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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The shape of things to come?

Some people are getting in a froth about the expanding teams supporting the Police & Crime Commissioners around the country:
New police chiefs (who you didn't vote for) pay cronies thousands: Crime tsars give friends and allies jobs worth up to £73,000
Apart from the fact that this should be 'whom you didn't vote for'... I am wondering what people honestly expected? Certainly, the suggestion that cronyism is alive and well in some offices of the PCC is an accusation that might stick in some places. (A subject I have blogged about before.) However the idea that a single individual could ever really cover the job of PCC without some significant and close support is laughable.

By means of comparison, I am merely a lowly town councillor. I get about 200 emails a month and just yesterday I despatched a stack of one year's worth of council agendas and other papers 18 inches high to the recycling bin. I am one of 17 councillors and between us, with half a dozen staff, we just about manage to stay on top of all the issues. We hope. I spend about a day per week on council related business. And I admit, I do not read every document in depth that comes my way. But we are a team, and I know that my councillor colleagues will read some of the pieces I miss and together we cover all the bases.

Now transpose this to a PCC. My local PCC has a population of 2.3 million people to cover with 17 local authorities. The budget of course is much bigger than my town council. The buck stops with him and therefore he must stay on top of a very wide range of issues. As I mentioned before, even if only 1% of the people resident in the Thames Valley Police Area write to their PCC once every year, that equates to over 400 letters and emails every week which require investigation and a response.

So I am none too surprised that many PCCs are creating bigger teams. Frankly, in my opinion, they have little choice unless they want to treat the job as something of a part time jolly.

So please read more about one example: the team that Bob Jones is creating in West Midlands. I know Bob and he is not sort of man to spend taxpayers' money without very good cause. Given the size of his 'constituency' and the need to liaise with a significant set of local authorities & other partners, he is creating a Board that has the capability and capacity to do the job.

I would also suggest that Bob is creating the shape of things to come. I am guessing here, but I would imagine that he would favour having an elected board of assistant commissioners as one way of spreading accountability and democracy.

Could this be the model for a policing governance structure that a future government might install? 


  1. Jon - very interesting. A key subject.

    This is precisely how a reformed Police Authority should have looked. People selected for their skills and knowledge; a new meeting timetable and structure, moving to places throughout a constabulary area; invites to groups across constabulary areas; encouragement of questions from the public and officials.

    My only remaining point is whether the Board has a sufficient understanding of police data and whether the PCC has staff who can analyse and present it to Board members in a manner that allows them to probe behind the figures. If not, little will be achieved.

    Simon Holdaway

    1. This might also be how a reformed PCC governance structure looks as well. I would put money on that all parties are now considering how to reform the PCC structure in the future - even though we are not yet six months in - even the Conservatives who must be disappointed in the way that it went.

      You are right about data - but I would add that behind that is the ability to ask good questions - that for me is probably one of the most critical governance roles.

  2. If you accept the need for PCC's then you have to accept the need for a panel of suitable individuals to assist the PCC. They should of course be recruited through sound, fair and open recruitment practices not appointed because they are mates of the PCC.

    If you don't accept the need for PCC's then you don't accept the need for an ever expanding supporting cast.

    As more than 80% of the potential voters decided not to vote then I think the argument is there that people do not accept the needs for PCC's and therefore this is at the least a complete waste of public money or a deliberate policy to spend public money unnecessarily.

    1. I agree - the case for PCCs is not won in the public mind. And see above, the existing governance structure will be reformed.

      However, they are here to stay, probably for at least their 3.5 year terms and so the question becomes - how do we make the structure work as well as possible.

  3. The West Midlands PCC announced this week the members of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board, after sixty applications and each has a mini-bio on:

    The announcement included an explanation by Bob Jones: 'Collectively, they are a balanced and representative group also. Among them there is a former chair and two vice-chairs of the police authority. Cath Hannon is a former senior police officer, who stood against me in the recent election. The three major political parties are represented, and the board members come from across the West Midlands. There is a mix of gender and ethnicity that is more representative of our area'.

    What is astonishing is that of the seven appointees five have served on the Police Authority: Foster, Nazir, Connor, Hendricks & Sawdon. There is very little "new blood" here.

    It remains early days for the PCC and what difference have they made? I am not convinced what is needed is a mini-police authority.

    1. I am also not sure what should be the reformed governance structure for policing and crime. I think Bob has put in place something akin to a mini police authority - even down to its membership - but of course he has that power to do so. The whole PCC structure is predicated upon large amounts of power being invested in a single individual.

      For me it is no surprise that he has chosen former members of the PA - he needs people whom he can trust, people who know something about policing and crime from a governance perspective and people who (I presume) will challenge him. As Machiavelli said - good leaders require people to tell them the truth not sycophancy.