Police reform: Home Secretary's speech on 30 January 2012

The Home Secretary delivered this speech on 30 January 2012.

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

The police do one of the most important jobs in this country.

They do their work with great courage, great skill and great commitment.

In fact, I believe Britain has the finest police officers in the world.

But we can help them do their job even more effectively.

Today I want to talk about the government’s radical programme of police reform, about how those reforms are starting to take shape, how the police are already responding and about how they will leave us with a police force that is answerable to the public and transformed in its ability to fight crime.

When people talk about public service reform it’s often through the prism of cuts. With the deficit we have, that’s understandable, but it’s just not what our police reforms are about.

Of course, the need to make savings makes reform more urgent than ever. But the aim of our police reforms is not just to save money, it’s to equip the police to face the future and make them more effective at fighting crime.

The Winsor Report

Last year, I said at another reform event that we would need to take difficult decisions to save police jobs and fight crime. We would need to reform police pay and conditions, not just to make savings, but also to reinvest some of those savings in the frontline, and reward skills, performance and crime-fighting.

When the police spend around £11 billion per year on pay - three quarters of total police spending - we have to get it right. That’s why I commissioned Tom Winsor to carry out a full independent review of police pay and conditions.

The existing police pay system was designed over 30 years ago. Since then, the way the police work has changed a great deal. But the way they are paid has not. In the late 1970s, for example, the vast majority of officers regularly worked unsocial hours. Now only around 60 per cent do.

Since the 1970s, pay systems in the private and the wider public sector have changed to recognise and reward specialist skills. The most productive employees are paid more. Incentives are used to improve performance.

But in the police that doesn’t happen enough. Skills, performance and successful crime fighting aren’t rewarded. Time served still determines how well most police officers are paid. And I don’t think that’s right.

So I asked Tom Winsor to design a system that is fair to the taxpayer and fair to police officers and staff. I asked him to help maximise deployment to frontline roles. And I asked him to allow chief constables to deploy modern management practices that give them the flexibility they need to cut crime.

After a thorough and considered review, Winsor provided us with the outline of what a modern police pay structure could look like. He produced a package that is fair to the police and that is fair to the taxpaying public. A package that can produce savings and improve incentives, that recognises and rewards specialist skills and frontline service, not just time served.

The Winsor Report has been considered by the independent police arbitration tribunal, and I can announce today that I am accepting all of the tribunal’s recommendations in full.

I know that some police officers will be disappointed by this outcome. But I want to stress that there will be no reduction in basic pay. Extra payments will be targeted at frontline staff and those doing the most demanding work. And the total savings will represent less than two per cent of the total police pay bill. Policing will remain a well-paid job. 

And the fact remains that if we hadn’t taken this tough decision, we would have had to cut police budgets more deeply and there would have had to be more police job cuts. That is something that neither the police nor the public wants. 

Once the PAT’s recommendations have been fully implemented they will save around £150 million per year.

Already police forces like Surrey and Cambridgeshire have begun recruiting again. ACPO believe more will start in the next financial year.

The Second Winsor Report

In response to the first Winsor report, there were a few areas on which the police arbitration tribunal explicitly made no decision.

The most important was Winsor’s proposed expertise and professional accreditation allowance.

This payment was intended to link the pay that officers receive to the skills they have acquired and use. The link between pay and skills is a vitally important principle. In every walk of life, people are paid according to their skills. The same should be true for the police. That is why this principle will be considered again when we look at the second part of Tom Winsor’s review.

This second report will look into police pay and conditions in the longer-term, including basic pay, career length and pension age and the pay negotiating machinery. In particular, it will consider the introduction of direct entry into the police. I have been clear that I want to see a widening of the pool of talent from which police leaders are drawn.

So I look forward to Tom Winsor’s Part 2 recommendations.

Helping the Police to Make Savings

We’re leaving no stone unturned in our work to make the police more efficient.

Police forces spend over £1 billion per year on information and communications technology. There are 5000 police ICT staff, working on 2000 separate systems, across 100 different data centres. The scope for savings is clear.

That’s why last year I announced the creation of a police information and communications technology company to help police forces improve their systems and save money.

ICT is crucial to policing, but the company will allow IT professionals to do the IT and the crime fighters to do the crime fighting. And by harnessing the combined purchasing power of police forces, the company will be able to drive down costs, drive up value and save the public money.

We’re also helping police forces to come together and use their collective buying power to procure goods and services from uniforms to patrol cars. It makes no sense for the police to buy things in 43 different ways, but this is what happens. One supplier has over 1,500 individual contracts with the 43 forces. No wonder prices are so high.

