Damian Green's speech to the Policy Exchange on 23 October 2012

Damian Green's speech to the Policy Exchange on 23 October 2012.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Damian Green

I’m delighted to thank Policy Exchange for inviting me to speak at today’s conference. Policy Exchange should be rightly proud of the PCC policy having been there for its development right through to its delivery. Not many think tanks can claim that. We’re now firmly in the final stages of the campaign for these elections, with just 23 days to go, and I recognise many candidates in the room and I’m sure they are counting down the minutes until they can get back out campaigning.

For too long the Home Office has interfered with local policing while doing too little to tackle national threats.  The elections next month mark the next step in the process of reversing that trend, a process that will continue with the creation of the National Crime Agency and the Police ICT Company.  So, today I want to talk today about some of the issues that PCCs will face and the priorities the public will want their local PCC to set - not to instruct PCCs on how to deal with them, but to discuss the options they’ll have.

I want to talk about some of the core principles behind the PCC policy: the empowerment of communities, localism and accountability, and delivery across agencies.  

Empowering communities

Policing by consent will always be the foundation of our policing model, but crime is not cut by consent alone.  The public expect the police to act on their behalf, but we must always remember that crime is cut because brave members of the public are willing to stand up and play a part in some way; they are willing to act as capable guardians of society.

I Know it has become a ritual in speeches to talk about Sir Robert Peel, but as a good Tory I love ritual.  In the 180 years since the founding of the Metropolitan Police no one has put it better, that ‘The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.’  Not a quote for the Twitter era as you can see.

The police service was created by public minded citizens forming themselves into groups to protect society - we have come some way from that to get to the police service we have today but this active public participation is still necessary.  And one way, in a democratic society, that we foster and capture that public participation is through democratic elections.

We will never have enough police officers to prevent every crime or stand on every street corner.  To achieve the clear and single outcome that we have set the police - to cut crime - we require the public, the normal citizen, to, both be motivated to call the emergency services or provide information to their neighbourhood police team, and to be willing to give evidence in court to help secure a prosecution.

Of course  the general public, want to see police officers out on the street every day and put their lives on the line, but policing by consent should start with the public having a real say and real input in driving the changes necessary in their community to cut crime - this must include having a say in how policing is delivered

There are lots of things active citizens can do to help the police tackle crime and antisocial behaviour such as joining Neighbourhood Watch, becoming a Special Constable or volunteering.  I know that many PCCs want to do more to harness local people and increase levels of volunteering.  Nationally the number of Specials is continuing to rise at an impressive rate and I look forward to discussing with those candidates what more we need to do nationally to support volunteering in the police.

The return of neighbourhood policing has done a great deal in starting to restore the link between the public and the police. We support neighbourhood policing - but we’ve gone much further.

We have mandated beat meetings with local residents for neighbourhood police officers.  I know many forces hold meetings, but I want to see them in every town and every community across the country.  For PCCs these will be valuable meetings to get input from their constituents.  And to support these meetings we have introduced the first ever nationwide street level crime maps which, for the first time, gives the public a true picture of the crime and disorder in their communities. 

And the public have responded - since launching in January last year the police.uk website has received over 500 million hits.  And perhaps as a result of PCC elections the number of hits on the site this month has increased markedly to an average of 360,000 a day.  There is much greater awareness of policing and crime.

In May we added justice outcomes to the site, allowing the public to see what action the police took in response to crime in their area and whether crimes resulted in a court sentence.

And to develop it further, earlier this month we launched ‘Compare Your Area’ on the site. This gives the public the ability to compare crime rates and trends in their local area with other similar areas. 

And in the coming months we will be linking West Yorkshire Police’s trailblazing ‘In the Dock’ pilot to the site.  By entering their post code, residents in the West Yorkshire police area will be able to see a picture of recently convicted criminals, along with a short summary of their crime and sentence.  A number of police forces across England and Wales already have similar schemes in place and we are keen for this to be extended nationally.

These are useful tools for communities to find out more about crime in their areas and all this information will be used to hold PCCs to account.

And the new College of Policing will be an organisation ensuring professionalism in policing from December this year. It will have 4 PCCs on its Board and a powerful mandate - to set the operational standards for policing, develop the evidence base of what works and set the framework for professional development for police officers and staff..

It will be established in the public interest to ensure that policing is delivered in the most effective way, provide greater transparency to the public about what standards the police should meet and support the development of a more consistent, responsive national policing approach.

So we are giving the public a voice, more transparency about policing and we are giving them a say in how their communities are policed and how their money is spent.  Engaging the public and restoring that key link. And PCCs will be the vehicle for this.

