Rt Hon Damian Green MP speech at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners event
Speech given by Rt Hon Damian Green MP at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner (APCC) event on 23 January 2013
I would like to thank the APCC for inviting me to speak to you today.
I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Paul McKeever, the chair of the Police Federation who sadly died last week. Some of you may have known Paul – I did for a short time – he was a dedicated police officer and chair of the federation and my condolences and thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at the federation. The federation has its differences with the government, but Paul was always willing to listen to our views as we were his.
We are in the midst of the most significant and wide ranging programme of reform to policing. And you – the first Police and Crime Commissioners - are at the heart of this change.
Benefits of having a single association
I know that the APCC have been seeking your views on how best they can assist you to play a full part in shaping and leading this wide ranging programme of reform at the national level. When I spoke to you a few months ago I talked about the clear benefit of having a single representative body that acts on your behalf and in your interests at the national level.
Clearly how that body is formed and what it does, is for you to determine. But, as one of the individuals likely to be most affected by such a body - and you may not catch me saying this once I feel the impact of such a body- I see no better way of ensuring, during this period of significant change, that your collective voice can be heard and acted upon at all levels. Particularly obviously inside central government.
I am of course realistic, you won’t always be able to speak with one voice, but as many of you will know MPs from all parties manage to come together on issues that require collective change and so do local councillors. So there are times when I expect you will see the value over coming together irrespective of your political backgrounds or particular views.
The local government association obviously represents councils of every colour so it is an example of how a desire to improve services for the public and influence national policy has gone beyond political divisions.
You have a powerful mandate. You are the voice of the public on policing and crime in your force areas and through a single body you will be able to amplify that voice at a national level.
Already, we have been consulting on a new pay review body and many of you as individuals have contributed to this important process. But on top of the value of these individual responses, that he will rightly take full account of, I was very grateful to receive the formal response from the APCC which demonstrated to me that there was indeed a consistency in your individual responses, and most importantly that when presented as a collective, they really do make a very direct impact.
So, there will be clearly times when it is in your interest to talk with a shared voice and these will increase over time.
Before the elections last November some people questioned what impact PCCs would make. I am glad to stand here today and say that already due to some of the decisions you have taken, and your dedication and drive, those voices have started to fall silent.
The public can already see evidence of innovative, and in some cases, radical ideas and initiatives , from you and your offices to tackle crime, the causes of crime, and to promote the police service in your communities.
It is simple: these positive developments, developments that will make a real difference to people’s lives in the communities you serve, would not be happening without you.
Some of the most recent ones that have struck a chord with me are:
The impressive amount of engagement that is happening with the public in setting plans and priorities; Plans, for example in Dorset, to set up community and victims forums for the public to raise issues about policing; The setting up of a youth commissioner in Kent; Plans in Staffordshire to explore recruitment of 200 new special constables and unlocking millions of pounds tied up by the force’s failure to sell its former HQ. Each of you will have other examples of how you are making a difference that I would like to hear about.
Of course there was great work going on before the elections and many of you will already be drawing on what works for your area.
Effective practice esp. IOM
It is also impossible not to mention the huge amount of engagement that you are doing with partners across the criminal justice system and beyond.
I know that many of you are ahead of the game and in the acronym you are using, PCC, the ‘C’ is important as well – you’re not just police commissioners you are crime commissioners as well.
In many areas the police, working closely with probation, prisons and other partners, have put in place local arrangements to tackle offending under the banner of Integrated Offender Management.
These arrangements bring a joint focus on the offenders who commit the most crime locally, or whose offending causes the most damage to the local community. Through effective joint working in this way, many areas have been able to turn around the lives of some of the most difficult and chaotic prolific offenders, whose offending obviously had such a negative impact on local communities.
If there aren’t such arrangements in place in your area, you may have already be asking: ‘why not?’. And the opportunity to share best practice is another benefit of coming together in forums like this. When we all work together, which is at the heart of the IOM approach, we can all make the best changes for the greater public good.
For our part, the government has set out its commitment to supporting these approaches as part of the reform proposals set out in the consultation paper ‘Transforming Rehabilitation: a revolution in the way we manage offenders’.
And I know that you will be a powerful and new voice in the dialogue which will form the process of consultation.
Looking ahead, I hope there are plenty more opportunities for innovation. One example is the work being done to create the new Police IT company.
Police IT Company
Whenever I meet police officers, one of the first things they complain about is the poor IT in many forces. I am sure that in your conversations with officers they will have made the same point to you.
We all know that technology and communications is a vital part of front line policing and in implementing change.
With significant cost pressures, many forces are now increasingly using digital and mobile technology to improve operational performance and as a lever for wider business change.
With police forces spending over £1bn per annum and employing over 4,000 ICT staff. I believe that the Police ICT Company gives you the opportunity to secure critical services for your force, to accelerate innovation and to help to make savings.
This is your Company, set up to deliver what you want for your force. But to get this company to work in the way you want, you need to take control. The choice is yours but this is an opportunity for you to take ownership.
I hope you see this as a real opportunity to achieve tangible results by working together. I urge you to take up the offer of the Company and use ICT as an enabler to keep officers on the front line.
College of Policing
There are obviously a number of challenges facing the new College of Policing and one is helping the police become more like the totality of Great Britain.
The recently released Census figures for 2011 show how our society is changing faster than ever before. The police must be able to respond to the needs and aspirations of this more diverse society.
I am struck by how far we still need to improve representation of women, black minority ethnic populations and other protected groups in the police, especially at senior levels.
And I also want to see the wider culture of the police strengthened so that it becomes more open, more inclusive and welcoming to people from all backgrounds.
Police forces must also be better able to relate to the communities they serve. This is a key area of building trust and confidence in local communities.
