Report of the Commissioner.
Members considered a report of the Commissioner regarding Q2 Capital and Revenue Monitoring and the following points were made.
· The Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer (COFO) noted that the report set out a good degree of confidence that all savings targets would be achieved, with a £5m underspend projected. This was due to the Force receiving more Home Office funding than had been anticipated for recruitment, and as well as the Force generating more income than had been forecast. At present, the figures within the report were the COFO’s best assessment and it was anticipated there would not be much more movement by year-end.
· The COFO noted that in relation to the savings tracker at Table 3 (p23) the main risk was in relation to the National Enabling Programme (NEP) as a result of the delay nationally in rolling out the programme.
· The COFO advised that the CT Grant had also been identified as a risk although the Home Office funding in terms of income recovery had helped offset this.
· The COFO concluded by advising that the format of the report would be revised for future iterations given that in its current form it had become unwieldy with the amount of narrative likely to impede clarity. The final section would be truncated, again in order to streamline and aid transparency.
· In response to a comment welcoming the news that the Asset Recovery item was four times above target, the COFO advised that this spend was ring-fenced as per the guidelines for the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS) under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and would be utilised for crime reduction. There had been a shortfall in terms of additional income for provision of international training, which in an average year would be sizeable; however, funding had been received from the Home Office which had helped to cover the shortfall. The underspend would be used to repay part of the City of London Corporation loan for Action Fraud although the amount to be repaid could not yet be confirmed at this stage in the financial year.
· Responding to a question, the COFO explained that due to the frequency of personnel moving to other posts, workforce planning – which was always complex – remained fluid. Both HR and Finance were closely involved; however, as an example, whilst business analysts were being recruited for the Transform programme, they would not be part of the establishment under workforce planning.
· There was a query in relation to the risk identified for ‘Digitisation of external services’ (p23, Table 3 – Savings Tracker) and the COFO advised that this included the provision of online payment facilities for fines.
· A member raised a number of queries, noting the shortfall in income from delivering training at the Economic Crime Academy and asked what the impact would be, and what action would be taken. She also enquired whether the savings targets would be sufficient or whether they could be extended. Finally, the member noted that the City of London Corporation held the financial reserves for the CoL Police and queried whether it would be possible to work towards ensuring the Force could hold its own reserves.
· The COFO, in reply, advised that the loss of income from the cancelled training at the Economic Crime Academy had been offset largely by two main factors: in part by an accrual from previous years and secondly by a government grant for recruitment which had been received in full. In relation to the savings targets, the target itself was £5.7m – which was forecast to be achieved in full – and there was a further projected underspend of £4m which would be in addition to the original target. The COFO drew members’ attention to the fact that significant savings had also been achieved by recruiting a high number of probationers who were on lower salary bands than more experienced longer serving officers. Regarding the financial reserves, the COFO confirmed she would be happy to agree should it be proposed that responsibility for this be allocated to the CoL Police. At this point the Chairman advised that further discussion in relation to this point would be taken under item 14a.
· There was further discussion in relation to the planned use of the £4m underspend as partial repayment of the Action Fraud loan and some members expressed the view that some of the underspend could be used strategically by allocating it to the reserves. In response, the COFO advised that the loan was scheduled to be repaid over four years: an early repayment of part of the total amount would ease the financial pressure by £1m per annum.
· A member queried the projected underspend on salaries given the number of unrecruited posts. The same member also enquired into the accuracy of the savings tracker. The COFO reiterated the complex nature of workforce planning and advised that the Q2 information was the most accurate available at this stage in the financial year. Further detail would become available as the year progressed and would be monitored by the Capital Programme group internally and be presented to members in Q3.
· A member queried whether, given the difficulty in identifying 67 extra posts within the budget, this caused any issues with the Home Office in terms of how the money was spent. She also enquired whether this applied to other grants obtained. The COFO, in response, advised that the National Uplift Year 1 posts were in accordance with a baseline agreed with the Home Office for 44 officers, rather than 67. The Home Office allowed some use of the funding provided for Covid expenditure and detailed monitoring of the spend remained in place. The same member also queried how likely the resumption of international training in the course of the next two years was, given the ongoing global health pandemic. In reply, the COFO advised that a high level of demand existed as a result of the current suspension of training delivery. As soon as international travel was achievable safely, significant income would be generated. Were the delay in training delivery to continue for longer, an income recovery grant would offset the shortfall. The Assistant Commissioner added that the Force had also introduced virtual delivery of training in addition to expanding the number of countries to whom the Force delivered training.
RESOLVED, that the report be received.