By putting in place framework contracts for standard things like body armour we can cut out this needless waste.

Our police procurement programme has already realised savings of £34 million - a total projected to rise to around £70 million by the end of this financial year and to approximately £200 million per year by the end of the spending review period.

Most forces recognise the huge financial benefits that this standardised and collective purchasing can bring. But in exceptional cases, where a small minority are creating a barrier to the rest making savings, then we’re prepared to mandate joint action. That’s why Nick Herbert, the policing minister, announced last week that we intend to require all forces to collaborate in the creation of the national police air service.

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

These are all savings that are being made because of action we’re taking, from the home office, to help the police.

But police forces are also doing a great deal to help themselves to rise to the challenge - and I want to praise them for the way they have responded to both the need to reform and the need to save money.

Greater Manchester police have saved £62 million per year from their support functions and have released 348 police officers from these roles so they can get back to frontline roles.

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.

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

Reducing Bureaucracy

But good policing is not just about numbers and our police reforms are about more than just money.  We are also freeing the police to get on with fighting crime.

Police officers join the force because they want to catch criminals and keep their communities safe. And yet for too long those officers have been hamstrung by red tape and form filling. Well we’re changing all that.

That’s why I’ve announced a package of measures that will cut police bureaucracy and save up to 3.3 million police hours per year. That’s the equivalent of putting over 1,500 police officers back on the streets.

I know that senior officers and chief constables don’t want their officers stuck in the station - they want them on the frontline.

And the evidence is already mounting that they’re succeeding in protecting that frontline.

Last week’s figures show we will have a smaller police workforce overall. But Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary have found that police forces across England and Wales were planning to increase the proportion of police officers working on the frontline from 68% in 2010 to 70% by March of this year and with that trend predicted to continue.

I want to see that proportion continue to go up because it’s what’s effective in fighting crime and it’s what the public want.

So our reforms are protecting thousands of police officer jobs, saving millions of police man hours, and making the police more visible and available to the public than ever before.

Empowering the Public

Empowering the public is the theme than runs through our whole police reform programme. The police are a public service: they should serve and respond to local people. That is why we are introducing directly elected police and crime commissioners.

From November this year, they will bring democratic accountability to the police. They will have the local knowledge and understanding to set their force’s policing priorities. They will have the democratic mandate to set the police budget and the council tax precept. And they will have the power to hold chief constables to account for the performance of their force.

Earlier this month, the mayor of London became the police and crime commissioner for the metropolitan police force area. This important milestone means that London can now benefit from direct local accountability over its police force, with the elected mayor, not the metropolitan police authority, setting policing priorities for London.

But police and crime commissioners are only one way in which we are strengthening the link between the police and the public.

Earlier this month we launched a single non-emergency number to contact the police - 101 - to replace the various 0845 numbers used by forces around the country.

101 gives an easy-to-remember number for the public to use when they need to contact the police when it’s not an emergency, for example to report a crime that has already happened, to get advice or to raise local policing issues.

And there have already been nearly 3 million calls to the 101 number.

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

And as well as making it easier to contact the police, we’re also giving the public more information than ever before about crime and policing in their area through street-level crime maps.

Last year, our crime mapping website - police.uk - received more hits than any other government website.

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.

Tomorrow we’ll launch the next stage of crime mapping, in which we’ll start to map crimes to or near 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 - what action the police took and what the criminal justice outcome was. You’ll be able to see if the criminal was arrested, charged and sent to prison.

Armed with the information from those crime maps, people can attend their local neighbourhood beat meeting and hold their local police to account for their performance.

That will help drive up local policing standards and help drive down local crime.

Local crime includes, of course, anti-social behaviour.

But we know in the past the authorities have not always heard cries for help from vulnerable victims.

So we have been working with eight police forces and their local partners to test new ways of handling calls from the public about anti-social behaviour. The aim was to quickly identify the vulnerable and those who reported incidents repeatedly, and to prioritise their cases.

The eight forces have reported encouraging initial results from the trials - including better working relationships with other agencies, an improved service to the victim and the start of a shift in culture, with call handlers responding to the needs of the victim, rather than just ticking boxes.

Most importantly, forces have been able to identify high-risk individuals - often people experiencing the most horrendous abuse - who might otherwise have slipped through the net. And they have taken action to make that abuse stop.

So we will now work with police forces nationwide to share the lessons of the trials so that every community can benefit.

It’s too easy to overlook the harm that persistent anti-social behaviour causes. Many police forces, councils and housing providers are working hard, but I still hear horror stories of victims reporting the same problem over and over again, and getting no response.

Just last week I met a woman who had been telling the police about anti-social behaviour in her area for over two years - and it’s still going on.

