Reform roundtable seminar on "Adapting to austerity: How police forces are coping with the Spending Review", introduced by Sir Denis O'Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, on Wednesday 18 July 2012.
Reform roundtable seminar introduced by Sir Norman Bettison QPM, Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police, on Tuesday 6 March.
By Will Tanner
Since the Royal Commission in 1962, and the subsequent 1964 Police Act, the structures, ethos and governance of policing in England and Wales has not fundamentally changed. Yet in 2012, the nature and demands of policing are radically different to half a century ago – communication networks are no longer regional but global; public expectations of, and demands on, the police have increased exponentially; and the policing mission now encompasses increasingly numerous and complex threats, from fraud to terrorism to family breakdown.
A Reform roundtable seminar, led by Sir Norman Bettison QPM, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, set out to discuss policing in an age of shifting demand, and how forces can best equip themselves to meet current and future challenges. The event was held under the Chatham House Rule.
At the heart of the discussion was the question of what exactly the police are for. What was clear was that however the landscape of policing changes, local and neighbourhood priorities will remain at the heart of what the police do. The public’s concerns overwhelmingly focus on what happens 100 yards from their front door. This means adhering to the Peelian principle that “the police are the public, and the public are the police” and developing solutions with, not just for, communities.
If police forces are to meet the challenges of tomorrow without the budgets of today, salami-slicing will not be enough - the way in which policing is done will have to change dramatically. Here we can invoke another Peelian principle: “the basic mission of the police is to prevent crime and disorder”. The work of troubled families teams, delivering effective multi-agency working, and the increasingly preventative focus of Fire and Rescue Services, both offer important lessons.. If police forces are to meet the ever-increasing and shifting burden of demand, they must look to not just react to it, but to reduce it through earlier intervention, better partnership working and upstream investment.
All of this calls for innovation. Green shoots are emerging. Already a number of Chief Constables are merging functions across force boundaries. Others, such as Hampshire and West Yorkshire, are working with other public agencies both within and outside the criminal justice system to deliver shared solutions. Others still, including Surrey, West Midlands and Lincolnshire, are partnering with the private sector to enable them to focus on core policing priorities. The challenge will be to spread good practice across this emerging patchwork quilt and realise systemic, not just local, gains.
Reform roundtable seminar introduced by Dame Anne Owers DBE, Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on Tuesday 14 February.
By Will Tanner
The Government has placed prisons at the heart of its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ in criminal justice, pursuing innovative forms of payment by results, the development of working prisons, and the introduction of greater competitive pressures in order to improve value for money and outcomes across the estate. This seminar was convened to explore the subject of “Unlocked potential: The role of prisons in offender rehabilitation”, and was led by Dame Anne Owers DBE, who between 2001 and 2010 served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. The discussion around the table, held under the Chatham House rules, was broad and valuable, raising a number of key points.
Prison is all too often a service of last resort, forced to pick up where other areas of society and government have failed, and where intervention is, in many respects, already too late. The problems that prisons deal with are complex and not merely criminal, incorporating mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness, family breakdown and other social issues too. The incentives – political, financial and operational, and for providers and commissioners alike – all lean towards containment rather than rehabilitation and isolation rather than partnership. Clearly if the criminal justice system is to effectively rehabilitate offenders, then prisons must be part of a greater, multi-agency whole that is equipped to deal with complex demand and incentivised to do so.
This is possible. The evidence from around the table demonstrated that innovative prisons, from both the private and public sectors, are already developing valuable partnerships with other local organisations and intervening further upstream, with a real, positive impact on recidivism. However if these pockets of best practice are to become both systemic and sustainable, other providers need to be incentivised to do the same. The greatest incentive is financial. The Government’s introduction of payment by results in this regard goes some way to incentivising providers, but a more intelligent approach to commissioning holds greater promise still.
In commissioning, the best way to incentivise reinvestment, partnership and earlier intervention would be to devolve budgets and powers for criminal justice to a local level. The Ministry of Justice has neither the capacity nor the expertise to deliver payment by results schemes in every locality in the country, and the Government has already hinted that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will have powers wider than their current policing brief. The geographical challenges of the prison estate notwithstanding, PCCs will be well placed to provide leadership and accountability for a broad range of justice outcomes, and they would be incentivised to look beyond the silos of the criminal justice system at more integrated solutions.
