Front office review announced
OVER 8,000 people from across the region are set to be asked for their opinion on how they would like to contact West Midlands Police.
The mass consultation is planned as part of a 12 month review of the force’s front offices, the Police and Crime Commissioner has announced.
The review, starting this week, forms part of a wider project exploring how the public want to engage with the force.
The project will explore how people currently engage with the police and how they want to do so in the future.
This could be either ‘face to face’ in police stations, in non police buildings such as supermarkets or in shared partner agency premises or by using technology as another means of contact.
The results of the review will see a shake-up in how services are offered and could see the closure of some front offices.
If a front office does close as a result of the review the force will ensure an alternative way to access the force is available − based on the results of the extensive consultation.
The first wave of the public consultation starts today (Monday 3 February).
Over a three month period 4,000 people will be asked for their views in a series of surveys, as part of the force’s established “Feeling the Difference" public perception survey.
In addition 4,000 members of the public will be interviewed face-to-face in all of the 41 front offices dotted across the force.
At the same time, footfall analysis will take place across all front offices to help the force understand actual demand. Previous research commissioned by the force has shown limited demand for front offices and the latest planned footfall analysis combined with the consultation could bring about a wholesale change.
The results from the first wave of consultation will be made public this summer, when a wider consultation will be opened to give more people the opportunity to comment.
The wider consultation will include public meetings and an online questionnaire and will run as part of a planned public consultation on the force’s overall estates.
Last year the commissioner announced a review of the overall estates aimed at ensuring the force’s use of buildings is fit for purpose. This public access review will run in tandem with that project.
Speaking of the front office review Commissioner Bob Jones said: “We continue to have a thirst to improve the service that we offer against a continued background of ever diminishing budgets.
“The vision for this review is to design a cost effective way for the public to continue to access the police service using a combination of face-to-face interaction, partnership collaboration and innovative technology − all shaped by what the public tell us they want.
“Savings, however, are not the driving force behind this review. If we can make any along the way to help protect operational capability that will be an added bonus, but it is not the main motivator."
ACC Garry Forsyth, who is leading on the estate and front office reviews, said: “We need to ensure people can access the service we deliver in new and more efficient ways and we are asking people to help us do that.
“This project, rightly so, will be subject to extensive ongoing local consultation to ensure services are shaped to meet the needs of the public, balancing accessibility and affordability.
“If any front offices do close as a result of the review we will ensure another wider method of contact is available − based on what people have told us they want.
“Nothing will change to the local delivery of policing − local neighbourhood teams will continue to patrol and be very much a part of their local community."
The project is set to run until the end of the year with any changes implemented from 2015 onwards.