These long-running problems - and the sense of helplessness that goes with them - can destroy a victim’s quality of life and shatter a community’s trust in the police.

That’s why we proposed a ‘community trigger’ as part of our reforms to anti-social behaviour laws. The trigger will give victims and communities the right to demand that agencies who had ignored a problem must take action.

So we are now working with a number of local authorities to test the community trigger on the ground and pilots will begin by the summer.


But I don’t just want crime to be better tackled locally. I also want us to get a much better grip on crime nationally.

The growth of international travel and the revolution in communications technology, that has benefited us all, has also been exploited by criminals.

Their networks and activities have changed and evolved, but our response has not kept pace. Law enforcement officers currently believe organised crime costs the UK between £20 and £40 billion per year and involves over 39,000 individuals, operating as part of over 7,000 gangs - though the true numbers may be even higher.

The drug dealing on street corners; the muggings by addicts; the gang violence that is used to protect a drugs market. All these crimes happening in local communities are fundamentally driven by organised crime.

And as well as growing, the threat from organised crime is also changing.

Increasingly, the biggest criminal losses do not come from the burglar who breaks into houses to steal TVs or DVD players, but from the cyber criminal who raids bank accounts directly.

A child can now be at greater risk sat in their bedroom on their computer than they are outside the school gates.

And given the nature of the criminal threat, 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.

That’s why we need a powerful new crime fighting force that works across different police forces and agencies, defending our borders, coordinating action on economic crime, protecting children and vulnerable people, and active in cyber space.

That body will be the national crime agency

With Keith Bristow - who is here today - at its head, the NCA will have the remit to work across geographical and organisational boundaries.

I see the NCA as having three important characteristics:

  • It must have a positive effect on the safety of local communities by joining up the law enforcement response from the local to the national and the international. People will be safer and feel safer.
  • It must act as the controlling hand, by owning the coordinated intelligence picture; working with law enforcement to decide on the highest priority criminal targets; agreeing the action necessary to tackle them; and having the power to ensure that action is taken.
  • It must bring its own contribution to the fight against serious, organised and complex crime - that means having its own intelligence gathering and investigative capacity; sophisticated technical skills; and a presence internationally, at the border and in cyber space.

So the NCA will make all neighbourhoods safer, it will be at the heart of a joined up law enforcement response, and it will lead the fight against the most dangerous criminals and their gangs.

That is how the NCA will help cut crime and help lock up serious criminals - and that is a real prize.

Becoming fully operational from 2013, the benefits of the NCA are already being felt.  The economic crime coordination board, which brings together agencies to build the economic crime command in the NCA, is already up and running.  Last week saw a multi agency operation targeting money mule accounts - front bank accounts used for money laundering. It involved 9 agencies and saw 13 arrests, with prevention and disruption activity now underway.

As it ramps up the NCA will continue to help cut crime.

And that will help every local community in the country.

Developing Police Professionalism

As well as developing police structures we also need to develop police professionals.

That means helping the police at all levels - from the constables who form the bedrock of British policing through to their senior leaders - helping them to be the best they can be.

Over the past 30 years, police officers and staff have increasingly come to see themselves as part of a profession - a specialist and expert group of crime fighters. And so it’s only right that they should have their own professional body to help further increase that professionalism.

So we are working with the police service to establish a police professional body, which will be up and running by the end of the year.

The professional body will represent all ranks, staff and officers.

It will set standards; safeguard police ethics and integrity; design, accredit and deliver police training; develop police leadership; and advise on recruitment, career progression and professional development.

Crucially, the police professional body must not be an organisation that serves only senior officers and it must not only listen to the top brass.

I want to see the professional body drawing on the views, skills and expertise of all officers and staff, and in particular those working on the frontline.

By acting in the interests of the entire police service, by setting standards, improving training and talking for the service, the police professional body can help equip the police with the skills they need to tackle the future.


From the graffiti and litter that blights a local area; to the binge drinking and drug dealing that makes people frightened to step outside; right up to the criminal gangs who flaunt their illegal wealth and cheat the exchequer out of millions - our police reforms will help fight them all.

We’ll ensure the police tackle local priorities, by giving power to elected police and crime commissioners.

We’ll help lock up the drug lords by creating a national crime agency.

We’ll let police officers get back on the frontline by freeing them from paperwork.

We’ll give officers incentives to acquire specialist skills and serve the public.

And we’ll improve the way they’re led.

Our reforms are ambitious, comprehensive and they are happening right now.

They will transform the police service so it is fit to face the future and fit to fight crime.

Thank you.


Published 30 January 2012