By James Simons-
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has expressed “serious concerns” about North Yorkshire Police’s strategic planning and organisational management which need to be addressed so it can reduce crime effectively.
The report on North Yorkshire is one of four published on Friday by HMICFRS, with the Cleveland, Lincolnshire and Avon and Somerset forces also subject to the inspectors’ scrutiny.
Cleveland Police, which has been plagued by scandals and problems in recent years, remains in special measures with ongoing concerns but the inspectorate said it has seen improvements since the arrival of the current chief constable Mark Webster.
The force has been dogged with allegations of corruption, deceit, excessive force against suspects in custody, and exploitation of vulnerable female complainants, among others.
The inspectorate said North Yorkshire’s performance requires improvement in terms of responding to the public, investigating crime, protecting vulnerable people and building and developing its workforce.
And the force’s use of resources was graded inadequate.
The report also pointed out that the force was well below the national standard for answering and responding to emergency calls, with only 41.9 percent of 999 calls being answered within ten seconds when it was inspected.
Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “I have concerns about the performance of North Yorkshire Police in keeping people safe and reducing crime.
“In particular, I have serious concerns about its strategic planning and organisational management.
“Senior leaders in the force need to ensure they have effective oversight of its enabling services, such as IT and HR functions. Failures in these areas impact the service the force provides.”
The report said: “Until the force improves its strategic oversight and implements its performance framework, it will not be able to reduce crime effectively.”
North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lisa Winward acknowledged that the report highlighted a significant number of areas that require improvement relating to the “corporate capacity and capability of the organisation”.
Ms Winward said: “They told us that while the right actions might be taking place on the ground by our people, they were not able to find sufficient evidence of how this was directed and overseen through our governance structure.
“The inspectors told us that every single person they spoke to was committed, fully engaged in their work and doing a really good job in difficult circumstances.”
She said the force has been through a significant period of change since the last inspection, in 2018, and said a major control room investment had already seen a stark improvement in the percentage of 999 calls being answered within 10 seconds.
Ms Winward said: “As the safest place in the country, I can assure the communities of North Yorkshire and the City of York that we remain absolutely committed to keeping you safe, and feeling safe.”
The inspectorate found that Cleveland Police has improved in some areas but further changes are needed to keep people safer and reduce crime, and the force remains in the enhanced monitoring stage, Engage.
Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said: “I am pleased with how Cleveland Police has improved since the arrival of the current chief constable, who has brought greater stability.
“However, I still have some concern about its performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime.”
Mr Cooke said: “The challenges facing Cleveland Police shouldn’t be underestimated and the force remains under our enhanced monitoring, but I am optimistic that the trajectory and pace of improvement will continue this year.”
Chief Constable Mark Webster said: “I’m really pleased to hear the Inspectorate is encouraged by some of the improvements under my leadership, however it’s really important to recognise that it is a team effort, building on the fantastic work that is happening across the force, and allowing room for innovation.
“The improvements of performance measures are important, but we know that people want to understand what this all means for members of the public. One of the things I am most proud of is the recognition of the significant improvement since 2019 in our effectiveness at identifying vulnerable people.”
He added: “Cleveland Police is determined to keep moving forward and continue to improve. The issues highlighted in the report were already on our radar with plans in place to deal with the concerns; we are confident that with continued hard work and focus these improvements can be realised. Being open and transparent with HMICFRS during the inspection is key to this success. We certainly welcome the acknowledgement of the improvements but, due to a number of factors such as resourcing pressures and increased demand, I know we are not always hitting the mark and being as good as we should be.
“We’re determined not to accept this, and our priority is to make sure we provide a consistently high standard of service to people across the Cleveland Police area. We will do this by placing our focus on prevention and harm reduction and proactively targeting and disrupting those criminals who cause the most harm in our communities.
“Many of our plans for improvement won’t be possible without the support and guidance of key partners and stakeholders, but I am confident that together we can tackle criminals, protect communities, protect people and be the best we can be.”
Cleveland police and crime commissioner Steve Turner said: “I’m pleased that HMICFRS has recognised something that I have been aware of for some time – that despite facing difficult circumstances, Cleveland Police is a force that is rapidly improving.
“Considering the scale of the challenge facing the force following the 2019 inspection, I’m delighted that improvements have been made in almost all areas and that many of HMICFRS’ previous causes of concern have been addressed.
“Officers, staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly for the best part of three years to turn the force’s trajectory around. It’s extremely important that their efforts are recognised by this independent inspection.