Minutes of Meeting of the Northern Joint Police Board held in Council Chamber, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on  Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 10.30 a.m.

 

Present
 

Representing the Highland Council

 

Mr W J Ross, Mr D Allan, Mrs I MacCallum, Mrs V MacIver, Mr E C Mackinnon, Mr J Laing, Mrs J N Home, Mr N Donald (Substitute), Mr R Wynd (Substitute), Mrs C M Cumming, Mr A S Park, Mr B M S Dunlop, Mrs O J Macdonald, Mr B J Murphy.


Representing Western Isles Council

 

Mr D MacLean, Mr R Morrison, Mr N M Macleod, Mr M Macleod.

 

Representing Orkney Islands Council

 

Mr R C Sclater, Mr A A Drever.

 

Representing Shetland Islands Council

 

Mr W Tait, Mr J P Nicolson.

 
Also in attendance: 

 

Mr A Crehar, Scottish Executive Justice Department (Observer)
 

Officials in attendance:

 

Chief Constable

Deputy Chief Constable

Chief Superintendent L Stewart

Chief Superintendent B Duncan

Mr P Fraser, Force Director of Finance & Asset Management

Mr A Macleod, Force Estate Manager

Mr P Lamont, Force Head of Administration

Mrs M Grigor, Treasurer’s Office

Ms R Pieroni, Clerk

Mrs R Moir, Assistant Clerk

Mrs C Nicoll, Clerk’s Office
 

Mrs J N Home in the Chair

 

Preliminaries

 

1.  Apologies for Absence

 

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr W J Smith and Mr P Corbett of The Highland Council.

 

2.  Minutes – Previous Meeting

 

There had been circulated Minutes of Board Meeting of 25 August 2006.

 

In relation to item 14 of the Minutes, suggesting that the Board taking a more proactive role in raising awareness of the quality of police services provided by Northern Constabulary, Members suggested that a briefing paper be developed underlining the quality of policing services in the Highlands and Islands for circulation in the run-up to the Scottish elections in 2007.  The Clerk advised that this matter could be considered at a meeting of the Board’s Finance and Policy Working Group and reminded Members that the Working Group would be meeting in the New Year.

 

Thereafter, the Board APPROVED the Minutes.

 

3.  Minutes – Audit Working Group

 

There had been circulated and APPROVED Minutes of the Audit Working Group of 10 November 2006.

 

4.  Appointment of Interim Monitoring Officer

 

In view of the long term sickness absence of the Board’s Monitoring Officer, the Board AGREED that the Director of Corporate Services, The Highland Council, be appointed as Interim Monitoring Officer until further notice.

 

5.  Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) Policing
     Capability and Capacity Review

 

The Chief Constable made a presentation to the Board on the ACPOS Policing Capability and Capacity Review. 

 

Members were advised that the review, undertaken during 2005/06, had assessed the current and future capacity and capability that was required in a number of specialist areas of operational policing and was seen as a means of demonstrating how ACPOS and the Chief Constables in Scotland, working in partnership with Police Boards and authorities, were seeking to modernise the whole approach to policing throughout Scotland.  Both ACPOS and the Chief Constables were keen to contribute to the debate on public sector reform in Scotland, but it was important that Police Boards and the communities in their areas were given an opportunity to have an independent voice on how they viewed the way ahead for policing services.  While there was still room for improvement in the delivery of policing services, the current level of performance was generally well regarded throughout Scotland.  There was no doubt that policing was becoming increasingly complex and, whilst Northern Constabulary operated a very visible localised community style of policing, there was also a real need to have sufficient policing capacity to deal with the highest levels of criminality and terrorism. 

 

The review identified the need for Forces to look ahead to 2011 and beyond and to look at critical areas of policing, including serious and organised crime, major crime investigation, counter-terrorism, specialist firearms and public order.  The Chief Constable outlined the programme of work currently underway to look at these critical areas and examining how effectively Forces were dealing with high levels of criminality. It was vital to move forward in assessing any gaps in the delivery of police services and identifying challenges to be faced in the future.  Mention was made of the ‘Closing the Gap’ report by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary for England and Wales, which had been used by the Home Office and some senior officers within ACPO in England and Wales to drive forward the concept of strategic forces; Members noted that there had been little support for these strategic forces from both the police and local communities both in England and Wales and in Scotland. 

