The purpose of this report is to inform the Police and Crime Panel of the Surrey Police Group (i.e. OPCC and Chief Constable combined) of the financial position as at the 30September 2020 as well as a prediction for the situation at the end of the year.
Kelvin Menon - Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC)
Alison Bolton - Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC)
David Munro - Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner
Key points raised in the discussion:
1. The Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) noted that the report covered the first six months of the financial year and a prediction of the outturn for the end of the year. At present the underspend was predicted at £0.7 million and that was after absorbing £2.3 million of Covid-19 costs.
2. He explained that the largest variances related to wages and salaries, with a predicted overspend at the end of the year of £3.1 million due to the phasing of police officer pay, officer and staff overtime and £1.8 million of that overspend was due to increased agency costs as for example thirty investigative assistants had been recruited.
3. He noted that recruitment in relation to the precept increase and uplift was on track.
4. He noted that Covid-19 costs totalled £5.8 million and of that, £3.5 million had been reimbursed; £3.1 million had been reimbursed for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and £400,000 reimbursed for Covid-19 Surge Funding and another £260,000 had been claimed for income loss for April-July - although that had not yet been received. He added that no money to cover additional staffing or overtime had been received from the government.
5. Regarding capital he noted the forecasted £2.5 million underspend, however only £3.5 million had been spent within the actual 2020/21 spend against the total budget of £17 million, so he expected that the underspend would be larger by the end of the year as some projects were scheduled to span over two years.
6. A Panel member noted that in the original costs there was reference to the STORM system and asked whether that was a replacement for the NICHE system or if it was an additional cost. In response, the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer (OPCC) explained that STORM was a different system to both EQUIP and NICHE; as it related to call handling and the Contact Centre - a more detailed answer would be provided.
7. A Panel member understood that the data collecting system on rural crime via flagging on NICHE had not worked effectively and as a result there was a re-training programme so that officers understood what a rural crime was and when to flag it. He asked whether the new STORM system could integrate rural crime flagging. In response, the PCC explained that rural crime could be flagged on NICHE, Surrey Police’s main crime recording system, he noted that police officers were encouraged to report rural crime but the problem was deciding when a rural crime was a rural crime or just a crime that happened in a rural setting. Flagging rural crimes was a matter of judgement for police officers on the ground and he noted that there had been specific training for police officers. A more detailed answer would be provided on the link between STORM and NICHE regarding rural crime flagging.
Councillor John Robini joined the meeting at 10.41 am
8. A Panel member sought clarification on the wages and salaries table which reported an £8 million overspend year-to-date which was to reduce to approximately £3.1 million by year-end and queried whether that reduction was a result of various grants. In response, the Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) explained that wages and salaries were overspent at present due to the timings of actual and forecasted expenditure, and that the reduction of the figure was covered by various grants and number of recharges and savings in other areas.
Mr Philip Walker joined the meeting at 10.44 am
9. A Panel member queried the larger percentage increase in overtime for police staff as opposed to police officers. In response, the Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) explained that police overtime was larger at £5 million compared to £1.5 million for police staff. He confirmed that the percentage increase was larger for police staff and suspected that it was as a result of staff covering certain tasks that police officers would normally do - to enable police officers to be out on the frontline and he would follow up on the matter.
- The Panel member added that problem with bringing in temporary staff was that it was difficult to cut back on the accustomed workload.
- In response, the PCC explained that the force had been watching overtime for the last few years in order to reduce the budget, some overtime was necessary to cover fluctuations in operational activity. He added that the force had a policy of having a vacancy rate, which meant that when staff left, they were not automatically replaced.
10. A Panel member queried the Covid-19 costs, particularly the figures in the table which showed that ‘other local costs’ at £2.6 million were greater than ‘national PPE’ costs of £2.2 million which seemed odd. In response, the Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) explained that the ‘national PPE’ costs related to the PPE that Surrey Police purchased to help with the national effort which went into the national pool of PPE to be distributed amongst national forces and was reimbursed by the government. Whereas ‘other local costs’ included staffing, overtime and lost income as a result of Covid-19, whilst ‘local PPE’ was the cost in relation to the purchased PPE for Surrey’s use.
- The Panel member queried if the ‘other local costs’ figure of £2.6 million was therefore double stated, as there was a separate table of police officer and staff overtime. In response, the Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) explained that the costs were not double stated, he had simply collated all the Covid-19 costs into one table which for ‘other local costs’ would include police officer and staff overtime specifically in relation to Covid-19, amongst other costs.
The Police and Crime Panel noted the report.
Actions/further information to be provided:
1. R36/20 - A more detailed answer on what the STORM system was will be provided as well as whether rural crime flagging in NICHE could be integrated into STORM.
2. R37/20 - Further detail will be provided on the reasons for the larger percentage increase in staff overtime compared to that for police officers.