Bedfordshire is one of eight forces across England and Wales found to be in the 'requires improvement' category in the latest HMIC PEEL inspections.

As part of its annual inspections into police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL), HMIC's efficiency programme assessed how a force maximises the outcomes from its available resources.

HMIC found that Bedfordshire Police is partly prepared to face its future financial challenges. The Force, inspectors say, has achieved all of the savings required to date, but in doing so it has reduced its capacity to respond to the demands on its services, and is now struggling to meet the public's needs.

"This report and the inspectors’ comments come as no great surprise to us," says Jim Mallen, Chairman of Bedfordshire Police Federation, "We have pointed out from the outset of the cuts programme that reduced budgets would inevitably result in us struggling to provide the quality policing service our communities deserve.

"We had already made efficiency savings before the blanket 20 per cent cuts were applied to all forces so we had little fat to trim. We also suffered under the Home Office's funding formula which failed to address the particular problems we have in being a largely rural force severely challenged in dealing with policing issues in both Bedford and Luton."

The HMIC report expresses concern that Bedfordshire Police's future financial position is not sustainable for the long term. In last year's value for money inspection, which considered how forces had met the challenge of the first spending review period, Bedfordshire Police was judged to require improvement.

The Force, it explains, has improved its understanding of the demands on its services, although it still needs to do further work to make the most efficient use of police time, and more effectively plan for the future.

The report states: "The Force has identified that, as part of past cost-cutting measures, it has reduced its police officer strength to a level that is insufficient to meet either current or future demand for police services. It is planning to introduce a new operating model for local policing to tackle the current weaknesses."

But it points out: "The savings planned are heavily reliant on the new model being able to operate with fewer staff; and the proposed extended collaboration providing extensive cost savings. There can be no certainty at this stage that either of these two areas will achieve the planned savings."

The inspectors highlight the fact that the Force has demonstrated a keen commitment to working collaboratively with other police forces wherever possible, both regionally and within the tri-force collaboration with Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies, to secure efficiencies and make service improvements.

The other seven forces in the 'requires improvement' category were Cleveland, Dorset, Dyfed Powys, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire and Surrey.

Five were found to be 'outstanding' Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire, Norfolk and West Midlands.

Humberside was found to be 'inadequate' and all others were assessed as good.

On the whole, this year's inspections show more forces are struggling. Last year the Valuing the Police programme inspections found that five forces were 'outstanding', 35 were 'good' and three forces were graded as 'requires improvement'. None was found to be 'inadequate'.

To read Bedfordshire’s PEEL report, click here.

The full HMIC report can be read here.

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