Serious about devolving power

This is a Government that is serious about localism and about devolving power. 

Many police authorities, invisible and unaccountable themselves, have in turn been unable to properly hold chief constables to account.  

That is partly because central government has, over years, sucked power from local people by dictating targets and practices.  As I have already said, one aim of the current reforms is to reduce interference in local policing from Whitehall. 

When the police can properly be held to account the leadership of forces will focus on what matters to local people - bearing down on crime and anti-social behaviour, responding to the needs of victims, and driving value for money for the taxpayer.

Everyone, quite rightly, comments on the remarkable reductions in crime in New York in the 90s.  What happened there was a change of leadership, a change of organisational culture and with that came a change of tactics on the ground.  Local commanders took control, were held accountable for crime, and arrests went up as a product of a more proactive, disruptive policing approach.  Most importantly there was the application of a new philosophy of community policing that changed the way the police saw their role.

People still know that we do not have enough visible and available policing because officers are tied up in red tape and stuck in the back office, though there has been considerable progress in the past couple of years.   We know that it is the deployment, not employment, of officers that matters and that over the past couple of years we have successfully reduced officer numbers while reducing crime.

Local accountability will lead to closer scrutiny of this, with a focus on how the police are deployed and where they are deployed.

We also need to look upstream - drug dealing on street corners, robbery, burglary and gang violence - are all issues of great concern that people demand action. The public will look to PCCs for leadership.  Often these crimes are the result of a long chain of corrosive activity, maybe starting overseas, but always, inevitably, ending up in communities, on street corners, or in homes all over UK.

This is why we published the Strategic Policing Requirement, which sets out the most important national threats to which PCCs and chief constables must, by law, have regard. This will ensure that the national response to these serious and organised crimes is rooted in local policing, with local forces playing their part at the regional and the national level.

PCCs and Chiefs will also work closely with the new National Crime Agency which will be responsible for spearheading the threat against serious, organised and complex crime. The NCA will build on the work of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency but it will have a strengthened authority and broader remit and will work across police force boundaries to fight serious and organised crime.

Crime intimidates victims and the wider community and can make people feel powerless.  But giving people information and influence over how crime is tackled helps to redress this power imbalance and makes detection and prosecution more likely.  The majority of directly detected offences had victims or witnesses able to provide leads and so I hope PCCs will look to Baroness Newlove’s report on safe and active communities. 

In this excellent report she makes a number of excellent proposals which are worthy of consideration.  For example, she has proposed that where communities work together to reduce crime, they should be rewarded with money from confiscated assets to reinvest in crime prevention and they should decide how it is spent.

PCCs should also consider her proposal that at least one per cent of their budget goes to grass roots community groups to use or have a say on.  As I said at the outset, I am not here today to tell potential PCCs, what to do.  That is the beauty of these reforms - it will be for PCCs to make decisions and the electorate to decide whether they like them or not.

In making these decisions PCCs will want to, and indeed will have a responsibility to, consider the needs of local victims of crime. 

How victims are treated is essential to maintaining public trust in policing.  That is why PCCs will be required to consult with victims in setting policing priorities in their local area.  For the first time, victims of crime will have a key role in determining what the police should focus on, and how they do it.

In Government we have set out our vision for improved support for victims and witnesses.  We confirmed in July that PCCs will assume responsibility for commissioning the majority of victims’ support services at a local level and we are aiming for them to do so in 2014.  Services providing the practical and emotional support that victims may need to help them cope with the initial impact of crime and, in the longer term and as far as is possible, to recover from the consequences of the crime.  Services that are tailored to local priorities and ensure that those most in need have access to the support they need, when they need it. 

And we are going even further; the Home Secretary has recently announced an important new duty on PCCs to make sure that victims have a greater say in the punishment of people responsible for anti-social behaviour. 

We will change the law so that when a criminal receives an out-of-court community punishment, the victim will be given the power to choose the form it takes. 

They’ll be given a list of options.  They might want the offender to make amends to them personally.  Or they might want to give something back to the wider community. 

What matters is that the punishment will be chosen by the victim at a local level.  Localism and accountability, working hand in hand to improve the policing of communities and the response to victims of crime.

Delivering no matter what

One of the regular complaints from victims of crime is that, too often, the whole policing and criminal justice system can be disjointed and unresponsive; too characterised by rigid organisational structures bureaucracy and delay.  They don’t see the links between our services - they just feel the pain of being a victim of crime, or of living in communities blighted by anti-social behaviour.   They’ll be looking to PCCs, with their role spanning policing and crime to deliver better crime and justice outcomes.  And the performance of PCCs will be reliant on the strength of the partnerships with other agencies that they can build.

