Damian Green's speech to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

A speech given by the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice Damian Green to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on on the 11 September 2012.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

The arrival of PCCs will be the most significant democratic reform of policing in our lifetime.

PCCs will enable the public to engage in policing in a way they haven’t before, not only in the run-up to November but beyond. This is not just about voting and then waiting four years to vote again.

It will be your job if elected to re-engage the public with the police, giving them a say when setting the policing priorities, and involving the public and particularly victims at all times.

You will be elected to cut crime, give the public a voice at the highest level, hold forces to account and help restore trust.

Communities will from November have a stronger voice in how their streets are policed and will be able to turn to their PCC to hold the police to account on their behalf.

The reform is also historic for other reasons: there is no other public service nationally that is accountable to one directly elected individual.

I am pleased to see high calibre candidates in this room and putting themselves forward across the country to run to become PCCs.

Although many of you have been selected as a political party candidate, the public will expect those of you elected to represent all the people in your area impartially.

It will not be for the PCC to tell the professionals how to do their job - the legislation continues to protect the operational independence of the police by making it clear that the chief constables retain direction and control of the forces officers and staff. The statutory Protocol sets out the roles and responsibilities of PCCs and Chief Constables and is a useful guide to how they will work together. The operations of the police will not be politicised; who is arrested and how investigations work will not become political decisions.

The police do incredible work to keep our communities safe. We see their hard work and dedication every day in every village, town and city across the country. We also see it when our country is at its best, like during the Olympics and Paralympics, and at its worst, like during the riots last August.

I’d like to commend the police for their amazing contribution to the Olympics and Paralympics. This was one of the biggest security operations this country has ever seen. It was not just the Metropolitan Police. Forces from around England and Wales came together to deliver a safe and secure games.

This is a really good example of how PCCs, like forces, will be responsible for the totality of policing which means that, as well as local concerns, they will have to address those crimes that require a national response.

We are creating a new powerful National Crime Agency to improve the fight against serious and organised crime that operates across police force boundaries. I know Keith Bristow, Director General for the NCA, will address you later today about his aims, how he can support and work with you, and give some life to the Strategic Policing Requirement

The SPR, published on a statutory footing in July, helps to ensure that forces are able to meet national threats - such as terrorism, civil emergencies, public disorder, cyber incidents and organised crime.

From November, PCCs will be required to hold chief constables to account, in particular, for the way they comply with this duty, but PCCs will also be under a duty to have regard to the SPR when making their strategic plans.

The challenge will be to balance national responsibilities with their local mandate. Every force – and therefore every PCC – will need to play their part in responding to national threats, but that may clearly cause concerns locally about assets being re-directed from existing priorities. Striking the right balance in this context will be key to the role of the PCC.

I am confident that those of you elected will be very clear about what your public have elected you to do. Equally, I am clear you will see why responding to national threats will be important to those same communities – the harms caused by serious organised crime, for example, ultimately impact as drugs-dealing and violence on our streets, and the public will recognise this if it is explained credibly to them.

One of the main roles of a PCC is to deliver value for money for the public through the setting of the force budget and precept.

We all know that the police reform programme, as with all public services, is set in the context of a challenging financial environment.

The overwhelming need to deal with the deficit has led to some difficult decisions about cuts and savings. These decisions are not only difficult for ministers but will be for those of you elected.

The reductions in police funding are challenging but manageable. There is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work.

It is important to remember that crime has continued to fall whilst officer numbers have also fallen.

There will, of course, be tough decisions ahead.

I hope that you will all consider the value of private sector partnering to achieve cost savings and better services for the public.

For example, the private sector can support through improving the technology used by officers and providing staff for control rooms and custody centres, releasing officers for frontline duties.

The police of course will remain a public service, accountable to the people. Any decisions on business partnering will be taken by elected PCCs, giving local people a say.

And every pound saved means more money for the frontline, putting officers on the streets.

Stripping out bureaucracy is one more way of getting more officers out on the beat.

I want officers to be able to get on with the job of fighting crime which they can’t do if they’re bogged down by red tape and form-filling. The work which has already taken place to reduce bureaucracy could see up to 4.5 million hours of police time saved across all forces every year, but there is much more to be done to build on this.

