’s shock decision last year to end the alliance had been ‘extremely challenging’.
He said: “The report is based on the visit inspectors made back in March. I believe that the picture is now very different.
“A new operating model will see many of the shared services returning to Warwickshire, while establishing some new collaborative arrangements.
“We are now in the advanced stages of negotiations with West Mercia Police. I am confident that redesigning Warwickshire Police will ensure the public continue to receive an excellent police service and that this will be recognised in future inspection reports.”
He added rising demand had ‘placed a strain’ on the force’s ability to investigate some types of crime.
“My office has examined the issues and I have raised my concerns with the Chief Constable and other criminal justice agencies that victims are waiting too long for an outcome,” he said. “There has been work to address these issues within the new policing model.
“Investments in new police officers over the past year means the force is now in a better position to release experienced officers into investigative roles. By the year end there will be around 170 more officers in Warwickshire.”
The annual PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) assessment rated the force as ‘good’ in preventing crime, tackling anti-social behaviour, protecting vulnerable people, safeguarding victims, and in the way it treats the public and its workforce.
Chief Constable Martin Jelley said: “This has been achieved against a backdrop of significant uncertainty and unprecedented change.
“We will clearly ensure that all of the areas highlighted by HMICFRS are given due attention to improve in the coming months.
“The plans we are now implementing will ensure we build on the strengths Warwickshire Police has enjoyed across its 162-year history.”
The alliance between the two police forces is due to end on October 8.