Policing Minister Damian Green addresses the Association of Police and Crime Commisioners general meeting.
My speech to the last gathering of this group in January focused on innovations and challenges in 2014. I will certainly touch on these themes again here but I also want to bring in some new and wider perspectives and take some time to reflect as we come towards the end of your first full financial year of operation.
We are also of course moving towards the mid-term point in your cycle and I am pretty clear that the new model is bedding in well and starting to thrive in many areas around the country. When we were celebrating your anniversary last November, the Home Secretary noted that “localism is always messy and uneven, and reform is always difficult and uncertain”. And the last few months have brought new challenges and opportunities (from rehabilitation reform to police precepts and the crisis care concordat).
But the framework is clear; you have negotiated some early choppy waters and you are now pressing ahead. And, increasingly, many of the answers are not to be found at the centre.
With this shift in mind, I really welcome the dialogue that we have, both in this forum and day-to-day. There are things we can do – that I can do – at the centre to nudge, to help clear obstacles, to champion and to ensure progress. Indeed sometimes to prod. But I am also clear that there are many other issues where central government just needs to give you room to work.
Police and Crime Commissioners Leading the Way
Like many of you, I have been spending happy hours in the company of the Home Affairs Select Committee. When I was there last month I was clear that not only are you leading the way on public engagement but that you are also leading the way in terms of innovation.
Your bids for the innovation fund illustrate this leadership very clearly. 65 bids were successful and gained a share of the £20 million we made available in this financial year, ahead of a further £50 million next year. But this is not the only example of the pioneering work that you have been leading.
Police and Crime Commissioners are providing leadership on topics that have previously been dealt with at the centre. Martyn Underhill and others have been leading work on mental health which has really started to bear fruit now. They have also been involved in the drafting of the recently published mental health crisis care concordat which is itself a terrific achievement and evidence of Commissioners generating common cause on the issues that matter most to them, their forces and their communities.
Similarly, I know that Nick Alston is galvanizing partners on Police IT issues, whilst Ron Hogg, Barry Coppinger and Vera Baird have launched a shared twenty-point plan to tackle violence against women and girls in the North East.
And perhaps the clearest example of collective work by Commissioners leading the way in public policy is your work to chart the future course for national police leadership. Having initiated and delivered Nick Parker’s report into the Association of Chief Police Officers, there will be much for Commissioners to do to bring its recommendations to life.
And even a skim of the agenda today shows Commissioners leading the way: John Dwyer on procurement; Katy Bourne on youth issues; Ian Johnston on workforce matters.
A Unique Role in the Criminal Justice System
And it is important because you hold a unique public office and you are bringing fresh and innovative approaches to bear. There have been calls for a bigger leadership role in the criminal justice system for Commissioners. And I agree; what PCCs have learnt about public accountability can bring great value to agencies across the system.
The Act contained a duty to cooperate for Commissioners and criminal justice partners which – although broad – set the scene for a substantial local leadership role. We are seeing this in practice with Commissioners establishing themselves as significant forces in local justice matters and taking seats (sometimes even the Chair) at their local criminal justice boards.
And I have heard your challenge that there is an insufficient role for Commissioners in relation to the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. These reforms are significant and fundamental and new providers of probation services will need to work closely with Police and Crime Commissioners to achieve their objective of reducing reoffending.
And I have been impressed with the way that Commissioners have - collectively and individually - got to grips with the programme, whether at the national level through the PCC reference group, or at the local level, working with the competition teams that are now in place. Your robust, regular and positive discussions have genuinely influenced the reforms and ensured that the commissioning process is informed by local needs and your local priorities.
And I am glad to say that you have worked collaboratively to ensure that your local information is available to bidders and to develop the local events in your force areas so that the bidders fully understand your priorities. I know that bidders have really valued these events and the chance to hear directly from you and your offices.
So I hope that you will continue to engage with these reforms and with the potential new providers of probation services appropriately and directly. I know that you are using your local partnership links to ensure a smooth transition to make sure the reforms are a success.
This has been possible, and been understood in justice circles to be essential, because of those substantial statutory powers you already hold. And those same powers will be the key to setting the tone for cooperative work with providers once they are delivering these services. Once again, your ability to work collectively, even where the new service areas are complex, has been vital.
In picking up the mantle for victim support services you have an opportunity to cement your wider justice system leadership role. It is an area of great importance to me - I’m the Victims’ Minister - and I know it is to you. Delivery here could be an indicator for future local and national developments. And by demonstrating your commitment to the wider justice sphere here, you make the best possible case for a broader local leadership role.
Beyond policing, it is on matters of community safety in particular where many of you have established yourselves locally. This is not only due to the portion of community safety funding which you hold but due to the recognition in law and among other partner agencies that you are pivotal figures. +
As well as another reciprocal duty to cooperate, you hold a wider suite of powers: to require reports; to convene; to make grants. I know that many of you are finding many of your strongest alliances and most fruitful engagements in the community safety world.
