Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1 Summary Report

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 1 Summary Report

Processes, experiences and the wider impacts of reform

Beyond offering views on progress towards achieving the three aims of reform, the interviews also provided insights into the broader processes, experiences and impacts of reform.

Processes of reform

Leadership and organisational culture

  • The nature of senior leadership required to achieve reform was discussed by a number of interviewees and there were different views on this. Some felt that a very directive approach was initially required in order to achieve change in the timescale required (with a different style orientated towards collaboration and engagement required at later stages of this process). Others disagreed, however, and believed that the key qualities required for effective leadership from the start of reform are communication and relationship building. Most interviewees commenting on leadership also highlighted the possibility that leadership characteristics may need to change over time as the process of reform unfolds.
  • Linked to this was the perception amongst a number of interviewees that the organisational culture that developed within Police Scotland during the early stages of reform was one weighted towards the culture within legacy Strathclyde Police, characterised by performance targets and a management style initially focused on tight central 'grip'. Some suggested this approach had resulted in a positive change in practice compared to the pre-reform situation, that it could be understood as pragmatic in the time available and that, in some respects, the approach taken in this area may well have been the most effective. However, other interviewees felt that this approach was too intrusive, limited the autonomy of local officers to respond to local contexts, and led to examples of good practice outside the legacy Strathclyde force area being overlooked.
  • The skillsets required of more senior staff in both services in order to manage the transition from shorter term, transactional approaches to longer term planning and transformational activity was also raised by some interviewees. Some interviewees emphasised the need to draw on the skills of experienced project managers from outside the organisations, rather than relying on senior officers from within Police Scotland and SFRS.
  • Employees' perceptions of the culture of the new organisations was also highlighted by some as an important issue, particularly in terms of overcoming a sense of 'loss' around the legacy organisations and building a new sense of identity within Police Scotland and SFRS. This was viewed as an important and long-term project but with new people coming into the organisations and new managers being appointed on the basis of their experience within Police Scotland and SFRS (rather than their legacy organisations) there is a sense of new organisational cultures already developing. Indeed, work has been undertaken by both SFRS and Police Scotland regarding staff survey (Police Scotland) and cultural audit ( SFRS) exploring in more detail workforce issues.
  • A broader issue in relation to organisational culture was the relative size of Police Scotland compared to other agencies in the criminal justice sector. While the benefits of a single Police organisation are clearly recognised by stakeholders its relative dominance is seen by some as coming with a responsibility to behave as an equal partner.

Governance arrangements

  • The issue of the governance arrangements for Police Scotland and SFRS emerged as an important theme in its own right in a number of ways. The extent to which shadow boards and/or shadow senior management teams would have been helpful was discussed by a number of interviewees, with mixed views on the possible advantages of this (such as giving board members a better understanding of the organisations before 'Day One') and disadvantages (potentially becoming complex and challenging to manage, for example).
  • The issue of relationships between the respective boards and their executive teams also emerged in the interviews. For SFRS, one issue in the early period of reform was what was seen by some interviewees as an unclear distinction and separation between involvement in operational issues and strategic oversight. In policing, concern was expressed at the length of time spent on trying to resolve issues over the respective responsibilities of SPA and Police Scotland. Some interviewees felt that this significantly delayed progress in taking reform forward and could have been resolved earlier if a more proactive approach involving neutral arbitration had been instituted.

Resourcing and financial context

  • Budgets and finances were discussed with regard to a number of aspects of reform. A strong link between reducing duplication and achieving budgetary targets was identified. The role of financial savings targets in driving the rapid pace of reform and the negative implications of this for consultation and engagement were identified by some, particularly with regard to policing.
  • The time taken to produce long-term financial strategies in both services was noted by some interviewees, with the ongoing delay in this for Police Scotland being seen as a particular challenge. Some interviewees also suggested that effective reform requires investment 'up-front', and there were divergent views over whether sufficient resource had been invested in this. Some also suggested that long-term capital funding is required to support ongoing reform, reducing reliance on, for example, asset disposal.
  • Linked to budgetary horizons - which can be shorter term - is the challenge of investing to achieve the objectives of the Christie Commission around prevention and partnership working which can require longer-term commitments. The wider context of austerity was also identified: reform is not happening in isolation, and this presents opportunities ( e.g. openness to partnership working and innovative thinking) and challenges (costs associated with this, and potential organisational retrenchment). Finally, challenges in definition and measurement of efficiency were also identified.

Differences in experiences of reform

In terms of experiences of reform, it is important to distinguish between experiences of those within Police Scotland and SFRS, and those in other organisations affected by reform.

