As acknowledged in the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister’s speech to the Institute for Government this week, November 2012 will be a defining moment in policing governance across England and Wales. When the first wave of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) take office, they will hold one of the most challenging oversight roles in the public sector. An ideal PCC will foster significant improvements in community safety and confidence. This will require them to have a sound knowledge of policing, crime reduction strategies, local service delivery, voluntary sector involvement, the criminal justice system (CJS), education and health. To succeed, candidates will need to work with and influence a significant number of stakeholders, as well as navigate local political currents. In this article, we explore three key elements required for the successful PCC:
Preparation and prioritisation – From the start PCC’s will need to build confidence among the public and local public sector bodies and ensure continuity of legal, financial and employment arrangements during the transition period. That means police forces need to find a way to “open their books” to candidates, allowing them to conduct due diligence and gain a better understanding of the financial and criminal challenges in their force area.
Strategy and planning – The PCC needs to define the overarching vision, objectives and strategy, develop the delivery plans, understand the data requirements and set the baseline, and develop the business plan. To maximise effectiveness, project management disciplines will need to be used.
Partnership delivery – A successful PCC will engage with key partners, defining the right governance structures, and developing the levers to influence and drive delivery. Understanding the full range of partners (CJS, third sector, local authorities and more) and how they will contribute is of vital importance.
Preparation and prioritisation
Effective preparation and planning is vital to ensure a confident and credible start to a PCC’s tenure, as well as providing uninterrupted governance of a force. To ensure PCCs understand the nature of the challenge they face, and to start planning to meet that challenge, there is benefit to forces and the wider local electorate for prospective PCCs to be given suitable access to key force performance data. One way of doing this would be to create a ‘data room’ within each force, access to which is provided to prospective PCCs to allow them to understand the legal, financial, crime and threat profile of the force. Balancing this information with community concerns would allow each candidate to tailor a manifesto which demonstrates how they could practically support the chief constable to deliver operationally, and allow them to prioritise their areas of focus so they address local concerns.
Maintaining continuity of police governance is vital. A PCC’s office is likely to require relatively less committee and administrative support than a police authority but a greater level of strategic, financial and performance planning and analysis and community engagement. It will be for the PCC to decide on their support arrangements, but authorities should consider their staffing now particularly as posts become vacant.
Many forces have developed innovative delivery arrangements to manage within reduced budgets – from collaboration to private sector outsourcing. Forces will need to be ready to demonstrate to the PCC that these arrangements provide best value for money for the force and are in the interest of the electorate. As PCCs are able to approach other PCCs to agree collaborations, future arrangements could be markedly different.
For the crime element of a PCC’s role to be meaningful, their reach needs to go beyond the police. They will need to work constructively with community safety partnerships, criminal justice agencies and the voluntary sector. The PCC can influence the activities of partners through their distribution of crime and disorder grants, but this must be based on an understanding of the priorities and pressures they face, how grants are currently used, and the implications of any change. So involving partner agencies in PCC preparation will ensure that partner agencies understand the role that PCCs will play and how they could best work together to achieve shared goals. PCC candidates should also familiarise themselves with local courts, prosecutors and other key players, and take the time to speak to leaders of these agencies as well as practitioners on the ground.
Strategy and planning
Irrespective of location (or, indeed, party allegiance), all prospective PCCs are likely to make campaign commitments to cut crime, control cost and improve service to local citizens. Commitments to improving detection rates may feature here, as may greater ease-of-access for victims to how investigation of their crime is progressing. A prospective PCC will also have objectives related to targeting specific local issues such as anti-social behaviour, or gang activity. Prospective PCCs will also wish to highlight personal differentiators: delivery areas where the PCC’s experience, knowledge or indeed political stance provides a reason for their electorate (or, indeed, party selection panel) to choose them over their rivals. These elements will together provide prospective PCCs with their overarching objectives, which in due course may mould the pledges they provide to their electorate within their respective manifestos.
Each credible PCC candidate will want to be confident about delivery of their campaign commitments. For this, they will need a clear and confident understanding of key performance data; the levers of power that they will have, and a well thought through delivery and business plan.
Access to reliable data will be hugely important to prospective PCCs, both while candidates and when they are elected. Some prospective PCCs will recognise that there is considerable potential value in performance data that is provided independent of police forces. Information from the British Crime Survey, victim and witness satisfaction surveys (WAVES) or Inspectorate Reports will all provide rich insights which should inform the strategy. Reports provided by local health and education bodies should also be obtained to understand the broader policy inter-dependencies. Of course, online surveys and social media make feedback readily available at low cost.
