Inspectors' report shows progress has been maintained at South Yorkshire Police - Dr Alan Billings

‘I congratulate South Yorkshire Police on its performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime.’ Not my words – though I would echo them – but those of Roy Wilsher, one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), who led an inspection of the force last year.

The inspectors’ report was published last week and it was very positive indeed.

As I said recently, during my time as Police and Crime Commissioner from 2014, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) has been on a remarkable journey.

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In my first years, SYP was reeling from the Jay Report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which said the force had failed many girls between 1997 and 2013, and then the verdicts of the inquests into the Hillsborough football disaster (1989), which blamed SYP for the deaths of 96 supporters, later rising to 97.

The inspectors’ report was published last week and it was very positive for South Yorkshire Police.The inspectors’ report was published last week and it was very positive for South Yorkshire Police.
The inspectors’ report was published last week and it was very positive for South Yorkshire Police.

Morale in the force, and public trust and confidence in them, was low. Then in 2016, there was an inspection of SYP by HMI who said the force ‘requires improvement’, and put it into special measures. This involved having to go down to London at regular intervals to set out and report progress on a recovery plan.

I appointed Stephen Watson as Chief Constable with a clear brief: he was to take a firm grip on the organisation and give it a clear sense of direction and purpose – which he did. In the last HMI report before he left to become Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, SYP was graded ‘good’ overall and outstanding in terms of their ethical leadership.

When I appointed Lauren Poultney, the current Chief in 2021, the brief was equally clear and no less demanding: consolidate and take further. This is what the Chief, together with all her officers and civilian staff, is doing, and the verdict of HMI could not be clearer.

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HMI has five grades for each area of activity they inspect: inadequate, requires improvement, adequate, good and outstanding. The force got three ‘outstanding’, five ‘good’, one ‘adequate’ and no ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. The ‘adequate’ grade will require the force to improve its response times to incidents. It has not always met the targets it sets for itself. This is something that should improve as more student officers become fully operationally deployable. In a nutshell, the force has now set itself a very high bar for the future. But the inspectors noted that this is now a force that does not rest on any laurels but is ambitious to continuously learn and improve its service.

With this good report in my hand, I felt able last week to go to the Police and Crime Panel, meeting in Barnsley Town Hall, to put before them my proposals for the police budget and the precept (the policing element of the council tax) for the coming financial year, April 2023 to March 2024. I said that if we wanted to keep our force where it is now – among the best performing forces in the country – we would need to give it the funding it needed.

When the government announced the total funding that would be available for policing nationally this coming year, its figures assumed that every PCC in the country would increase the precept by the maximum permitted – £15 for a Band D property. There was a realisation that the small increase in government grant was nowhere near enough to cover for inflation and increased demands on the service.

A shortened version of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire’s latest blog post.