Police reform: Home Secretary's speech at the reform conference

This speech was given by the Home Secretary on 29 February 2012 at the reform conference.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This morning we learned the sad news that PC David Rathband has died.

I had the privilege of meeting PC Rathband. He was a brave and fine policeman. My thoughts are with his family.

The theme of today’s conference is the next ten years. Over those next ten years, the blue lamp foundation - the charity that PC Rathband founded - will help many more heroic emergency service staff injured in the line of duty. That is a fitting tribute to PC Rathband’s legacy.

Today’s conference is discussing some of the most important issues facing our country today: how to build a flourishing economy, how to strengthen our society and how to reform government.

It is clear that a great deal will happen in the next ten years. But crime, anti-social behaviour and community safety will continue to be near the top of the public’s list of priorities.

So today I want to talk to you about my vision of how the police service will look ten years from now - how they will be more professional and better led; how they will spend more time on the streets and less time doing paperwork; how they will be better at tackling serious and organised crime; and how they will be answerable to the public and more effective at fighting crime.

Leaner and Stronger

I want to start by saying that the police have responded impressively to the need for change.

This is one public service whose leaders generally recognise the difficult economic times and understand the benefits that reform can bring.

Over the next ten years the public will continue to demand value for money and efficiency in their public services. And many police forces have already started taking action.

Greater Manchester police, for example, have saved £62 million per year from their support functions, releasing 348 police officers from these roles so they can get back to frontline work.

Surrey Police have carried out a significant restructuring which has allowed them to commit to increasing constable numbers by up to 200 over the next four years.

And in my own constituency force, Thames Valley, they have slashed support costs, saving over £15 million this year and allowing them to redeploy 35 officers to frontline roles in neighbourhoods or on patrol, with an ambition to redeploy a further 100 officers to the frontline over the next two years.

Some forces are going even further, moving beyond restructuring and outsourcing to building strategic relationships with the private sector.

By harnessing private sector innovation, skills and economies of scale, forces can transform the way they work and improve the service they provide to the public.

We have been supporting Surrey and West Midlands police in a joint programme to explore the value of this business partnering. The procurement notice went out earlier this year and we hope this will lead to a contract next spring.

Cheshire Police have entered into a framework contract with cap gemini for a shared services centre for their back office functions. Cheshire are now collaborating with Northamptonshire - a force that is far away geographically - to develop and build a single centre to support both forces.

And you will probably also have seen that Lincolnshire police recently signed a business partnering contract with G4S, which is projected to save them £28 million over the next ten years, and which will help to protect frontline services.

The contract includes a wide range of both back and middle office functions, including a custody unit, control room, enquiry office, licensing units HR and finance.

The point here is that the public don’t care how a force delivers its HR and finance functions. They just want a police force that fights crime effectively and provides them with a high-quality service. And they will continue to demand that over the next ten years.

In government we can act as enablers and encouragers of reform, helping the police to make savings at the same time as they improve services.

In information and communications technology for example, we’ve announced the creation of a specialist Police ICT company, aimed at improving police systems and saving them money.

We’re also helping forces to use their collective buying power to procure goods and services. It makes no sense for each of our 43 police forces to buy things in 43 different ways. Police equipment that’s cheap and effective in Manchester will probably be just as cheap and just as effective in Merseyside.

By putting in place framework contracts for standard things like police cars and body armour we have already helped the police to realise savings of at least £34 million, rising to £200 million per year by the end of the spending review period.

Most forces want to work with us and with other forces to save money. They know that any costs they cut from paying their suppliers can go straight back into fighting crime.

But where a small minority are stopping the rest making savings, then we’re prepared to mandate joint action. That’s what we’ve done with the announcement that we will require all forces to collaborate in the creation of a national police air service.

This will ultimately save £15 million per year and result in a better and more consistently available air service for forces across the country.

So, with reforms like this, in ten years’ time the police will be leaner. But they will also be stronger.

More Accountable and Better Connected to the Public

But as well as saving money, our reforms are also about making policing better.

So we are rebuilding the link between the police and the public.

In November, the first elections for police and crime commissioners will take place. They will then be held again in May 2016 and May 2020. So by 2022 some police and crime commissioners will probably be into their third term in office.

By then, we will have a cadre of high-performing, high-profile figures, committed to helping the police to drive down crime.

Elected by local people, police and crime commissioners will have the democratic mandate to set their local police force budget.

They will respond to local people’s concerns and will set the force’s policing priorities accordingly.

And they will have the power to hold their chief constable to account for the performance of the force.

So in 2022 it won’t be some unelected committee that sets the level of council tax precept that you pay for policing. It won’t be an invisible organisation that decides what your police force’s priorities should be. It will be a well-known, local person. Someone you’ve heard of, someone you’ve voted for, someone you trust. And if you don’t like that person and you don’t like their policing policies then you can vote them out. That’s the beauty of democratic accountability.

When they are elected in November police and crime commissioners will already have substantial powers and significant budgetary autonomy.
From 2013, they will be given the community-safety budgets that used to go to local agencies. In London, drug intervention money is already going through the mayor.