Each PCC will also need to have a delivery plan for ensuring their commitments are enacted. This plan will need to provide sufficient detail for the first 100 days or so, to help the PCC be seen to make a positive impact in the early days. An outline for the remainder of the term of office (and, potentially for far-sighted PCCs, for a longer period) will be fleshed out during this early period. This will, in due course, need to link to the Force Plan (or Police and Crime Plan) that, historically, police authorities have prepared with forces. There may be an opportunity for police authorities and forces to work with prospective PCCs, supporting their development of ‘shadow’ Force Plans for 2013/14: this could help support a smooth transition from authority to PCC, both in formulation of appropriate Force Plans for 2013/14. Where this can be accommodated, and within the rules of the electoral process, this could provide an early opportunity for the future PCC to work with both force and authority personnel.
Once in post, PCCs will have a number of ways of delivering their campaign pledges. They will use a range of levers of power to achieve this: their legal authority (for example, over the chief constable’s appointment); their financial authority (for example, owning the force budget and having powers to award financial grants to wider agencies); moral authority (it will be more difficult for others to challenge any manifesto commitments they have made). In some cases, expert knowledge may also provide a lever for PCCs to help drive through their plans. Last – and not necessarily least – some PCCs may seek to make use of their personality as a means to getting their own way.
Of course, PCCs will not simply focus on policing. As emphasised by the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister this week, their remit extends very widely, with their influence to extend (amongst others) to CDRPs, CSPs, local authorities, courts, prisons, probation, health, education, victim support, as well as with private and third sector. These bodies will be helpful allies to a future PCC in delivering their campaign pledges – and the PCC will increasingly have funds available to support their work. Engaging with relevant partners may set an organisational challenge, but the opportunities to work with and through them to engage the wider force population are significant.
The Home Office is currently engaged in a series of “deep dives” that are looking in more detail at the likely impact of PCCs on areas including the partnership landscape. This work is due to report shortly, and will feature in “engagement events” that the Home Office is planning to run for local partners early in 2012.
A key tool in the PCCs’ approach to partnership will be money. PCCs will have oversight of budgets well beyond those of their force, for example with responsibility for funding victim support services. They will have powers to commission contracts, engaging private, voluntary and third sector organisations in crime-reduction activity. They will also look to influence spending on these areas. The Early Intervention grant, for instance, is a powerful tool to change behaviour, reduce offending and support individuals away from crime. The PCC must have a role here to ensure that, in their police force area, funding is used to have a greater impact on the root causes of crime, exclusion and social behaviour.
The PCC also has the opportunity to design innovative commissions to deliver the strategy and payment by results should feature heavily. In our experience, much justice reform over recent years has failed to deliver the expected outcomes because incentives for each agency simply did not drive the right behaviours. While schemes in Peterborough and Doncaster prisons are showing how payments can be attached to offender outcomes, the PCCs should look to create and pilot incentive-based schemes for aspects of justice that are key to their communities - victim and witness care, enforcement, trial effectiveness and, possibly, case outcomes themselves.
New PCCs will be well advised to understand the existing cross-agency services that are delivered. Rather than starting from a blank canvas, they will instead look to build on current delivery mechanisms and identify innovative opportunities for better joint working. The Community Safety Partnerships, working across police, local authorities, the NHS, probation and fire and rescue services are particularly relevant here. The PCC will also need to develop a view on which aspects of local justice delivery are strong and which require attention.
Another part of the partnership is the Police and Crime Panel that oversees the work of the PCC (and, notably, not the force). The Home Office has recommended to local authorities that those in each force area identify a Lead Authority which will be “responsible for the day-to-day running of the panel”. The Lead Authority will receive funding to undertake this responsibility: details on this, along with guidance on the establishment of Panels, is yet to be issued by the Home Office but PCCs will need to find ways of working effectively with the Panels.
There is, of course, considerable scope for new activity. The Home Secretary’s “Policing in the 21st Century” vision document makes reference to the need to work across traditional boundaries. This activity is unlikely to be confined to the public sector: a new PCC is likely to want to engage with the local private sector to encourage them to play their part in tackling crime – whether through crime prevention products and services that make it harder to commit crime, or through providing employees with time off for ‘community days’ or to work as a Special Constable.
It is possible to foresee much of what a PCC might wish to achieve in their tenure, and therefore what might appear in their manifesto. This in turn suggests a number of steps that policing stakeholders could usefully take in ensuring a smooth transition to PCC oversight of policing.
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