 

In relation to the public sector, the Chief Constable advised that it was intended that the Force would examine closely the current working relationship with partner authorities on matters such as health, community planning, anti-social behaviour, child protection and drugs and alcohol issues.  The establishment of the Scottish Police Services Authority in April 2007 would provide opportunities in the future to improve efficiencies in sharing services with other constabularies in Scotland and to ensure that sufficient investment was made available for frontline and operational policing within the Highlands and Islands and Scotland as a whole.  The Board would have a vital role in facing future challenges in sustaining adequate funding to continue to deliver a high quality policing service throughout the Force area.

 

In conclusion, the Chief Constable informed Members that he now intended to build on the current strengths of the Force.  It was important to recognise that there would potentially be no real growth in funding in the future for Forces throughout Scotland and that any decisions made in terms of expanding operational capacity in Scotland and developing the frontline in the Highlands and Islands could only be achieved through identifying efficiencies either nationally or within the Force itself.  However, the Chief Constable was confident that the Force relationship with the Police Board had a strong foundation and would meet the challenges faced in the future in improving frontline services and operational capacity.

 

In reply to Members’ queries, the Chief Constable considered that the ACPOS review had afforded an opportunity to consider strengthening the working relationship with Grampian Constabulary in relation to major crime investigations and firearms operations, but emphasised that this would in no way affect the ability of Northern Constabulary to continue to operate as an independent Force.  Collaboration with other Forces would actually strengthen the Force’s position to continue as an independent organisation by demonstrating the efficient use of resources and targeting these resources where they were most effectively needed.  In relation to road safety, Members were advised that the Force’s campaign for safer roads continued to be a key priority and the visibility of officers in roads policing was critical to this campaign.  The performance of the Force campaign over the last few years had resulted in a downward trend in the number of fatal and serious accidents and the targets set by the Scottish Executive to reduce the number of casualties by 2010 had actually been achieved in 2005. 

 

Members were of the view that the Board should take a more proactive role in highlighting the complexities and challenges that existed for the Force in the Highlands and Islands due to the geographical mass of the area and should also play a role in improving local accountability and governance.  They acknowledged the importance of addressing local policing issues and welcomed the collaborative working relationship with other Forces as a means of effectively addressing serious crime issues whilst retaining the Force as an independent organisation.  The visibility of officers on the beat was considered to be one of the cornerstones of successful policing and Members were appreciative of the excellent standard of community policing demonstrated throughout the Force area.  Concern was raised that, although the population of some communities in the Highlands had increased considerably, there had been no major increase in the staffing of the Force.  Concern was also voiced about what was considered to be an excessive amount of time spent by officers on administration work.  The Chief Constable advised that there were currently 716 officers in Northern Constabulary, covering four local authority areas, compared with 650 officers in 2001, and Members were reassured that the Force Review would examine how administration processes could be streamlined to allow officers to spend more time on the beat.  In relation to the use of bicycles to increase the visibility of officers on the beat, the Chief Constable confirmed that bicycles had been used on some beats where it had proved successful.  However, this was not considered to be suitable for all Area Commands due to the geography of the Force area.

 

Thereafter, the Convener thanked the Chief Constable for his interesting and informative presentation which was NOTED.

 

6.  Revenue Budget Monitoring Statement 2006/07

 

There had been circulated and NOTED Report No. POL-36-06 dated 7 November 2006 comprising a statement and commentary by the Chief Constable on Revenue Expenditure and Income for the period to 31 October 2006. 

 

The gross revenue expenditure shown was £34,145,000 against an anticipated budget of £59,828,000.  Total income received to 31 October 2006 was £3,456,000 against an anticipated budget of £5,017,000.

 

A planned underspend on staffing costs would help to offset the anticipated overspend on pensions, while nevertheless maintaining officer levels well within the margins previously advised to Members as desirable for efficient operation, and would also result in an overspend on the overtime budget head.  An overspend of £708k was expected on the pension budget, due to a higher than projected level of ill-health retirals, and an overspend of £187k on utilities was also anticipated, due to the recent increases in utilities costs.  Members were reassured that the balance of these overspends would be funded from reserves and that the Force would not be seeking additional funding from the Constituent Authorities.

 

The Board NOTED the position.

 

7.  Revenue Budget – Reserves Strategy 2007/08

 

There was circulated Report No. POL-37-06 by the Chief Constable on the proposed Reserves Strategy for 2007/08.