In Avon and Somerset, Sue Mountstevens has spearheaded work with Bristol City Council on a joint campaign to tackle ‘sexting’ and inappropriate online sexual activity amongst young people. A number of Commissioners are championing community messaging systems with their local partnerships. And in Bedfordshire Olly Martins is drawing together local partners to take a coordinated approach to demand management across public services.
So, everywhere I go, I see you bringing new impetus to crime, justice and partnership issues – which after all are right at the heart of your role. It may be that the next round of innovation funding could be another place to explore some of these new directions, especially if there has been a financial barrier to progress. I hope you and your teams are well advanced in your plans for the first round proper. And I can guarantee it won’t be as much of a rush as the precursor fund process.
Innovation and Collaboration
Though we are providing seed funding under the innovation fund it is clearly not the only place for innovative ideas to find support and take root – you have shown this in your management of the budgets already in your gift. In many areas you have been proving yourselves lean, fast and decisive – characteristics you will need to keep a firm grip on as you move into the next financial year and face the challenges that it brings.
And as that financial challenge increases, the kind of whole-system thinking that you can bring to bear becomes ever more vital. The next savings strategy needs to do even more to cut across the organisational silos - delivering cross-cutting savings plans not single-agency ones.
Police-to-police collaborations will continue to have a huge impact on how the forces involved operate – and because you are collaborating on similar services, there may at times be greater scope to move at relative speed to make changes and release savings.
And these savings are helping to protect what matters most to your local communities. In Hertfordshire, for instance, I know that collaborative work with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire has enabled the Commissioner to protect the look and feel of local and neighborhood policing across the county’s ten districts.
It is not surprising that – when seeking collaboration partners – services so often turn to those who look most like them. Now, I don’t want you to think that I don’t see the business case for this kind of collaboration or that I don’t support it. I absolutely do. However, there is also much to be gained from looking outside policing.
I know that many Commissioners have been vocal about wanting to cast a wide net and to find partners across the public and private sector. And I know that some are already finding real and material ways to do this.
Mark Reckless asked me some good questions at the Home Affairs Select Committee about the scope of collaboration. We were talking, essentially, about collaborating in three dimensions. With the police, clearly, but also with wider blue-light services. The third dimension is with other local partners like councils.
The potential scope and opportunities will vary but as I told the Committee, the real, long-term answer is to develop all three dimensions. The habit of collaboration is a good one to get into. This is not about power and parochialism. The real strength of the collaborative Commissioner comes in knowing where you can work together, and where you need to retain control.
And I know that some of you were considering proposals, as mooted by the Knight Review, for taking responsibility for local fire and rescue services. I am afraid that demand on Parliamentary time in the fourth, final and most of all short parliamentary session means that we are unable to legislate to enable this at this time. I know that some of you will be disappointed but, as I told the Home Affairs Select Committee, greater emergency services collaboration is one of the next big areas of reform and remains something we are fully committed to.
There are already many good examples of police forces working with the fire and ambulance services to save police time, deliver a faster emergency response, tackle issues such as anti-social behaviour and save money.
And I would invite all of you to consider the extent of the collaboration opportunity with your local fire and ambulance services. With this in mind, I welcome the working group that David Lloyd has established. It was also encouraging to see the national leads for policing, Chief Fire Officers and Ambulance Chief Executives releasing a joint statement of intent, committing them to emergency services collaboration.
Clearly, I won’t be telling you now how to collaborate or with which service. Rather we will work closely with you and with national services leads to drive the work forward in a coordinated way. Equally, Ministers from the three key departments will continue to work together to consider the non-legislative barriers Government can remove and the support we can give to drive collaboration.
As you know, the Home Secretary approved £3.8 million of funding from the precursor police innovation fund to encourage such joint working. Through next year’s police innovation fund we will look to support further innovative ideas which get the emergency services working together. This will continue into 2015/16 when, as well as the innovation fund, DCLG will be providing £75 million to support the transformation of fire authorities in England, with a significant amount available for bids seeking to increase collaboration.
Confidence and Transparency
I want now to take the time to reflect on the challenges a little too, as well as the opportunities. On the 6th of March, the Home Secretary delivered a statement to the House on the findings of Mark Ellison’s review. As she said, what that report shows is deeply troubling. You will have all seen the report and our response, including the establishment of a public enquiry, led by a judge, to investigate undercover policing. In February last year the Home Secretary announced to the House specific measures to address corruption and misconduct, to ensure greater transparency, to provide clearer rules on conduct, and to improve standards of professional behaviour.
In the Home Secretary’s recent statement she also said that she wanted to ensure that those who want to report corruption and misconduct are encouraged to do so, and that proposals to strengthen protection for whistleblowers would be brought forward in due course. We will also be creating a specific offence of police corruption. The Home Secretary was clear that there needs to be a change in culture and that we need to continue the work we have already done to reform the police. This includes work on direct entry.