If prison is going to be more than just “an expensive way of making bad people worse”, as Douglas Hurd remarked in 1991, then a focus on rehabilitation is vital. Developing a more local approach that places the offender, not a specific service, at the heart of the solution is key to finding a cheaper and more effective way of preventing offenders from repeating the same mistakes.
Roundtable seminar introduced by Baroness Eaton, Former Chair, Local Government Association, on 17 January 2012.
The Government has made devolution a key priority. The Prime Minister has pledged to end the “Whitehall knows best” attitude to public service delivery with greater plurality, decentralisation and local accountability. Yet while some of the policy milestones have been met, people are still uncertain about how to do it. So to explore the issues, Reform convened a roundtable seminar yesterday, led by Baroness Eaton, the former Chair of the Local Government Association, on the subject of “Letting go: Shifting power from Whitehall to town halls”.
At the heart of the Government’s proposals for decentralisation is the notion of delegating authority to “the lowest appropriate level”. Yet the idea that specific governmental or organisational levels are most appropriate for specific functions misses the point. The real question is the extent to which citizens, the users of public services, are engaged with service design and delivery. This does not mean citizens delivering services themselves (although it can), but does mean civil servants, local commissioners and service providers – including businesses – treating citizens as customers, and designing services with and around them.
Leading councils, such as Hampshire, are showing that it can be done. They are merging budgets and taking the decision to commission services, rather than try to deliver them too, which boosts efficiency and responsiveness. Other simple innovations, like putting complimentary services in the same buildings, have their place too. The Government’s community budgets pilots may move this agenda forward. But as one attendee commented, “the time for pilots is over”. It is time to translate all the rhetoric around shared services, personal budgets and voucher schemes into action.
Really pushing power away from Whitehall comes down to money. And with power comes responsibility, in budgets as elsewhere in life. For years central government has given local authorities money and freedom but come riding to the rescue when they fail. This has created asymmetries of power, which has ultimately left councils dependent on central government support. If localism is to work, Whitehall must trust local government, local government should be free to raise more tax revenue itself, and everyone should hold their nerve when services fail.
The £3.5 billion real terms reduction in local councils’ funding this year represents an unprecedented “burning platform” to change the way local services are delivered. This is not easy, but examples like North Dorset District Council, whose 25 per cent funding shortfall since 2006 has led to radical devolution to communities, show what can be done. In 2010 North Dorset was named as Best Community Partnership in the country.
The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule.
Will Tanner, Researcher
Roundtable seminar introduced by Paul Minton, Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Operating Officer, National Policing Improvement Agency, 12 January 2012
For the police service, the coming years represent a period of unprecedented change and challenge. The Government’s reforms will fundamentally transform the way in which policing operates at both local and national level, while Chief Constables are having to make difficult decisions in order to meet the 20 per cent funding reduction set out in the Spending Review. Yet it is precisely this changing landscape that is giving rise to a first-principles debate as to what the police actually do, how they do it, and how best the police can meet modern challenges in an age of budgetary restraint.
At the heart of this is the question of the police mission, specifically defined by this Home Secretary as cutting crime. Some have criticised this mission as too narrow for the complex and multifaceted role that police officers fulfil. Yet, as the discussion bore out, it need not mean a narrow and reactive approach to policing based on simply “catching criminals”. In fact, those around the table argued that the way to cut crime is to identify and understand its root causes, and then apply a preventative focus and early intervention. As one attendee said, the best way to cut crime is to reduce demand.
The implications of such changes for the police service itself are profound. If the police are occupied with more preventative work, then what is meant by the “front line” and the “bobby on the beat” change fundamentally. The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police terms and conditions, expected later this month, offers a real opportunity. Chief Constables should have far greater freedoms to adapt their workforces in order to deliver a new approach and to respond to changing demand.
Better relationships between police and other organisations would promote early intervention. For many years, some police leaders have argued that localisation will threaten the efficiency and effectiveness of national policing arrangements. However, as the roundtable heard, existing examples of collaboration and inter-operable solutions within the 43 force structure show that there is now fertile middle ground in between centralisation and localism. Police and Crime Commissioners will encourage this co-operation because their own efforts to cut crime in their area will be encouraged by joint working between forces.
The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule.