The Government response to the consultation period on the Green Paper was finally published on Friday (and can be found in the sidebar under Home Office). As a commentator there is a always an inclination to be drawn, magpie like, to the shiny glittery things that attract attention and to ignore the less sparkly things, that in reality will be the things that produce the most effect.
I have been mulling over the document for a couple of days now, and the thing that strikes me most is the single minded (and potentially coercive) intention that the document illustrates. Make no mistake, this is a document that is very clear about Government direction, intention, expectation and performance accountability.
Yes, there are some shiny attention grabbing issues:
The renewed commitment to the introduction of Crime and Policing Representatives (in spite of the implacable opposition to the idea by the LGA ( their reaction can be found here ) and the APA, and the BNP scare stories from ACPO).
The emphasis on the Pledge as ‘a central part of what the Government sees as a new relationship between the service, the Government and the public’.
The introduction of Councillor Call for Action and crime and disorder overview and scrutiny Committees by next April.
The countrywide expansion of the current list of standard PCSO powers to include others, such as detaining a suspect until a PC arrives, the ability to disperse troublemakers and to impose a fine for graffiti.
The provision of funding over the next three years to increase Special Constabulary numbers from 14,000 to 20,000.
The introduction of the National College of Police Leadership by June next year and the development of the Senior Appointments Panel.
Of more interest however are the things under the bonnet, the structural and mechanical things that will make the machine work, and the emphasis on performance, accountability, productivity and inspection.
Efficiency and increased, focused, productivity (focused on the things that matter to, and affect, communities) is central to the response. Police Authorities are seen as intrinsic to the delivery of performance and there are some very big sticks being used (and threatened) to ensure that they play their part in delivering.
Each Police Authority is now responsible for agreeing ambitious local targets for efficiency and productivity and holding its force to account for delivering sufficient improvements. In respect of their own performance, the Government expects all Police Authorities to take immediate action to ensure they have begun a process of self improvement, and just in case they haven’t got the message, from next April they will be jointly inspected by HMIC and the Audit Commission across the full range of their activities, including how well they are challenging any poor performance by their force and identifying areas for improvement. The response document fully details what the Home Secretary will do in the event that they don’t comply or succeed. Failure isn’t an option here.
Another area where the government’s patience is wearing thin, is in respect of collaboration.
They have been consulting on ways to ‘bring absolute clarity to the legal and governance frameworks which facilitate and underpin such collaboration and will seek an early opportunity to bring forward the necessary legislation. Whilst we expect consensus to be reached in most cases, we propose to make the law clear about the Government’s ability to require robust collaborative frameworks to be established, if this is considered necessary and in the public interest’. No ambiguity there.
Of particular interest is the piece of work that HMIC have been asked to do around decision making. They will be exploring when it is right for decisions on particular policing functions to be made at the national, regional and local level; what appropriate delivery frameworks above force level would be needed to deliver these functions jointly; and to explore the respective roles of police forces, police authorities, national bodies (APA and ACPO) and the Home Office in this area. This is pretty big stuff, with huge implications, yet the Home Secretary has asked HMIC to report its findings to the National Policing Board early in 2009. The context for this work is given as counter terrorism and organised crime, yet one can’t help thinking that a centralist approach to national policing lurks somewhere. A curb on the baronial powers of Chiefs ? A move toward a more European model of policing ? Worry about capability and collectivism for 2012 ? Or…just what it says on the can, CT and OCG’s ? Whatever the drivers, the minutes of the NPB are going to make interesting reading for a while.
In respect of efficiency and productivity, now is a good time to become familiar with The Public Value Programme for the Police Service.
Launched in Budget 2008, the PVP will look at all major areas of public spending to identify smarter ways of doing business. The PVP for the Police Service takes that forward for policing. The programme goes much wider than the conventional approaches to efficiency, focusing on ensuring that the public get the value they want from the service, supported, for example, by the right local accountability structures and national back-up.
The Government believes that the PVP approach will increase the productivity of the police workforce, including streamlining working practices.
Finally, it’s worth considering the focus of the HMIC major workforce inspection – Working for the Public (due to be carried out in 2010).
The inspection will examine six key elements of workforce management that support public confidence and police responsiveness. These are:
Better customer service
Listening to the front line
Deployment of officers and staff
Front line supervision and leadership
The prominence of customer service within the inspection regime is not accidental. The development of customer service skills and a more customer centric organisation is intrinsic to the whole ‘new deal on policing’ agenda. In support of this, the Government has asked the NPIA to develop training to assist new constables, and other officers and staff, in providing the best possible service to the public. This training will be developed with ACPO and the APA, and will include skills in customer service and partnership working.
The green paper response document is comprehensive in its scope and clear in its ambition. The Government believes that real improvements in outcomes for the public will be best delivered by strengthening the link between the public and the police, with stronger public engagement helping to improve outcomes and raise standards and a police service that is focused on tackling the issues that matter to communities, delivering performance that is both well managed and constantly improving.
Quite a trick.
- HMIC response to the Green Paper
- From the Neighbourhood to the National: Green Paper Responses
- Policing Green Paper – From the Neighbourhood to the National
- Consultation paper on Comprehensive Area Assessment
- Unhappiness in ‘Green Land’