 

The Chief Constable explained that both Audit Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary had recommended that the Board should agree a strategy for the intended use of reserves, to fund any future overspend on the Force budget.  It was intended to retain a sum equivalent to 1% of the revenue budget, approximately £530k, for contingency purposes, whilst any sums in excess of this figure would be earmarked to meet future specific projects or identified requirements.  Members noted that it was planned to use reserves to address any overspend in the 2006/07 budget, due to the increase in pension and ill-health related costs.

 

It was intended to submit a report to the meeting of the Finance and Policy Working Group in January 2007 outlining the budget position for 2007/08, which would include the proposed use of reserve funding during 2007/08, if required.

 

In reply to a query raised concerning the potential additional cost for forensics during 2007/08, the Chief Constable reported that currently most of the Force’s forensic work was carried out by Grampian Police. A single forensic science service for Scotland would be made available from April 2007 as part of the development of the Scottish Police Services Agency and it was anticipated that the contribution from Northern Constabulary for the provision of this service might require additional funding.  However, the Chief Constable was currently in negotiation with the Scottish Police Services Agency Shadow Board to try and minimise the impact of this cost on the Force.

 

Thereafter, the Board APPROVED the Force’s general Reserves Strategy and the use of reserves in 2007/08, as outlined in the report.

 

8.   Capital Expenditure Monitoring Statement 2006/07

 

There had been circulated Report No. POL-38-06 dated 8 November 2006 comprising a statement and commentary by the Chief Constable on Capital Expenditure for the period to 31 October 2006.

 

In reply to a query raised in relation to the project underway at Stornoway, the Estate Manager confirmed that a budget of £30,000 had been set for this project.  £20,000 had been allocated to this project in 2005/06, with the remaining £10,000 being allocated in the current financial year for the completion of the feasibility study.  The remaining stage of the project was to be submission of the development proposals to the local planning authority and it was confirmed that the planning application had now been lodged.  The Estate Manager also confirmed that improvement works on the cells at Stornoway were to be included as part of the ongoing project.

 

The Board NOTED the position.

 

9.  Estate Management Capital Programme

 

There had been circulated Report No. POL-39-06 dated 3 November 2006 by the Chief Constable on progress made on planned projects.

 

The Board NOTED the progress made to date on various projects and programmes and APPROVED:

 

i.   the movement of projects as detailed between Stage One and Stage
     Two; and

ii.  the movement of projects as detailed between Stage Two and Stage
     Three.

 

10.  Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) Northern
       Constabulary Primary Report 2005

 

There had been circulated and NOTED Report No. POL-40-06 dated November 2006 by the Chief Constable advising Members of progress made against the recommendations/areas of concern arising from the HMIC Primary Inspection 2005.

 

11.  Disability Equality Scheme

 

There had been circulated Report No. POL-41-06 (32kb) dated November 2006 by the Chief Constable presenting Northern Constabulary’s first Disability Equality Scheme

The Board NOTED the report and AGREED to support the Force’s Disability Equality Scheme

Members were advised that that Board also had an obligation to publish a Disability Equality Scheme and that the Clerk had been liaising with the Force and with other police authorities to ensure consistency in approach and standards.  The Board AGREED that the Clerk, in consultation with the Convener, prepare an initial scheme document by the due date, to be submitted to the Board at its meeting in January 2007 for formal approval.

 

12.   Investors in People (IiP)

 

Mr Bill Smith, the Force Head of Learning, made a presentation to Members on the Investors in People Programme.

 

In that connection, there had been circulated Report No.POL-42-06 dated 7 November 2006 by the Chief Constable providing Members with an update on the progress made in the Programme.

 

During his presentation, Mr Smith explained that the Programme had been initiated in 2004 through the Scottish Executive Skills Transfer Programme. Through this programme a number of staff had been trained as internal advisers in the IiP Standard and a diagnostic review undertaken of Northern Constabulary’s performance against this standard.  The review had been based on a series of interviews with a cross-section of police staff and, as a result of this, an IiP Project Board had been established for the purpose of reviewing people management within the Force and also development approaches and deployment, with a view to implementing improvements required to achieve the IiP Standard. 

 

A Steering Group had also been established, which, along with various project groups within the Force, had also reviewed the diagnostic report and had identified additional areas for improvement, including an improved performance review process, enhancement of annual policing plans, an improved induction process and improved communications, for example, raising awareness of the IiP programme through the Force Information Bulletin under the heading of ‘Continuing Professional Development’.  Action had already been taken on some of the areas where deficiencies had been identified and Members were informed that each member of staff had been allocated a personal development portofolio, which would include the individual’s training record, appraisal and performance review.  In conclusion, Mr Smith outlined areas requiring further work identified following the review and thanked the Board for their continuing support for this project.

 

The Convener thanked Mr Smith for his informative presentation.  Thereafter, the Board NOTED the position.

 

13.  Chief Constable’s Periodic Report

 

There had been circulated and NOTED Report No. POL-43-06 by the Chief Constable comprising his Periodic Report and covering the following issues:-

 

i.       Crime and Road Accident Statistics;

ii.       Crime Situation;

iii.      Update from Operational Support Service Unit; and

iv.      Mountain Rescues.

 

In speaking to the report, the Deputy Chief Constable advised Members that, although there had been an increase of 9% in the crime rate as compared to the same period in the previous year, this had mainly been due to the Force’s proactive campaign in dealing with drug-related crimes.  The detection rate had risen by 3.3% and overall currently stood at 65.5%.  Area Commands had been set a challenging target of 63% for detection rate and it was anticipated that all Area Commands would come in on target.  August and September had been a particularly busy period on the roads and there had been a total of 15 fatalities during this period.  However, the Deputy Chief Constable was pleased to report that the general trend for serious accidents continued to decrease.  Members were also advised that there were currently 23 anti-social behaviour orders and 14 agreed behaviour contracts in place throughout the Force area.

 

Thereafter, the Board NOTED the position.

14.  Letters of Appreciation

 

There had been TABLED for noting 99 letters of appreciation received by the Chief Constable for the period 1 April to 30 September 2006. There had also been circulated and NOTED Report No. POL-44-06 dated 30 September 2006 by the Chief Constable illustrating various extracts from letters of appreciation.

 

15.   Complaints Against The Police

 

There had been circulated and NOTED Report No. POL-45-06 dated 30 September 2006 by the Chief Constable regarding complaints against Police Officers from 1 April to 30 September 2006.

 

The Board AGREED that the Complaints Books specifying complaints against the Northern Constabulary, which had been available for inspection by members prior to the meeting, be declared exempt information by virtue of Paragraph 1 of Part I of Schedule 7A of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

 

16.  Schedule of Meetings 2007

 

At its meeting on 25 August 2006, the Board had agreed that its first scheduled meeting in 2007 be held on Friday, 19 January 2007, to meet the Constituent Authorities’ budget schedule.  Members noted that, as in previous years, a meeting of the Finance and Policy Working Group would be held on Tuesday, 9 January 2007, to give preliminary consideration to the 2007/08 budget proposals.

 

Members AGREED that the Board’s final meeting prior to the local government elections in May be held on Friday, 30 March 2006.

 

17.  Execution of Deeds

 

The Board NOTED the deeds recently executed on behalf of the Board, as set out in the Agenda for the meeting.

 

18.  Airwave:  ‘Moving Forward’ Event – 30 January 2007

 

There had been circulated Report No. POL-47-06 dated 20 November 2006 by the Chief Constable advising Members of a forthcoming event to be held by the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) in London on 30 January 2007 called ‘Airwave – Moving Forward’.  The purpose of the event was to demonstrate to stakeholders what could be achieved through the efficient use of Airwave and to encourage take-up of such initiatives.

 

The Force had been invited to send representation at senior officer level with an invitation being extended to one Member of the Police Board.  Chief Superintendent L Stewart would be representing the Force at the 2007 event.

 

The Board AGREED that the Convener attend the PITO event to be held in London on 30 January 2007.

 

19.  Exclusion of the Public

 

The Board resolved that, under Section 50(A)4 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part I of Schedule 7A of the Act, the relevant paragraph being shown.

 

20.  Complaint Involving Chief Officer – Mr D Stromberg

 

Paragraph 1

 

All police staff left the Chamber before discussion of this item.

 

There had been circulated to Members only Report No. POL46/06 by the Clerk dated 31 October 2006 on a recent complaint against a Chief Officer.

 

Having considered the matter, the Board AGREED that no further action be taken, on the ground that the complaint was unfounded.

The meeting ended at 12.30 p.m.