As someone who spent thirty years in the Police, retiring as a Deputy Chief Constable, it was not surprising that the emergence of a proposal for elected Police & Crime Commissioners in the Election Manifesto attracted my interest.
A subsequent approach asking me to consider putting my name forward as a potential candidate in North Yorkshire kept it up and I have watched the policy develop as the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Bill made its way through Parliament.
Now the election date is fixed, my application is at Central Office and it's time to say what I would do in the City of York and County of North Yorkshire to deliver the improvement in effectiveness, efficiency and value for money the reform proposals have made possible.
Firstly, we all need to recognise the synergy between Theresa May's proposals and the wider Government agenda of "Localism" – Policing should be at the heart of community life. This means really engaging communities through their Parish, Town and District Councillors – not just talking about it – actually getting the lines of communication open and working. Being visible. Being accountable. Really listening to what their crime and disorder problems are – and then letting them know the results.
Getting effective networks across the area and between different agencies dealing with crime and disorder. Kenneth Clarke's proposals yesterday about victims of crime reinforce the wider remit of Commissioner – victims are dealt with dreadfully on too many occasions. It's about time they had a powerful voice on their side, but the problem goes wider – in my work as a member of a Local Strategic Partnership, I've seen far too much activity go on that is simply not outcome-based.
Now is the time to get really effective partnership action started, based on common sense and accurate information about what makes a difference. In my business, if an advertisement doesn't lead to customers, it gets dropped. If customers don't buy a product – we stop offering it. Partnership working is not the solution of itself. Effective action, with defined and relevant outcomes will mean money spent delivers results.
Cut out waste. By that I mean really cut out waste. Always remember it's a Police force. It was created to deliver Policing. North Yorkshire Police Authority's financial plan reduces the number of Police Officers to 1270 by the end of the CSR period. The Police Authority's own budget has gone up by over £0.5m over the last few years. They have eight staff on combined salaries of £537k. When I retired eight years ago, there were two. The force has eighty people in "Human Resources", it's own Legal Services Department and many other people merely serving the bureaucratic machine.
The opportunities for savings from sharing or outsourcing are huge. And by outsourcing, I don't mean just letting some big company take the lot – remember the local economic leverage that may be obtained on the taxpayer's money the force is spending by simplifying the procurement process and enabling small, local businesses feature in the supply chain of the force.
Most importantly – get the Police Officers doing what they joined for – fighting crime. Working effectively with the Chief Constable, I will develop a rigorous performance management regime – to get every Police Officer possible into a front-line role, to cut out the paperwork, to deliver a body of highly trained, well-equipped officers, operating with the confidence that when they stop someone, reinforcements are nearby. To embed them into communities, where their visible presence reduces crime and makes people feel safe.
Above all, I want to get everyone to remember something that seems to have been forgotten in the Labour years. Britain didn't get the finest Police Force in the Developed World by having great HR policies, wonderful Project Management or the fullest stationery cupboard. It was because our Police were excellent at fighting crime. It's time to get them doing just that.