From this autumn, the police will, for the first time, have the opportunity to bring in talented and experienced leaders from other walks of life to senior ranks. Those coming in will receive world-class training and will bring fresh perspectives - opening up police culture. The Home Secretary was clear in her statement to the House on the significance of these reforms. She noted her commitment to fund a cadre of new direct entrant superintendents from this autumn until spring 2018.
Today, I want to repeat the challenge that the Home Secretary issued to those forces: if you have not yet signed up, take up that opportunity. The public needs to know - now more than ever - that policing is not a closed shop. And since we last met, you will also have seen the National Audit Office’s review of Police Accountability. I’m not going to run through the findings line by line here – I am sure you have all spent hours doing so - but I want to highlight a couple of points. Availability of information required by statute remained an issue. Whilst your teams have had much to do to establish the new arrangements, I do want findings of this kind to become a thing of the past. The report was right - a lack of accessible information limits the public’s ability to hold you to account. Transparency is a vital aspect of the new policing model – it is the counterpoint to the wide-ranging freedom and flexibility that Commissioners otherwise enjoy.
And it is the very fact of doing business fully in the public gaze that provides the best pressure valve for Commissioners – and the best response to public and media concerns about these unfamiliar new entities.
One of the biggest challenges we all face is an unhealthy disbelief about how far crime has dropped over the past 20 years (including the 10% reduction in crime over the past four years). For people born in an age where crime has always increased, it can be hard to win the argument that our communities are becoming safer places. People have become accustomed to thinking that crime can only go one way and that is up, even though all the data tells us the opposite is true. In a recent piece in the FT, the professor of police science at Cardiff University, Martin Innes, said “in the 1990s fear of crime was consistently the number one or two issue for British voters. Now it’s more likely to be number 5 or 6.” This should be good news – it should come hand-in-hand with increased feelings of safety.
I know you heard this morning from Professor Steven Shute, Chair of the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee on the topic of crime statistics and trust – another key part of the community confidence picture. There is clearly a long way to go with this but I am conscious of your efforts to build confidence in your communities. And I am grateful for that. Nothing can match the weight – the trust - that can be generated by local leaders, speaking on behalf of and from within the communities concerned.
I am also pleased to see that you started the day with a session with Tom Winsor – I’m sure that was a lively session. Tom Winsor has brought terrific grip and focus to the Inspectorate. I welcome his inspection on crime data integrity across all forces and look forward to seeing their report on this issue in April. This is a vitally important issue for us all.
It would be remiss of me not to talk about money as well. I am conscious that concerns endure about the mechanisms for national funding, and their impact on local resources following recent decisions around the resourcing of HMIC and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I am happy to listen to these concerns when I take questions but I need to be clear that although the Home Office is fiercely pro-localism, we remain accountable for the delivery of a coherent national system as well.
And HMIC plays a key role in this, shining a light on police outcomes that in turn allow for real democratic accountability for policing at the ballot box. Regular force inspections and assessments, carried out by HMIC, will give the public a clear, consistent and independent view of the quality of policing in their local area and nationally.
HMIC are aware of the need to reduce the burden of inspection and are committed to making best use of data already collected. I am also encouraged by Tom Winsor’s optimism that once the new programme of force inspections is up and running, HMIC will be able to considerably scale back its programme of thematic inspections. 2014/15 will therefore be a transition year with some short-term additional impact on forces.
Equally, in relation to police complaints, the Government is committed to providing the IPCC with the powers and resources it needs to provide the rigorous scrutiny of the police that the public expects. In 2014-15 we are providing an additional £18 million from the police settlement to build up the resource and capability of the IPCC. We believe that is a reasonable and proportionate amount to allow the IPCC to start building capacity and capability.
On day-to-day police complaints, many PCCs have been quick to provide their support with innovative ideas. I believe that local innovations and this transfer of resources to enable the IPCC to investigate the most serious and sensitive cases are compatible and that together they too will have a real impact on public confidence. I hope that I can rely on your support in that aim.
Police and Crime Panels
I opened with some comments on the adequacy of existing powers and of course, that doesn’t just apply to Commissioners. In recent debate and again at last month’s Select Committee I was challenged as to whether or not Police and Crime Panels have the necessary powers. I was quite clear that they do. Like the Select Committee itself, panels have the powers to call evidence and to make public statements.
Statutory procedures exist – rigorous ones – for some of the most extreme steps that a panel can take. We are seeing panels growing into the role - using their powers effectively and appropriately.
So have panels got enough powers? As I see it they have quite enough tools to create the good creative tension - the intended critical friendship role - that exists between Commissioner and panel in many areas. They don’t need any more guidance from me.
In conclusion, I want to turn one more time to the questions I was asked by the Home Affairs Select Committee. They asked if you PCCs are on probation. I said no. The office is new. It is staffed by powerful new elected figures keenly aware of their accountability to the public. And many of you are using your considerable powers for good.
As I said at the start, I value the dialogue we have here. And as I see it, increasingly these sessions will be about identifying innovation and plotting a course together to ensure policing is in the best possible position to continue to cut crime; commanding public trust and rising to new threats.