PA Consulting: Police lacks skills to combat cybercrime

17 December 2014

In the coming years police officers expect the threat of cybercrime to increase significantly, reveals a new survey from PA Consulting, yet at the same time there are concerns on how the police will deal with the matter. Skills improvement and modern tools will be key in the fight against digital criminals.

Consulting firm PA Consulting Group recently released the results of a new cybercrime study, developed in association with the National Analyst Working Group* (NAWG), for which it surveyed 185 police analysts from 48 UK law enforcement organisations. In the survey, the researchers assessed the perception on the threats posed by cybercrime, how that threat is forecasted to evolve and how the UK law enforcement community should respond.

The study shows that the majority of police intelligence analysts (57%) believe that the threat of cybercrime will increase significantly over the next three years, 41% think the threat will increase slightly, and none of the analysts expect the threat to reduce.

Analysts forecasting growth of cybercrime threat

Fighting cybercrime
Almost three out of four (74%) respondents indicate that cybercrime currently makes up a part of their role, a percentage that is significantly higher than the 28% noted in 2011. Despite the high percentage, the police analysts indicate that their time spent on this task only makes up 10% of their time. Almost all analysts expect cybercrime to be part of their role three years from now, and say to foresee a tripling of their time spent on cybercrime investigation.

Proportion of respondents investigating cybercrime

Tools and skills
Of the analysts, only 30% feel comfortable with their current skills and tools and believe they can identify and tackle cyber threats effectively. Digital skills that, according to the consulting firm, are critical to exploit internet data sources effectively as 50% of the investigations are dependent on the collection and analysis of communications. In addition, just 5% claim to have ‘considerable knowledge’ to combat cybercrime. “It is clear from our survey that the police needs to transform its training, tools and ways of working for a new digital landscape if it’s to combat the increasingly sophisticated threats posed by a new wave of online criminality,” comments Nick Newman, Police and Cyber Security Expert at PA Consulting.

Police skills and tools to combat cybercrime

* The National Analyst Working Group consists of analysts and researchers working in law enforcement agencies and police forces across the UK.


Manchester Mayor criticised for £250,000 consulting spend

19 March 2019

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has been criticised for splurging hundreds of thousands of pounds on consulting fees before determining that the region’s fire brigade must slash its budget by millions. Andy Burnham put more than £250,000 towards work from ten consulting firms as part of a review into the region’s emergency services.

Despite the continued argument that projects like the Northern Powerhouse initiative are helping to address the North-South divide in the UK, statistics still show that the North has borne the brunt of austerity in England. Northern English cities have been disproportionately affected, with their spending cut on average by a fifth since 2010, while cities in the south and east of England had average losses of 9%.

The impact of spending cuts has been keenly felt in Greater Manchester in particular, where local government spending has fallen by as much as £650 per person since 2009 in some parts of the region. As the area looks to find further savings, while the Central Government continues to fail to deliver on its pledge to end austerity, it has been announced that the fire brigade for Greater Manchester faces a reduction of up to £10 million from its budget.

The swingeing cuts to hit the emergency service would likely see its fleet of fire engines reduced from 56 to 47, while six fire stations face closure, and 113 support staff could suffer the axe. The news follows an investigation from Mayor Andy Burnham, which was triggered in part by the admission of Chief Fire Officer, Jim Wallace, that since 2015 the service has failed to deliver “its own efficiency plan”.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham spent £268,300 to review the city’s fire service

The review itself has been far from inexpensive, however, and it has led some to accuse Burnham of hypocrisy. During the review of the fire service, which has delivered demands for the service to find major efficiency savings, the Greater Manchester Mayor reportedly splurged £268,300 in public funds on consulting work for his root-and-branch review.

According to local newspaper Manchester Evening News, Burnham tasked ten different consultancies with helping to compile the review, receiving payments ranging from £101,000 to £7,000. The largest amount was handed to Leicester headquartered P. Cooper & Associates for the expertise of a “senior change and transformation programme specialist,” while it was reported that another of the consultants gave “guidance on leadership and culture”.

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) spokesman said of the spending: “The Programme for Change programme has required input from specialists who are expert in areas such as organisational transformation, operating models for fire safety and estates.”

Manchester’s fire brigade was criticised in 2017 when, in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, a report by Lord Kerslake noted crews had been held back from helping. Contrary to helping deliver a more efficient service, Unison has told the press that it believes the proposed cuts will make the residents of Greater Manchester “less safe”. With the expenditure of the review on private sector consultants now public, meanwhile, the union has slammed the report for throwing away public funds while jeopardising vital public sector work.

Unison represents the 113 staff who may lose their jobs, and a spokesperson for the union told Manchester Evening News, "It's disappointing that when finances are clearly tight, priority has been given to hiring external consultants rather than engaging with the workforce. This will be a shock to our members who were only told on Monday their jobs were at risk."

In recent years, a succession of local authorities have come under fire from officials and the general public for their consulting spending in the UK. Earlier in 2019, a freedom of information request by The Times revealed that local councils across the UK have spent around £400 million on consulting firms in the last year alone. According to the report, this represents a rise of more than a fifth since 2014, with critics using the figures to call into question the value added by engaging external expertise.

Commenting on the criticism many councils face, Tamzen Isacsson Chief Executive, Management Consultancies Association, said, “Consultants play a vital role in the public sector, [providing] transformational impacts, innovation and increased efficiency… Vital front line services continue to operate uninterrupted [while] consultants often help local authorities get better results with less money. As the MCA awards this year demonstrate consultants are delivering social benefits across the UK – from work on getting better outcomes for children in care to finding better processes for finding homes for vulnerable families in London these examples offer a true reflection of the consulting excellence that operates across the UK to the benefit of councils and the wider society.”