If you have succeeded in having a career where the winds of corporate restructuring have not passed by your desk at least once then you are either in the minority or have worked a lifetime by yourself.

It is for that reason that this week’s Report of the Week is worthy of note.

What lessons can be learnt from restructuring and how can we make sure that the organisations that are so restructured actually benefit to the extent assumed at the time of planning.

The report is from Audit Scotland and looks at the creation of a singular Scottish police force.

As way of background:

  • The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (the Act) created a new structure for providing police services in Scotland.
  • The Act brought together the eight police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) into two new national bodies. These are the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland).
  • The new structure became operational on 1 April 2013.
  • The restructure transferred around £1.1 billion of annual spending and over 24,000 people, including 17,496 police officers, into the new bodies.
  • It also transferred responsibility for policing from local government to central government.

This restructure is considered one of the largest and most complex reforms of the Scottish public sector since devolution in 1999 and the most significant change in policing since 1967.

So how has it gone?

The Scottish Auditor General noted that front line services have been maintained but that:

Planning the move to a single police service was hampered by poor baseline information, a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities, and difficult relationships between the Scottish Government, the SPA and Police Scotland.

In terms of the expected costs and savings estimates that drove the restructure they

Are based on the Outline Business Case prepared by the Scottish Government in September 2011. These estimates were not updated nor a full business case prepared. The SPA and Police Scotland have still to finalise and agree a financial strategy showing how savings will be achieved beyond 2013/14.

And on the governance front:

A number of governance issues need to be progressed urgently.

In particular, the agreed structure of the SPA needs to be implemented and the quality of the information reported to the board needs to improve before the SPA can deliver effective governance of policing in Scotland.

Such a complicated restructure needs a perpetual and laser like focus on discipline.  Whilst it is encouraging that front line services have been maintained one does wonder whether the full quantum of the benefits of the restructure will ever be realised.

That is the crux of any restructure and it is neatly articulated in the latter stages of the report:

A significant amount of public money and staff time have been spent in delivering a single police service.

It is important that the Scottish Government, the SPA and Police Scotland clearly demonstrate what has changed in how Scotland is policed and how communities, officers and staff are being affected.

Very few organisations that McLeod Governance has worked with can say that they can  clearly demonstrate the benefits of a restructure.

As an important aside – Audit Scotland has taken an interesting approach in promoting this and other reports.  Not only is the report online but there is an interview with a senior manager involved in the process also available.  It is a shame more  peak audit offices don’t see to be similarly transparent.


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