FINANCIAL improvements need to be made by Gwent Police according to a report by HMIC published today.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's (HMIC) Responding to Austerity report said the force had limited understanding of the financial demands it faces and is one of three police forces in England and Wales which 'must improve'.

Developing a greater understanding would help the force match demand with resources in the future, it was said.

In 2015/16, the force has a savings requirement of £9.2m with current planned savings of £5.1m, leaving a current budget gap of £4.1m in that financial year.

Dru Sharpling, HM inspector of constabulary for the Wales and Western Region, said: “Gwent Police has plans in place to achieve almost all the savings required for the spending review period and has made good use of partnership opportunities with rigorous oversight of staffing reductions. However, plans for dealing with the savings requirements for the future are undeveloped.”

The report highlights the impact of planning for and policing the NATO summit, which takes place in Newport this September, as having the potential to delay the force’s progress in making the improvements outlined. Funding of Gwent Police and the provision of policing services are part of the responsibility of Ian Johnston, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent.

He said: “This is not the beginning of that journey and whilst there is no doubt we have some tough challenges ahead, we should not underestimate the fantastic work undertaken by Gwent Police already in achieving over £28 million in recurring savings during the last five years.”

The report commended the force's good use of collaboration with other Welsh forces and local partners to get better value for money.

Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said: “Whilst we understand some of the concerns raised by her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in this report, this does not reflect the considerable work that has been undertaken by Gwent Police in managing the financial cuts the force has faced in recent years.

“The report shows that we are projected to have 95 per cent of our staff on front line duties by 2015 which is where the public want to see them. This is three per cent above the national average.”

He added: “The Police and Crime Commissioner is focusing us on what matters to our communities rather than chasing numbers and whilst we saw a four per cent rise in crime figures in last year this is largely attributed to us telling staff that it is the quality of service that counts not numbers and that we need to record crime accurately.”

The report also said it found that victims of crime in Gwent were more dissatisfied with the way they are dealt with than in England and Wales as a whole.