South Yorkshire Police has been told it is one of the nine most inefficient police forces in the country.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary examined the force to assess the value for money it represents - checking the condition of its finances and how police chiefs understand the demand for the service and how well they match their resources to it.
Inspectors graded five forces as outstanding, 29 as good and eight as requiring improvement.
For the first time, one force - Humberside - was found to be inadequate.
South Yorkshire Police was rated as requiring improvement.
Inspectors said forces across the country face major challenges in the years ahead from reduced budgets, fewer officers and more complex crime.
Mike Cunningham, who led the national inspection of forces, said: “Police forces have been through change on an unprecedented scale since 2010. It is a tribute to the leadership of the police service and to officers, PCSOs and staff in all forces that the service has, on the whole, been able to absorb that change while measured crime has continued to fall and public satisfaction with the police has been maintained.
“The next five years will be more challenging for forces as they strive to make further reductions in budgets and workforce, while dealing with increasingly complex crime. Policing is entering uncharted waters.
“Forces have made great strides in assessing the current demand for their service, however they need to improve their ability to forecast demand. Only by achieving this level of understanding can forces make informed decisions on how to make best use of their resources.
“Typically forces think in terms of numbers of officers and staff when developing workforce plans, rather than their skills and capabilities that will be required in the future. They need to start building their capability now, informed by a clearer understanding of future demand.”
Inspectors found South Yorkshire police chiefs have developed plans to achieve the £12.9m savings needed this financial year and a further £13.5m required next year.
They said savings in future years ‘will become increasingly dependent on the force’s ambition to increase services provided in collaboration with other forces’.
Inspectors found that although the force has axed jobs ‘there remain opportunities to achieve further efficiencies in line with similar costs in other forces’.
The force has a higher number of police staff per head of population than most other forces in England and Wales and the cost of police officers and police staff per head of population is higher than most other forces.
Chief Constable David Crompton said: “Around £53 million has been stripped from the force’s budget since 2010, and it’s anticipated the funding available for policing South Yorkshire will fall by a further £59 million over the next five years.
“The force clearly faces significant financial pressures to maintain service in the coming months and years, particularly in light of the costs we face in relation to the Hillsborough disaster inquests.
“The report talks about the Local Policing Model, but what it does not reflect is that, since the inspection, all four districts have now become Local Policing Units. This will remove duplication and increase efficiency and visibility to the public. The new model is a move to a more consistent service across the county, regardless of where someone lives. This will result in a saving of over £8 million by April 2016.
“Since the inspection, the force has launched a system where some crimes can be reported online through the police website. This launched on Monday and we hope is a move towards offering our communities a wider range of ways to report crime to us, which is both convenient for them and is in line with modern day policing.
“The force also faces unprecedented demand in dealing with a wide range of issues that are strictly the responsibility of our partner agencies.
“We are becoming stronger in ensuring that matters that should be dealt with by those agencies are pushed back to them to ensure our officers and staff can deal with the most serious matters and to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. We will continue to work closely with our partner agencies so that, together, we deliver a better quality service, despite the fact we are operating in a time of austerity.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I welcome the report of the Inspectorate. It helps me, and the force, understand better the areas where good work is being done and the areas where further thought needs to be given.
“The inspectors say the force is ‘good’ in using its resources to meet demand. They acknowledge that the force has taken important steps to recognise how crime is changing and how frontline policing should be deployed in the new Local Policing Teams.
“They believe the force has a good overview of demand and is good at focusing resources to maximise impact.
“The areas for criticism are mainly around issues of financial sustainability.
“We need to remember that in South Yorkshire we face extensive and unique pressures on our budgets that other forces do not have, such as the legal obligation I have to fund both the Chief Constable and other officers involved in the ongoing Hillsborough Inquiries. We now understand that the Inquests will conclude early in the New Year.
“Also, we do not yet know the extent of the costs of the child sexual exploitation investigations within South Yorkshire, especially those being carried out by the National Crime Agency, over which we have no control.
“However, since the inspectors visited in May we have completed a voluntary redundancy programme and received Special Grant funding from the Home Secretary for all but one per cent of the costs of the Hillsborough Inquests up to March 2015.
“The new Local Policing Teams will produce further savings, as will collaborative working with Humberside Police and we are undertaking considerable work to create a strategic vision to ensure the force can meet the
challenges that we will face over the next five years.
“The financial position of the force could be significantly made worse if the Chancellor’s spending review in a few weeks time leads to further cuts in the police grant. At that point, further spending decisions may be required.”