We’ve given PCCs a broad remit to ensure community safety, with their own budgets to prevent crime and tackle drugs with the ability to commission from a range of local partners, including statutory partners, and the private and voluntary sectors. 

And by exercising collective leadership, working with the range of local providers in criminal justice, in community safety and in mainstream services like health and children’s services PCCs can improve outcomes. 

A strong relationship between the PCC and local community safety partners will be key to cutting crime and promoting safety.  There is a reciprocal duty to co-operate between the PCC and the responsible authorities of a Community Safety Partnership.  PCCs will also have powers to require reports from partnerships about issues of concern and to bring together a representative of any or all partnerships in their area to discuss priorities.

Topics such as public protection or tackling youth crime are illustrative of the importance of partnership, as the police don’t hold all the cards.  They can’t simply be a social service at one end and a tough-minded enforcement agent at the other.

We know, however, that troubled families cost the tax payer an estimated £9 billion per year, equivalent to £75,000 per family.  This is spent on protecting the children in these families and responding to the crime and anti-social behaviour they perpetrate.  

The costs are amplified by the fact that children who live in troubled families are 36 times more likely to be excluded from school and six times more likely to have been in care or in contact with the police.

So, by galvanising all the agencies, such as councils, job centres, schools, probation officers, social and health services, and by finding and developing a common cause PCCs can put the victims and communities at the forefront , improving lives for families and residents.

It is an immense task that will take new and innovative ways of thinking, committed local action, flexibility and perseverance but it can, and must, be achieved.

Payment by Results

Almost half of all adults leaving prison are reconvicted within a year.  So the same criminals move through the courts, prison and community sentences, creating new victims of crime and extra costs to society.  To cut crime and break this cycle, we need to be far more successful at rehabilitating offenders.

The public will expect to see PCCs commission on the basis of outcomes and not inputs, in common with wider changes across the public sector, so that they only pay for what works in delivering reduced levels of crime. 

And as part of their broad remit to ensure community safety PCCs will be in a unique position to commission across the board - not just on the basis of those. 

One key element of our approach to competition in the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ is to test a range of models where providers from the private, public and voluntary sectors work in partnership to reduce reoffending and are paid by the results they deliver.

Providers should be given the freedom to innovate and invest money in activities that work to rehabilitate offenders.  They should deliver programmes which address the roots of criminality such as drug and alcohol addiction.

To do this, we in central government need to share the information we hold.

For example, the new Drug and Alcohol Recovery payment by results pilots have been co-designed between central government and eight pilot areas. 

Previously central government commissioned services to tackle drug and alcohol misuse by paying on the basis of inputs and processes - rewarding providers for the numbers entering drug treatment, regardless of what then happened to them. 

The payment by results model has turned this around by paying providers for the outcomes they achieve - full recovery, including completing treatment and not returning; reductions in reoffending and improved housing, health and wellbeing.

Our plans mean a return to what the public wants from the criminal justice system: a focus on what works.

This is why the election is so important and the public should vote.

In this context that is why I think Lord Blair was wrong and deeply irresponsible to say the public should not take part in a democratic election.

Parliament decided to establish police and prime commissioners and allow the public to have their say through the election of their local PCC.

For the first time the public will finally have a say on key decisions.

The people of London would not want their right to vote for the Mayor taken away and I am sure in the future they will feel the same about PCCs.

I expect the public will exercise this important new democratic right and vote.

What is certainly not for debate is that whatever happens, and however many thousands of people turn out to vote in each force area, every single PCC will have more legitimacy to make important decisions - decisions about what the police do - than the existing unaccountable, invisible police authorities.

From the 15 November onwards any development in crime prevention, policing and criminal justice will need to engage PCCs and they will be key in its implementation.

This puts the public at the heart of policy making, and at the heart of policing. 

In three days time information about every candidate will be published online.  And you will all have seen the Home Office’s advertising campaign that has been running this month on television and print, explaining the reforms and encouraging participation in the elections.

And I’ve been going out around the country to persuade the public about the benefits PCCs can bring and why they should go out and vote and will be continuing to do so right up until polling day.  Although the main job for this goes out to PCC candidates.

Of course, candidates have a job to campaign hard, engaging the public, and setting out how PCCs will deliver on their priorities and give them a seat around the table when decision about policing and crime are made.  

These are historic elections and those who are successful will be pioneers in this new policing landscape. 

Updates to this page

Published 23 October 2012