- Our Work
- The Reformer Blog
6 March 2015
It will come as no surprise that I think one of the major successes of the coalition Government’s term in office is the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). Against a challenging financial backdrop, with the priority of reducing a record budget deficit, the introduction of PCCs was a brave and bold policy decision. For the first time it put power in the hands of local people by giving them choice over who determines their local policing priorities. It presented a once in a generation opportunity to do things differently, to transform policing, the criminal justice system and the wider connected public services.
With austerity set to continue into the next Parliament, we will no longer be able to simply top slice budgets and tinker at the edges to deliver the savings required. We will have to fundamentally rethink the way that we deliver public services. Perhaps more importantly we will have to re-examine the services that we offer to the public and the way we are currently providing them. In Northamptonshire, we have already embarked on this journey. We have begun to ask the challenging questions; why do we deliver public services in the way we do? What quality of service do the public expect in the twenty-first century?
I believe that the risk for the first generation of PCCs is not that we will go too far and achieve too much, but rather that we will lack big ambitions and attempt too little.
Although this may sound unusual coming from someone in my position, we need to start thinking more like the organised criminal networks we have to tackle every day. These groups are dynamic, flexible, and work fluidly to achieve their criminal goals. The police, on the other hand, work in structures; work through processes; and lack the ability to respond as quickly and effectively as they should be able to. Moving forward, we need to be prepared to examine existing structures and not shy away from questioning why and how they currently work.
I believe that PCCs can move beyond these organisational structures and boundaries, that perhaps service leaders in the past have found impenetrable, and pioneer a totally new way of doing things. I believe we need to better align our public sector organisations to reduce unnecessary duplication and better meet the needs of our customers and the people.
In Northamptonshire we have started this through our Emergency Service Integration programme. We have explored co-location between our emergency services. Last year we launched our first Police/Fire station and have a wider programme now established to formally merge the two estates taking into account the ambulance service wherever possible. We have explored greater integration of services through establishing shared management structures. A senior Fire Officer now manages a combined Prevention and Community Safety Team, utilising the best assets from both organisations. There is also a joint operations team in place responsible for emergency preparedness across the three emergency services and we have recently completed an innovative rural intervention pilot which sees the two organisations co-responding to incidents together.
On this journey of bringing the emergency services much closer together, I have learnt a great deal about culture and how important it is to changing the way an organisation operates. I have learnt the importance of taking people with you on the journey towards creating a safer place.
When establishing my Police and Crime Plan upon taking office, I used deliberately challenging and ambitious language to stretch people to think beyond their normal day-to-day roles and responsibilities.
For too long, policing and the wider criminal justice system has been too risk-averse. This is understandable when they are frequently dealing with difficult situations that often involve serious harm to victims. But it is time to change that. We need to create a culture that asks for forgiveness, not permission. A culture in which individuals and organisations are supported and encouraged to try new things, to take risks and to make mistakes. Only then can we truly innovate and begin to deliver a better public service of policing and the justice system.
As local leaders, PCCs are building a unique relationship with local communities and victims, and through this we can better tailor our approaches to the needs of local people. In our county, the outcome we seek to achieve through innovative service redesign is a better standard of public service for our communities.
In Northamptonshire, we have made significant efforts to challenge and redesign existing services, ensuring that we directly involve service users to ensure the service is fit for purpose. One example is our brand new “Voice” victims’ service. In 2013, I appointed an independent Victims’ Commissioner to review the service provision for victims across Northamptonshire and hear directly from them about their experiences of policing, and the wider criminal justice system in Northamptonshire. The Commission heard from over 1,000 victims of crime. As a result of those findings, I used victims’ experiences to launch a new service in October 2014 that is totally independent of the Police, my office and the local authority, and shaped by what victims and witnesses told us they wanted. “Voice” now has an independent Chair, Linda Lee, former President of the Law Society, who holds the service to account and directly campaigns for improved services on behalf of victims and witnesses in Northamptonshire.
Looking to the future
As we move closer to the General Election, controversy surrounding our very existence continues to divide political thinking. But I firmly believe that PCCs have the ability to move beyond the traditional organisational boundaries that have constrained policing and stifled innovation for so long. From our position, we can define a new level of ambition; stimulate fresh thinking; stretch minds; and, in short, ensure that we are the best we can possibly be.
Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner