This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Digital divide

One of the criticisms of the PCC election last November was the lack of information made available to members of the public. You will recall, that the only way that people were able to access information about the candidates was via the internet.

This was discriminatory in that there are many people who do not have easy access to the web and even those who do, are often unsure of how to use many of the facilities on the internet. This website lists some of the facts about the 'digital divide'. For example:
  • 1 in 4 UK adults have never used the internet
  • A third of uk households do not have the internet
  • There are still 10 million  people who do not have access to the internet
  • 4 million of these are the most socially and economically disadvantaged
  • 70% of people who live in social housing are not online
A few weeks ago, I asked the Thames Valley Office of the PCC as to how they might address the digital divide when engaging the public in reviewing the draft plan. I was told that hard copies could be made available in local libraries. Whilst this is not a perfect solution, it is better than having everything online.

So therefore, I wondered if when the press release went out, whether members of the public would be told that hard copies could be made available near to where they lived. Here is a copy of the press release that went out (obtained by FoI request):
Police and Crime Commissioner releases draft Police and Crime Plan

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, will be releasing his draft Police and Crime Plan for public consultation tomorrow (17/01)
The Plan sets out his priorities and objectives and how he intends to deliver on them during his time in office.

As his role covers both policing and crime he has worked closely with the Chief Constable and community safety partners to ensure the Plan reflects not only his election promises but how they will all work together to prevent and reduce crime, making Thames Valley a safer place to live and work.

This is a draft Plan; the final version will be published by the end of March following a public consultation period which will begin on Thursday 17th January and end on Friday 8th February.

Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley said: “This plan sets out my objectives for policing and crime in Thames Valley and brings together both the police and other partner responsible for crime reduction.

It is important to me that the plan reflects the real issues and concerns of the people of Thames Valley which is why I would urge you to have your say by taking part in our consultation.”

A copy of the draft Plan can be found here - Police and Crime Plan

Details of the consultation, which will ask the public’s opinion on the plan, will be released tomorrow on the website

Editors Notes 
Please contact Candy Stallard on with any questions
So, no mention of local libraries then. Also no mention in the press release that hard copies could be requested and giving details. In fact nothing for people who are not online. They might have read this in their local newspaper and concluded there was nothing here for them.

This approach is not about community engagement and it is not about raising awareness of the PCC role and plan with all members of Thames Valley Communities. I would also argue it is not much about democracy either.

But what do you think? 

What happened in your policing and crime area? Was it any better? Have PCCs 'got' the digital divide yet?

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