Experiences within Police Scotland and SFRS

  • Many of the interviewees highlighted the way in which there have been significant variations in the experience of reform within the workforces of Police Scotland and SFRS, depending on a range of factors, including role, rank and location.
  • Significant reductions in civilian staff have occurred in both services through voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes but the protection given to Police officer numbers meant that this process was seen by some interviewees as more divisive within Police Scotland.
  • In both services, the reductions in the senior leadership teams were seen by senior staff as communicating an important message that processes of rationalisation extended right to the top of the organisations. However, it was also reported by some that this created a significant challenge in terms of maintaining the level of stakeholder engagement activity that existed under legacy arrangements because the capacity to do this at a senior level was radically reduced.
  • In both Police Scotland and SFRS, it was generally felt that those involved in specialist roles have seen the greatest change as a result of reform, given the increased opportunities to operate at a national level. Of those commenting, it was generally felt that those operating at a local level in local policing teams and as local firefighters would have seen less change in their role, given the desire to ensure continuity and stability of service delivery at this level. However, it was also perceived by some interviewees that some members of local policing teams may (particularly within Police Scotland) have experienced increased workload pressures due to the movement of officers into specialist units.
  • HMICS local inspection reports have also included specific evidence with regard to morale of frontline officers and staff in Police Scotland. Although there was some variation between divisions, it is clear that the rapid pace of change, perceptions of poor communication and feedback within the organisation combined with increasing workloads had all contributed to a decline in morale during the first phases of reform.
  • In both organisations, interviewees highlighted a range of future challenges in relation to their workforces which will need to addressed as reform moves from the phase of 'integration' to 'transformation'. For SFRS these perceived challenges include service provision in rural areas (particularly the Retained Duty System); the need to progress the process of harmonising the pay and reward structure given the differences that existed within legacy services; and the upskilling of Firefighters as assets are relocated across the country to reflect the risk profile.
  • For Police Scotland and SFRS there are perceived challenges in succession planning for senior and middle managers given the numbers that will be leaving the organisation in the next few years; and perceived challenges were also reported regarding the use Police officers in some roles previously performed by civilian staff. There appears to be scope for claims regarding increased efficiency of this approach to be evidenced.

Experience of reform for partner organisations

  • The issue of stakeholder engagement featured strongly in many of the interviews, with broad agreement that a difference could be discerned between the approaches taken between the SFRS and Police Scotland. SFRS appeared to be much clearer about the need for consultation and strong partnerships from the beginning of reform and being a committed Community Planning partner prepared to think beyond silos of individual agencies.
  • Police Scotland was seen to be less effective in the initial period of reform at communicating with partner organisations and as interacting in ways that tended to be orientated towards engagement rather than consultation, informing local partner organisations of decisions that had already been taken centrally (such as in relation to traffic wardens and police office counters).
  • Other organisations in the criminal justice system made similar observations around the lack of communication between Police Scotland and other criminal justice partners who were being affected by changing practices and priorities in Scottish policing. For example, the increased focus on domestic abuse and domestic violence as well as the increased priority given to traffic offences, all had important downstream consequences for the capacity of prosecutors and courts to deal with this increased flow of cases.

Wider impacts and implications of reform

In terms of the wider impacts and implications of reform three key strategic issues featured prominently: partnership, prevention and the broader operational infrastructure.


  • There was a strong sense among interviewees of the significant opportunities that have opened up for more effective partnership working as a result of reform. In particular, having a single Police service alongside other national justice sector agencies is viewed by some as creating significant opportunities to drive innovation in terms of joined up approaches within the justice sector.
  • Examples of significant strategic initiatives that take forward partnership at a national level which were regularly cited by senior SFRS and Police Scotland interviewees. These included the Scottish Crime Campus and the role of SFRS in responding to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
  • Some interviewees questioned whether the potential for partnership working by SFRS was being hampered the organisation's location within the justice portfolio, given that so much of its current and future work is aligned strongly the health and social care agenda.
  • More generally, several interviewees highlighted the importance of adjusting accountability and performance frameworks to reflect the priority being given to partnership working. If organisations are not being held to account for partnership activity, then they may place less emphasis on this. It was also emphasised that effective partnership depends on strong local relationships so there are limits to what can be achieved in terms of central direction.


  • There is clear recognition that the Fire service has moved strongly towards a more pro-active prevention focused agenda while also maintaining its capacity to deal reactively with major incidents. Some suggested the emphasis on prevention may involve a reconfiguration of the traditional roles of the firefighter.
  • It is also recognised by some that reform has facilitated a strong focus on prevention at a local level because of the capacity that now exists at national level to deal with high risk but low frequency major incidents which in the past would have been had to have been met by local resources.
  • In policing, there is recognition that engagement with the prevention agenda among the legacy forces was quite variable but those forces which had embraced this approach were doing far more than advising about what locks and bolts to fit and focusing on vulnerable people, youth offending, mental health, missing persons strategy etc. However, in the early phases of reform, some reflected that the focus of Police Scotland was experienced as being more enforcement orientated and there was therefore less emphasis on prevention with the focus was seen to be more on meeting short term targets than longer term outcomes.
  • One of key challenges highlighted by representatives from both organisations is the way in which performance measurement continues to focus on the short term and on outputs rather than outcomes, so there is still important work to do to achieve a longer term, outcome focus.


  • Both benefits and challenges were identified in relation to equipment and estate. Whilst positive examples of benefits were reported (standardisation of equipment making working together with colleagues from different parts of the country easier, for example) it was also reported that there are areas that could be improved and have not been as successful as anticipated. As identified in relation to Aim 1 and in Annex 1, estate has been a major theme of the reform process to date, as reflected by estate strategies for both Services. The reduction of estate was recognised as a theme by both senior Fire and Police interviewees, along with co-location between services and potentially with wider public sector bodies. Related to this, other themes included the potential for tying in with the estate strategies of other public sector bodies.
  • The importance of investing in Information and Communications Technology ( ICT) in realising the benefits of reform was identified by a number of interviewees. The process of merging different systems had been seen as challenging and delays in the implementation of a new ICT system for Police Scotland were seen as frustrating the pace at which improvements in efficiency could be achieved.


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