My firm belief is that the police must take ownership for these issues. I am therefore pleased that the newly formed College of Policing, which will have responsibility for standards in the police, will be a key driver for this work.
In the spring they will release a new equality strategy for the police. I hope that many of you can engage with the development of this strategy.
I know that there is a huge interest from you collectively in the College and I welcome this. It will have an essential role in professionalising policing. There are a limited number of places for formal involvement on the board, but I will be encouraging the College to look at what else you can do to get involved.
Moving onto the key subject of money, you will all now be aware of the provisional police funding allocations that were laid in Parliament on 19 December.
First we decided to protect the police from further reductions to Departmental budgets for 2013/14 that were announced in the Autumn Statement.
Secondly we will protect the police from reductions announced by the Chancellor in November 2011 relating to public sector pay restraint. Without this protection on pay restraint, central government funding for the police would have been reduced by £66m in 2013/14.
These two decisions mean the police will receive the same amount of total government funding in 2013/14 that was agreed at the 2010 Spending Review, giving you confidence as you make your plans.
I hope you welcome that and some of you already have but I understand you will have concerns about funding allocations in 2014/15. You will be aware that the Chancellor announced a further 2% cut to Departmental budgets. As mentioned in my Written Ministerial Statement, we have decided to defer publication of police funding allocations for 2014/15 in order to fully scrutinise all Home Office budgets and see what can best be done.
The other key funding decision that was announced was on damping. As you know the government held an informal consultation on this. In deciding how to apply damping over the next two years we took account of the concerns expressed by respondents who called for a full review of the Police Allocation Formula before changing damping policy, given that the two are inextricably linked. This is why the Home Secretary will be commissioning a fundamental review of the Formula.
I know you have strong views on this, and some of you have already raised them with me, so we are obviously keen to hear your ideas on this and we will engage with you as part of this review.
I recognise that the funding settlement remains challenging. But as HMIC have made clear, police forces have risen to the existing financial challenge, cutting spending while largely maintaining the service they provide. The proportion of officers on the frontline is increasing, crime continues to fall - a point often lost in the wider policing debate, victim satisfaction is up and the response to emergency calls is being maintained. I am confident that you can build on this and continue to push your forces to drive out waste while maintaining and improving the level of service that the public receive.
Despite inheriting the largest peacetime deficit, our decisions regarding funding for 2013/14 demonstrate that we are committed to ensuring that the police continue to have the resources they need to carry out their important work.
Looking now at pay and conditions, you will have seen last week our decision to accept the recommendation of the Police Arbitration Tribunal (PAT).
This includes proposals around pay scales and allowances. This represents another more step forward in what amounts to the most radical overhaul to policing pay and conditions for 30 years.
But these reforms are not yet complete.
We remain committed to the principles and objectives set out in the Winsor Review, in particular to the modernising of management practices and to developing the vital link between pay and professional skills.
This is something that the College of Policing will take forward in line with the timescales recommended in the Winsor review.
We want to ensure that the police are able to draw on the best pool of talent available to strengthen the workforce. And I am also determined to ensure that police forces are able to attract the brightest and the best, at all levels, including senior levels.
We are convinced of the merits of enabling the most able people to join at senior ranks to open up the culture of the police to outside experiences and perspectives and will be consulting shortly on the development of effective direct entry and fast track schemes for talented individuals.
This is about opening up the police to promote a diversity of experience and professional skills at all levels.
And I am also committed, as I know you will be, to ensuring that the police set the best example of integrity.
With the publication of Giving Victims a Voice, the report on the Jimmy Saville case, the issue of police professional standards and integrity has once again come to the fore.
We touched on this issue briefly at the PCC briefing event, back in December. I’d like to return to it today while we are considering how to address police integrity at the national level.
This also seems an especially appropriate moment, given that so many of you are engaged in recruiting new chief constables.
You will have received the guidance on recruiting chief constables from the College of Policing that was sent out in November, together with the note on vetting requirements. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that you have a responsibility to assure yourselves of the integrity of anyone you are considering appointing as a chief constable.
But I should however remind you of the need to establish their formal vetting status – the note sent to the APCC, as well as Chief Executives and communicators, gives contact details should anyone like further advice on this matter.
The integrity and professional behaviour of chief constables and their senior teams are the foundation of public confidence in policing.
This is an area where you can make an impact locally, providing clarity to your communities about what they have a right to expect – that they will be treated fairly, honestly and with respect.
Both the public and officers need to see the senior team leading by example. Underpinning this, there also needs to be comprehensive and rigorous governance – of integrity as well as finance and other issues – to provide the mechanisms by which professional standards can be monitored and enforced.
Recent reports from HMIC, the IPCC and Transparency International have all highlighted a lack of consistency between forces in, for example, applying guidelines on hospitality.
Integrity is one aspect of policing in which there should be no room for local variation. It is so important that clearly every force, every officer needs to maintain the highest standards.
Working with you
I am in no doubt that the British police force is committed, dedicated and well respected. I know we all want to ensure that we keep it like that.
And as I look forward to how we are going to make this happen, I know that working with you and the APCC will be key to our success.
But what is also important is how we will do this. And I think this means speaking with you regularly without dragging you to London, eating into your valuable time and the public purse.
I have asked officials to work with your offices and the APCC to come up with ways we can do this making the most of technology such as video conferences to maximise our time and minimise the effort we spend in making these meetings regular and as convenient as possible for all of us.
You are only a couple of months into your new roles, but I have no doubt that by this November both you and I will be reflecting on where we have succeeded and identified areas where we must continue to work together, in order to realise a modern, trusted professional police service that not only ranks as the best in the world, but is indeed the leading standard for policing.
It is a great and important goal and I very much hope that together we can achieve it.