How Â£80m efficiency drive backfired
Police officers given expensive smart phones as part of a multi-million pound efficiency programme ended up spending more time in the station.
In one force, problems with the botched project meant officers spent nearly two hours more per shift behind their desks instead of out on the beat.Â Â Â
Some forces ended up with more devices than they had officers to give them to, while others were left with only one device for every 100 officers.Â Â
More than 50,000 phones, including new Blackberry devices – were handed to officers in England and Wales, at a cost of Â£80million.Â Â
It was hoped the technology would cut the number of times officers were forced to return to the police station, by allowing them to work while still onÂ patrol.Â Â
But a damning report by the National Audit Office revealed one in three forces said the devices did not give officers more time out of the station. In once force the scheme led to a saving of ‘minus 109 minutes per officer perÂ shift… meaning more time spent in station’, the report said.Â Â
The National Policing Improvement Agency, which ran the project, ‘does not explain why the use of mobile devices, in some forces, resulted in officers spending more time in the station’, the report said.Â Â
Of those forces that did see officers spending more time on the beat, the average increase was 18 minutes – although one force boosted its extra beat time by 116 minutes.Â Â
Only one in three forces said the scheme had led to bankable savings.Â
Bedfordshire Police was given 50 per cent more phones than its combined total of officers and PCSOs, the report said. The Staffordshire force was given 23 per cent more phones than it needed.Â Â
Overall, half of the 32 forces surveys had enough devices for less than halfÂ their officers.Â Â
The NAO concluded that the scheme was rushed out and had faced resistance from senior officers.Â Â
Its report concluded that the scheme had not yet achieved ‘value for money’.Â Â
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said ‘too little consideration was given to the need for the devicesÂ or how they would be used’.Â Â
‘In the majority of forces, the benefits have not so far extended beyond simply allowing officers to spend more time out of the station,’ he said.
‘There is still the opportunity to achieve value for money, though, if more forces use the technology to improve the efficiency of their processes and make savings in their back-office activities.’
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said: ‘The business case for investing in mobile technology did not consider if local forces wereÂ prepared for the programme or if there was the capability and capacity to introduce it.
‘The report highlights the challenge of making changes to technology across aÂ police service that has 2,000 separate and bespoke ICT systems.’Â
‘If value for money is to be achieved, mobile technology will need to be usedÂ to drive improvements that will reduce paper work and make police work more efficient,’ she added.Â
Smartphones ‘kept officers off the beat’:
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