The green paper on policing should finally be published on Thursday this week and there is a lot of speculation in policing circles as to its contents. Will there be directly elected Police Authorities ? Less targets ? Greater citizen involvement in priority setting ? A compulsion to provide better and more regular policing information at neighbourhood level ? Crime mapping ? Well, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes is my guess.
However, one thing that doesn't need the use of the crystal ball is the content of the white paper 'Communities in Control: real people, real power' that was published last week by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It's interesting that whilst colleagues regularly obsess about Home Office developments, it's DCLG that appear to continually lead and shape the broader agenda, with the Home Office coming along behind and providing the detail on the police service contribution to it.
Just to remind you, Wikipedia defines a green paper as 'a tentative government report of a proposal without any commitment to action' whilst a white paper is 'an official set of proposals that is used as a vehicle for their development into law'.
'Communities in Control' is 157 pages long and looks at seven key issues from the perspective of individual citizens: being active in your community; access to information; having an influence; challenge; redress; standing for office; and ownership and control.
The document is comprehensive in its ambition but declares itself to have a simple aim: to pass power into the hands of local communities so as to generate vibrant local democracy in every part of the country and give real control over local decisions and services to a wider pool of active citizens.
Gordon Brown describes it as 'an agenda for empowerment that reaches right across the board, from
supporting people who want to take an active role in their communities to giving them better access to information and the chance to get more involved in key local public services’. In short, comprehensive social engineering.
So, there's the ambition, what about the detail? Selective highlights would include joining up Neighbourhood Management and Neighbourhood Policing, developing the role of the Third Sector on LSP's and working with ACPO, the Ministry of Justice and the LGA to agree pilot projects for citizens to discuss ‘community payback’ and local community safety priorities.
Other things of note include:
Extending the ‘duty to involve’ (named bodies to take appropriate steps to involve people in decisions, policies and services that may affect them or be of interest to them), which comes into effect in April 2009, beyond local authorities to include a range of people and organisations including, Chief Officers of Police and Police Authorities.
Introducing the Policing Pledge. This will build on the national Quality of Service Commitment and will detail two levels of service, the national and the local. The national element which will set out what each force in England and Wales will deliver for the public, such as keeping people informed about the progress of their inquiries. The local element will set out where and how local priorities can be set in each area and agreed by people in the neighbourhood. It will also give people a way to hold Neighbourhood Policing Teams to account for tackling their local priorities. The detail will be in the green paper.
Following on from the Casey Review, better information provision is high on the agenda, with regular police feedback to people about what actions are being taken at neighbourhood level being central. Massive implications for the way that the service thinks about and provides information. Similar implications for brand management and budgets. I will blog about this another day.
From this month monthly crime information about levels and types of crime will be made available.
The Government (and the Conservatives) is also considering how crime mapping can be used so that the public can compare levels of crime and performance in their area with other similar areas.
Guidance on the 'councillor call for action' is expected before the end of the year and the wider role of councillors as 'community champions' and key players in local accountability arrangements is being developed.
The citizen voice in policing is to be enhanced. Petitions to hold officials to account and a requirement for visibility are referenced. The Government is clear that they 'will make sure that people have a voice in deciding how policing is delivered, are clear about who represents their interests on crime and policing, and are able
to hold the police to account. Interestingly the paper proposes that 'citizens will directly elect an individual to represent their interests in relation to crime and policing'. Expect this to be a feature item on Thursday.
In keeping with their 'elected' philosophy, the Government are keen to see more elected Mayors. and want to 'make the move to a directly-elected mayoralty more attractive to local politicians with an expectation that directly-elected mayors, where they exist, would chair the Local Strategic Partnership and, be the new Crime and Policing representative. The municipalisation of policing marches steadily on.
And finally (never forget the money), The Home Office will support piloting the use of participatory budgeting (see my previous posts on 'community kitties' or go to particpatorybudgeting.org.uk (really nice website btw)) for local community safety budgets. They, and other government departments, are considering whether money recovered from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 should be available to be used in this way.
So we've had the ambition, now we need the detail. Bring on Thursday.
Communities in Control can be downloaded here
- 12 ways to improve policing – the LGA view
- 10 top approaches the public want in policing
- Neighbourhood Policing: Is it working?
- The future of policing: Staking a claim
- One Question Interview: The future of Policing