From 2014, we have proposed that they should take over responsibility for the local commissioning of victims’ services, bringing real meaning to the ‘commissioner’ part of their role.

And just as in London, where the mayor has assumed greater responsibilities over time, I expect that by 2022 the success of police and crime commissioners will have led to them being granted more powers and more responsibilities.

As commissioners for crime - as well as for policing - it is likely that they will have a broader role in the criminal justice system.

They already have a statutory duty to consult with victims of crime on setting policing priorities in their local area. And I believe victims of crime will call for them to be given more powers over other areas as well.

Victims might expect to see the PCC working with probation services to tackle reoffending, helping prisons to rehabilitate offenders and speeding up justice.

The public will also expect the police and crime commissioners they have voted for to use their influence and their money to trial innovative solutions to entrenched local problems.

Working with local partners such as probation, health, education and local voluntary organisations, they will have the democratic mandate to cut through local bureaucracy and to lead efforts to bring down crime and tackle antisocial behaviour.

So police and crime commissioners will bring real and tangible benefits in the fight against crime, as well as helping reconnect the police and the public.

But they’re not the only way that we are helping people connect with their police force.

Earlier this year we introduced 101 - a new single, non-emergency number for the public to use to contact the police. And already there have been over 4 million calls to the 101 number.

If you want to speak to the police in person rather than over the phone, then we’ve made that much easier too, by mandating the police to hold local neighbourhood beat meetings.

And we’re providing the public with more information than ever before about crime and policing through our innovative street-level crime maps - the most visited government website last year.

In future, those crime maps will evolve and improve.

Since October the public have been able to use the police.uk website to see how their force performs in a range of areas like crime rates, quality of service and victim satisfaction.

Last month we began mapping crimes near to a range of public places like railway stations, nightclubs, parks and shopping areas.

By May, crime maps will show the public what happens after a crime has occurred - whether the criminal was arrested, charged and went to prison.

Already we are seeing smartphone apps and independent websites that use the crime mapping data in different ways.

By 2022 crime maps will have developed in ways we can not yet imagine.

Increasingly, people will use the data from crime maps to challenge their neighbourhood police on what they’re doing to tackle local crime.

What’s happening about the dark alley where there’s been a spate of muggings? What’s being done to stop the graffiti on the local estate? How are the police going to stop the drug dealing near the local school?

And so the force performance accountability provided by police and crime commissioners will be backed up by the local accountability of beat meetings and crime mapping.

Accountability drives up standards. And higher standards will drive down local crime.

Better at Tackling National Level Crime

But it’s not just local crime that I want to be better tackled. I also want the police to get a much better grip on national level crime.

The growth of international travel shows no signs of slowing; the pace and scope of the information technology revolution will surely only increase over the next ten years.

But these hugely beneficial trends for society will also continue to be exploited by criminals.

As technology becomes cheaper and as more transactions move online, people will face bigger losses from the cyber criminal raiding their bank account directly than from the burglar breaking in and stealing their DVD player.

This means it is now no longer possible to keep communities safe through good local policing alone. Highly visible neighbourhood policing is vital, but it won’t deal with cyber crime. Arresting drug dealers is important, but it won’t stop the flow of drugs from overseas.

Organised crime currently costs the UK between £20 and £40 billion per year. As society becomes more reliant on the internet and other technologies, and as globalisation continues, the danger is that without a significantly improved law enforcement response the organised crime threat will increase and accelerate.

That is why we need a significantly improved law enforcement response. And that is why we are creating the national crime agency.

The NCA will be a powerful new crime fighting body that works across police force boundaries, defending our borders, coordinating action on economic crime, protecting children and vulnerable people, and active in cyber space.

The NCA will help make local communities safer, connecting to local policing and with its own local presence.

It will own the joined up intelligence picture; decide on the highest priority criminal targets; and have the power to decide which agency tackles those targets.

And it will bring its own contribution to the fight against national crime, through its own intelligence gathering capability, sophisticated technical skills, and a presence at the border and in cyber space.

The NCA will be augmented by the new strategic policing requirement, which will place a duty on local police forces to tackle the national threats which will change and develop over the next ten years such as cyber crime, terrorism and public disorder.

Becoming fully operational from 2013, by 2022 the benefits of the NCA will be embedded and its impact will be considerable.

Organised criminals, fraudsters and people traffickers will no longer feel they are above the law.

Their lives will be made a misery, just as their victims’ lives are now made a misery.

They will be tracked and targeted.

They will live in fear of losing their liberty and their criminal gains.

And I hope that will mean there will be fewer of them.

Because that will help every business, every person and every community in our country.

Less Bureaucratic; More Trusted

So our reforms will help the police tackle both local and national level crime.

But as we’ve seen over the years, those improvements will mean nothing if the police are just given more and more paperwork instead.

That’s because if police officers are sat at their desks filling in forms, then they can’t be out on the streets catching criminals.