Some forces are really rising to the challenge of, for example in Hampshire, new ‘Toughbooks’ have been introduced allowing officers to do their paperwork while they’re out in their response vehicles.

Documents are stored electronically, which means there’s no need to fill in multiple forms or waste time photocopying as cases go through the criminal justice system.

Hampshire officers have reported that they can stay out on patrol for longer, spending less time in the station and more time on the streets keeping people safe.

I am sure too that PCCs will be keen to explore the benefits that collaboration can bring to their forces and of course will be guided by the duty to collaborate where it is in the interests of the efficiency or effectiveness of their own or another police force.

That is why I’m pleased to see Zoe Billingham from HMIC speaking later today about the challenges facing policing. I’m also encouraged to see Sir Dennis O’Connor, with his experience and depth of knowledge, leading a workshop on evidence based policing.

The police service is becoming more open, more transparent and more accountable to the public.

We are moving to a more independent HMIC is part of the wider reform to make the police as a whole more accountable to the public and less accountable to Whitehall.

In the new world of PCCs it is vitally important that HMIC’s role is focused on working for the public to shine a light on policing outcomes and value for money to help them make informed judgments on how well PCCs and their forces are performing in relation to local priorities and national obligations.

Another key change in the national police landscape is the creation of the College of Policing. The body will act in the public interest and be independent of Government.

PCCs will sit on the board of the new College of Policing to ensure the voice of the PCC is heard in big decisions about how professionalism is developed in the police service, creating the police service the public want to see, from the skills and abilities that officers need, qualifications they should hold right through to the demographic mix of the police service.

We want to see much better IT in forces, which is why we’ve set up the Police ICT Company, intended to be owned by PCCs and led by the operational needs of forces, it will deliver value for money and improve innovation in the ICT services forces receive.

It would have not gone unnoticed by many of you the role is that of Police AND CRIME Commissioners.

The remit of PCCs to ensure crime reduction involves powers to use their budgets to commission services from public, private and voluntary sector partners.

The directly elected mandate of the PCCs offers the opportunity to galvanise local partners.

I’m sure you will want to spend your first few days meeting with the chief constable and your chief executives. But we know that the police cannot fight crime alone and this is why the Act places duties of co-operation all round.

Therefore it will be equally as important to meet other local partners such as probation, health, education and voluntary organisations to plan how you will fulfil your commitments to fight crime and antisocial behaviour and deliver safer streets in your communities.

The public will expect PCCs, councillors, mayors, agencies, and all partners to work together. They will not care for the organisational barriers that too often hamper progress. The public will expect those of you elected to use your mandate to galvanise others, challenge silos and cut through excuses.

One key group that will expect the PCC to use their powers to make a real difference are victims of crime.

Something I know Baroness Newlove will talk to you later about from her first hand experience.

How victims are treated is essential to maintaining public trust in policing. It is for this reason that the Act requires PCCs to consult with victims in setting policing priorities in their local area and why we confirmed in July that in the future PCCs will act as commissioners for local victim support services.

This will ensure that PCCs will be able to provide services that meet local need, represent value for money, and deliver real outcomes for victims. Finally, I would like to tell you what we are going to do to help ensure the public know about the role of PCC, the benefits we hope those of you elected will bring and importantly to persuade them to vote in November.

I know that I have a job to engage the public with the policy of PCCs over the next 8 weeks in order to persuade people to get out and vote on 15 November.

A national marketing campaign including TV and radio will run in October to increase public interest and understanding so that they are more likely to vote. This will be dove tailed by the Electoral Commission’s campaign about how to vote in the election.

I personally, together with other Ministers, will be going around the country to talk to as many people about the benefits Police and Crime Commissioners can bring and why they should go out and vote.

It’s also good to see a wide range of organisations engaging with you today. It is right that prospective candidates hear from the experts about the priorities and challenges in modern policing, and that you understand from them the issues that they believe are important. You can also find short, clear and helpful briefing notes on many key issues of interest to prospective PCCs on the Home Office Website.

These elections provide a unique opportunity to take stock of the challenges we face in reforming the police service, crime prevention and criminal justice. Your role is key in this debate.

The manifestos need to be credible, evidence-led and show innovative thinking.

You will need to campaign hard, engage the public, and to get a real debate about policing and crime going across England and Wales.

Published 11 September 2012