Matthew Scott is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent.
Earlier this month, independent inspectors reported that most Police Forces were efficient. They were assessed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) on their understanding of the demand on their services, how well they are meeting this challenge and how they are planning for the future. Most were “Good” or “Outstanding”, but nationally concerns were raised about demand and the pace of reform. This is why PCCs have asked the Government for funding to provide five thousand extra police officers.
There is no doubt that policing is experiencing a significant amount of pressure. Terrorist attacks in London and Manchester have stretched resources, and extra patrols have only been managed largely with officers working longer hours and changing their leave. There has also been a rise in the number of complex cases that officers have had to deal with, which take up more time. Forces are having to deal with a significant amount of work that should really be for other agencies, such as mental health and social work, because the Police are seen as a service of first resort.
All of this impacts on the services that residents experience, as it affects how responsive a police force can be to emergencies, how able they are to offer visible policing in our local communities and the amount of time people have to wait to get through on 999 and 101. This is why independent HMICFRS reports are important to Police and Crime Commissioners – because we can go to our Chief Constables to hold them to account and also highlight the trends that policing is experiencing across the country.
PCCs have already been driving change in a way that the old police authorities never could, particularly in areas highlighted by HMICFRS and Ministers. We are working together to get a better deal from procurement. We are collaborating more with other emergency services. Digital platforms are being developed that will save money and time. We are making sure that what reserves are left are being used wisely and are holding the NHS and others to account for the pressures being placed on policing.
Nick Hurd, the Policing Minister, has met with every PCC and Police Force and asked for evidence of the demands being faced, and the pressure on resources. This has been submitted, and we believe that we have made a reasonable case. Having found significant savings already, it will be harder to save more money in future years. PCCs have therefore suggested that the Treasury supports us with an increase in our Government grant totalling £1.28 billion in the next two years, which would help us recruit those five thousand more Police Officers and 1100 more firearms Officers, whilst limiting the effect of inflation.
Calling for more money and doing nothing different, as others in the public sector often do, is not an option. We as PCCs will continue our reforming approach, and look at innovative ways of saving taxpayers’ money and delivering better services for the residents we represent. If we were empowered with the general competency that councils have, for example, PCCs could do more to raise revenue from other sources.
PCCs are also helping to reduce demand on policing in other ways by tackling the root causes of crime. With as many as seven per cent of prisoners having served in the Armed Forces, PCCs John Campion and Philip Seccombe are investing in training and support for veterans so that they can better reintegrate into society earlier. Alison Hernandez is running a scheme to support victims and reduce re-offending by intervening after a first offence. Matthew Ellis’ sports diversionary programme in Staffordshire has clearly reduced antisocial behaviour.
As PCCs we are making sure that the observations made by inspectors, where things need to improve, are being given attention now. On Wednesday, we hope that the Treasury will work with us and help us do even more to keep our communities safe from crime and terrorism.