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, February 25, 2013

90% of voters admit they have no idea who local commissioner is

Do you remember the main reason why PCCs were introduced? Go on, do you? You know, it was that idea that Police Authorities were unknown to the public and were the faceless governance of the police service. A single elected figurehead would change all that!

And then the Home Office was given the task of managing the election, something that it almost never does (usually organisation of elections goes to the Department of Communities and Local Government or the Cabinet Office, I believe). And a disaster unfurls.

As I said on many occasions during the election of PCCs, I was surprised that this flagship policy did not get more resources to help people understand it. I cannot blame PCCs of course who valiantly tried to get their names known and provide information about the role to the public. I did my little bit to help as well. Nonetheless, the election was a near disaster and still most people do not have a clue who their PCC is.

I would love to know whether the Populus poll mentioned by the Electoral Reform Society, has any differential results across the police areas. Which PCCs are better known than others and why is this? Some of this may be down to geography, but I have a hunch that the Northamptonshire PCC is better known than the Warwickshire one. Bob Jones in West Midlands has yet to have a summit of summits (or has he?) but he has been consistently reaching out across a very large region to a wide number of people. The Thames Valley PCC, on the other hand... you know what, I cannot even be bothered to finish that sentence...

But we are where we are and frankly I find the statement from the Home Office along the lines of "It will be slightly better next time so please stop talking about last November! I had a headache, OK!" to be worryingly complacent. If we are to make the role of PCC work (as I think we should because the police and crime agencies need good governance now and not just in the future when the model will, almost certainly, be revised...), the question is what needs to be done?

Evidently, PCCs have been rather busy of late sorting budgets and consulting on Police & Crime Plan (well... most have been busy). Come the end of March, that intense work will be over for the time being. I would suggest that efforts are then focused on developing communication and engagement strategies that reach out to all corners of their areas. I will write more about this in a future blog but for the moment I will say that they need to have some clear messages and communication objectives as a starting point for these strategies.

So if you are a PCC (or deputy, CEO etc) reading this: 
  • By this time next year, what do you want the electorate of your area to know that they do not currently know? 
  • Are there some groups who need to know more: which groups and what more?
  • How will you measure your communication activities... how will you know whether things are working or not so that you can adjust what you are doing?
  • And how good are you at listening... really listening?

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