That’s why I’ve announced an ambitious programme to cut police bureaucracy which is already projected to save 3.3 million police hours per year. That’s the equivalent of putting over 1,500 police officers back on the streets.

But my ambition is to carry on cutting bureaucracy each year, every year. To do that, we need the wholehearted personal commitment of every chief constable and every senior police officer.

That’s because a great deal of the bureaucracy that police officers face doesn’t actually come from the home office - it comes from within their own force.

In future, I want to see a change in policing culture so that frontline officers feel they can challenge bureaucratic processes, outdated systems or old fashioned ways of working.

That requires officers with the confidence to speak up.

It requires leaders who are open to innovation.

And it requires a change in culture, with officers’ professional judgement and experience counting for more than some central regulation; with officer discretion valued and encouraged; and with officers free to fight crime as they see fit.

It will take time to turn around the tick-the-box, follow-the-guidelines, cover-your-back culture that’s developed over the years. But I am determined that we will do so because I believe the only way we can deal with the challenges of the future is to trust the policing professionals.

Better Led and More Professional

Central to creating a new culture in policing must be improved police leadership.

I am shortly due to receive the second part of Tom Winsor’s review of policing, which will consider the issue of direct entry into the senior ranks of policing.

I cannot say what Winsor will recommend. But I can set out my vision for police leadership in 2022.

I have been clear that I want to see a widening of the pool of talent from which police leaders are drawn.

We are building here on significant strengths. All the police leaders I meet place public service first. And they all have that ‘can do’ attitude that is so typical of the police - they seek solutions, not problems. These and other qualities should be celebrated and strengthened.

But in ten years’ time, I expect police leaders - and the whole of the police workforce - will come from a wider range of backgrounds and experience.

That means having not only more women police leaders and more senior officers from ethnic minorities, it also means having leaders who have gained broader experience and new perspectives in fields like business and the wider public sector. That might be through direct entry; it might be through more secondments of senior officers into and out of the service.

Broader experience means that non-policing perspectives will be given more value. Work in the corporate world might mean that collaboration is seen more as a benefit than a threat. Exposure to strategic roles will encourage long-term thinking in an organisation which, for obvious reasons, can sometimes prefer instant decision making. These are the benefits of broadening the police leadership talent pool.

Alongside any changes that Tom Winsor’s review might recommend, there are concrete steps we have already announced to improve police leadership.

By the end of the year we will have established a new police professional body to help all ranks, staff and officers, to develop and increase their professionalism.

As well as developing police leadership, the new body will also set standards; safeguard police ethics and integrity; design, accredit and deliver police training; and advise on recruitment, career progression and professional development.

It will draw on the views, skills and expertise of all officers and staff, and in particular those working on the frontline.

And it will be an authoritative voice on policing issues.

Acting in the public interest to serve the police, it will have significant independent input, with an independent chair of its governing board and an equal balance on the board between police representatives and independent members, including police and crime commissioners.

By 2022, the police professional body will be a central feature of the policing landscape, helping to equip the police with the skills they need to face the future; helping to ensure they are better led and more professional.

Skills and Incentives

As well as providing the structures to help the police improve their professionalism, we also need to provide them with the incentives to gain specialist skills, to work unsocial hours and to operate on the frontline.

Those are the aims of our reforms to police pay and conditions, the details of which were set out in the first part of Tom Winsor’s review.

The existing police pay system was designed over 30 years ago. I believe our ambitious police pay reforms will endure for as long as the last set of reforms.

Our pay reforms are designed to reward the very best officers, those doing the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the service of the public, those with specialist skills and those who work unsociable hours.

They are fair to the taxpayer and fair to police officers and staff. They will help maximise deployment to frontline roles. And they will give chief constables the ability to deploy modern management practices that give them the flexibility they need to cut crime.

We will need to revisit precisely how we link pay to skills in the next stage of our policy pay reforms.

But I am clear on the principle that, just as in every other walk of life, police officers should be paid according to their skills.


Over the last 10 years there have been many fundamental changes in our society - the growth of the internet, online commerce and social networking; the continued spread of globalisation; and the changing nature of the threat from international terrorism to name but three.

The same will be true of the next ten years. The world of 2022 will be different in ways that we cannot predict and can scarcely imagine.

So it is our task in government, and it is my task as home secretary, to equip the police to face the future, whatever it may hold.

Our reforms will mean that in 2022 the police will be stronger and leaner; delivering better services for less.

They will mean the police will be closer to the public: interacting with them in new and innovative ways and, for the first time, properly accountable to local people.

They will mean officers will spend more time fighting crime and serving the public, and less time doing paperwork; with greater skills and greater incentives to work on the frontline.

They will mean a stronger grip on serious and organised crime.

And they will mean a more professional police force, led by officers with wider experience and from broader backgrounds.

Leaner, stronger, better led, more professional and more accountable to the public.

A police service that looks like that in 2022 will be able to cut crime and enhance community safety.

And that is what the police and the public want to see.

Thank you.


Published 29 February 2012