I wrote an article today about the report titled: Sustaining value for money in the police service. It turns out three quarters of police chiefs don’t know anything about how IT can cut duplication and costs.
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The report was put together by the Audit Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Wales Audit Office and looks at where costs can be cut without the need for reducing the number of officers on the street.
Having more officers on the street would be a good thing. I was burgled a couple of years ago and the police didn’t turn up for over 24 hours.
Perhaps the most staggering thing in the report was the statement that only a quarter of chief constables, that’s about ten in England and Wales, think there is potential for more back-office savings. Surely they don’t think they are already harnessing the full potential of things like shared services and cloud computing?
The report said in the year 2007/08 the police made a quarter of its total £224m savings through back-office cuts.
But the report said that police forces need to do more. “A lack of ambition for back-office savings is a barrier to achieving value for money,” said the report. It said only a quarter of chief constables think there is potential for more back-office savings.
The report does point to examples of forces sharing back office functions with each other and even local councils. And it also reveals the success of these projects. But there is massive potential for more shared services.
So why do only a quarter of chief constables not think there is potential for more back office savings? Companies such as Capgemini and Steria are certainly selling the concept of shared services in the police sector.
If there is a similar lack of ambition for back office reform across the public sector then the government might miss out on the best way of cutting the budget deficit.
It also seems inappropriate for the government to ask suppliers to cut costs while public sector organisations hold back progress.