Collapse of Stormont hits next year’s policing plan

The current PSNI policing plan has been rolled forward into next year
The current PSNI policing plan has been rolled forward into next year

A new policing plan for next year in Northern Ireland cannot be established because of the Stormont collapse, a report has said.

Officials are rolling forward this year’s blueprint into the next period as a “pragmatic” solution because there is no Executive to appoint political members to the Policing Board, an Audit Office report said.

The document sets out objectives around tackling crime and is a core function of a properly constituted board.

Police said all targets had been recently met fully or partially.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office report said: “Board and PSNI officials have been able to progress preliminary work in developing the 2018-19 plans, however they cannot make the required assessments in order to prepare draft plans for consultation.

“As a pragmatic solution the (Justice) Department has recommended that the 2017-18 Policing Plan (which was agreed by the full board before the last election) should be rolled forward to 2018-19.”

Strategy for next year has already been set in a separate long-term report.

The 2017/18 policing plan covers measures aimed at building public confidence in the police, targeting domestic abuse and improving the service to the most vulnerable.

The audit report said progress on reducing the numbers of indicators and measures of performance and moving to an outcomes-based approach was a welcome development and aligned with the new approach set out in the Executive’s draft Programme for Government.

It said: “Current performance measures do not provide adequate links to baselines and data that clearly demonstrate progress against strategic outcomes.”

Comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly said in implementing its continuous improvement projects, the PSNI must ensure that timescales set for the full completion and implementation of projects are realistic, and that sufficient resources are available to complete projects as planned.

The ServiceFirst change programme was established by the PSNI in 2013.

The audit report said: “It has been subject to consistent patterns of late delivery of projects; projects rolled forward from year to year; and existing projects being subsumed into new or other projects.”

It noted the PSNI faces significant resourcing challenges that impact on the delivery of its programmes and projects.

A board spokeswoman said the report recorded an unqualified audit opinion and noted positive steps taken by the board to improve performance reporting arrangements in implementing previous recommendations.

She added: “The current legislative status of the Policing Board and resulting impact this has in terms of progressing statutory duties around the development, publication and monitoring of the Policing Plan have been acknowledged by the comptroller and auditor general and in this report the C&AG makes three recommendations which will be actioned in the time ahead.”

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris welcomed the recognition given for meeting the 47 targets from the NI Policing Board’s Annual Policing Plan for 2016-17, either fully or partially.

“Of these 47 targets, 38 were reported as fully achieved (81%) and nine were reported as partially achieved (19%).

“In addition, our internal project management processes within the PSNI has been enhanced with the introduction of an improved governance structure for continuous improvement projects.

“This encompasses the need for PSNI to react continuously and adjust to changing demands and budget reductions.”