Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1 Summary Report

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1 Summary Report


What is the purpose of this evaluation?

The aims of this evaluation are to:

1. Evaluate if the three aims of Police and Fire reform have been met, namely:

  • To protect and improve local services despite financial cuts, by stopping duplication of support services eight times over and not cutting front line services;
  • To create more equal access to specialist support and national capacity - like murder investigation teams, Firearms teams or flood Rescue - where and when they are needed;
  • To strengthen the connection between services and communities, by creating a new formal relationship with each of the 32 local authorities, involving many more local councillors and better integrating with community planning partnerships.

2. Learn the lessons from the implementation of reform to inform the process of future public service reform;

3. Evaluate the wider impact of the reform on the Justice and the wider public sector.

Who is undertaking the evaluation?

The Scottish Institute for Policing Research ( SIPR), ScotCen and What Works Scotland have been commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake the four-year evaluation, which started in February 2015. [1]

What is the broader context of the evaluation?

Following the passing of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act in 2012, the resulting reforms to the organisation, governance and delivery of Police and Fire and Rescue services are some of the largest and most complex changes to the public sector in Scotland for a generation.

In terms of policing, the Act brought together the eight regional Police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency into two new national bodies: Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. 'Local policing' became a statutory requirement at the level of the 32 council areas with local councils responsible for establishing local scrutiny arrangements. The Act also sets out a normative vision for policing in the form of a set of 'principles' focussed on community well-being, partnership working and harm reduction. In relation to Fire and Rescue services, the Act established the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ( SFRS), replacing the eight former Fire and Rescue services and the Scottish Fire Services College. The Act also makes new arrangements for local engagement and partnership working, including a new statutory role in the Local Senior Officer and the development of local Fire and Rescue plans linked to community planning. As with policing, the purpose of SFRS has been articulated in terms of working in partnership on prevention, protection and response, and improving the safety and well-being of people in Scotland.

Both sets of reforms are set within a context of decreasing budgets and involve making significant financial savings in relatively short timescales. Police reform is forecast to save more than £1.1 billion over the 15 years to 2026 while SFRS is expected to save £328 million by 2027/28. Both Police Scotland and SFRS are also seeing important shifts in demand for their services. Although there has been a long-term reduction in volume crime in Scotland (with recorded crime at a 41 year low), there are other areas where demand is increasing. These include the increased reporting of sexual offences, growing threats in relation to cyber crime and terrorism, and the impacts of broader demographic, environmental and policy changes that have consequences for policing. In relation to the Fire and Rescue service, there has been a long-term reduction in the number of fires and fire-related casualties and there are now on-going reviews of how SFRS delivers services in the future. These include exploring opportunities to be involved in a broader community safety role, mapping the distribution of resources in relation to risk, examining the future configuration of the retained duty system, and volunteer Firefighters who provide emergency response in many of Scotland's rural and remote communities.

A key difference between the services in the period since they were established has been the level of political and media scrutiny they have experienced. While the new SFRS has received relatively little political or media attention, Police Scotland has been the subject of intense interest in relation to the new arrangements for Police governance and its approach to delivering policing in local communities. In terms of governance, there were initial differences between the Chief Constable and the Chair of the SPA regarding the exact remit of SPA's responsibilities. In addition, the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee established a Sub-Committee on Policing in March 2013 which has provided its own scrutiny of the implementation process. In terms of the approach to policing, the first eighteen months has seen significant attention given to a number of decisions regarding the use of tactics such as 'stop and search' and the standing authority for trained Firearms officers to carry their weapons in public while on patrol. Scrutiny of these decisions has come in the form of inquiries established by SPA, HMICS, and debate within the Scottish Parliament's Sub-Committee on Policing.

A final observation on the context of these reforms is that Scotland is not alone in undertaking major structural reform of policing. Over the last 10 years, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden have all embarked on significant administrative re-organisation of their Police forces, typically involving the merging of Police districts to create more centralized structures. The Netherlands in particular has followed a very similar journey to Scotland by establishing a national Police force in January 2013 through the merger of 25 regional forces. Most of these countries are also currently engaged in evaluations of Police reform, creating significant opportunities for international learning and knowledge exchange.

What is the purpose of this document?

This document provides an accessible summary of the themes and findings emerging from research carried out during the first year of the evaluation. This has had two main components. First, there is an 'evidence review' which describes, assesses and summarises the publicly available evidence base that existed in relation to the reforms to the end of November 2015. Key findings from this evidence review are presented in this report but additional information is contained in Annex 1 which provides a detailed analysis of individual sources. The second component of the research for the evaluation undertaken to date comprises 33 national key informant interviews with senior representatives from across policing (13) and fire (9) in Scotland and a range of national bodies outwith the two services, including other criminal justice sector agencies, local authorities and third sector organisations (11). The purpose of the interviews was to focus on perceptions of the processes and experiences of reform in order to help understand 'how' and 'why' the aims of reform have (or have not) been met. The interviews have also highlighted possible lessons for future public service reform processes and the wider impacts of Police and Fire reform on the justice system and public sector more broadly.

No claims can be made for the representativeness of the views articulated by the interviewees but they do give an important if partial perspective on reform. A sample of these interviewees will be revisited at a later stage in the evaluation to capture perceptions of change over time.

These national level, managerial perspectives will be balanced with local geographical case study work in years two and four of the evaluation engaging with local stakeholders including Police officers, Firefighters, elected members and community members. This will give a more rounded view of the reform process.

The remainder of this document summarises emerging findings from both elements of the evaluation completed to date in relation to progress towards the three main aims of reform, but also explores a number of broader themes relating to the process of reform, how it has been experienced by different stakeholders and what its broader impacts and implications have been.


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