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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Accountability through photography

The Thames Valley PCC has published his Annual Report as statute requires and the Police & Crime Panel will be considering it this coming Friday. You can download a copy of it here. There are three impressive full page photographs of Mr Stansfeld who evidently wants to make sure, if nothing else, that the public of Thames Valley will recognise him. The other twelve pages make for some interesting reading too.

Here is my commentary

The foreword is mostly about the legalities. The first substantive thing he says “Nevertheless, since being elected last November I have visited all the police units within this large Force area to understand the issues and challenges affecting policing and crime reduction across the Thames Valley, and I have met most of the councils to discuss their community safety priorities and concerns.”
  • Which councils has he not met?
  • What about meeting the electorate?
On the next page he talks about how he has discharged his responsibilities. He states that has appointed Deputy but says little about what he has done.

“Despite significant cuts (21%) in Home Office funding in this specific area I have been able to maintain funding for community safety initiatives in 2013/14 at close to the previous year’s level by increasing the police element of council tax by 2% and topping up the grant from my own budget.”
  • Huh? It is all his budget…
“I hold the Chief Constable to account for her leadership of Thames Valley Police and delivery of an efficient and effective police service by holding regular meetings with her to scrutinise performance and progress on delivery of the policing priorities set out in my Police and Crime Plan”
  • Most of which happen behind closed doors – only one public ‘Policy, Performance & Performance" meeting happened before this report was published
“I have succeeded in visiting all the police areas, council leaders, partners, and representatives from communities across the whole of the Thames Valley area.”
  • Wow. He has been around the block a few times then... This is quite an achievement considering the problems we know he has with navigating his way around Thames Valley?!
“I launched Countrywatch, a free Thames Valley Alert messaging system specifically for people who live and work in rural communities.”
  • There is a video of Mr Stansfeld on the front of their website. The service is effectively a rustic version of an existing system of alerts on crime issues. It is a good system.
  • But, how many subscribers are there I wonder? No mention of outcomes  or any results.
  • The website includes a very helpful checklist to remind farmers (for example) to “feed livestock” as one of the key activities for February and to do “ploughing” in November. I am sure that the farmers of Thames Valley find this an invaluable aide memoire. 
Following this is an “Annual Performance” summary for the year April 2012 to March 2013 (the PCC was in post for just over a third of that period). The figures are mostly very positive with substantial drops in recorded crime in many categories.
  • Well done – these are impressive results!
  • How were these results achieved? Indeed, what did the PCC do to facilitate these results? No information here.
  • There no measures or targets for two of the six strategic objectives? (Strategic Objective 4: ‘Improve communication with the public in order to build trust and confidence with our communities’ & Strategic Objective 5: ‘To tackle bureaucracy and develop the professional skills of all staff’) and still no measures even after the PCC came into office? Why not?
Next page are the accounts.
  • Force income is nearly £31m – what is that for? I am intrigued.
  • The accounts gloss over the differences in cost between the old PA and the new PCC by mashing them both together. This is very much a lost opportunity I feel.
  • I know I am being picky here but shouldn’t 366.545 be 366,545?! (In other words the cost of staffing is £366m not £366k!)
On the opposite page is a photo of a police officer doing something to something shiny... And on the following page are three smiling (well two of them are smiling – the other seems most concerned to point to a triangular label) people next to a tractor (one is a PCSO).
  • Huh???
  • Some names of these people would have been appropriate I feel
The next section is about his priorities. But this page really confuses me. First here is a table of his various priorities/objectives/pledges

1.       Improve crime detection rates,
2.       Rehabilitate prolific and persistent offenders,
3.       Reduce household burglary,
4.       Reduce drug and alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly at night-time in town centres,
5.       Reduce rural crime
1.       To reduce crime and drive up detection rates,
2.       To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing,
3.       To ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively,
4.       To protect vulnerable people,
5.       To ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity
1.       Cut crimes that are of most concern to the public and to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities,
2.       Protect the visible presence of the police and partners to cut crime and the fear of crime and reassure communities,
3.       Protect the public from harm arising from serious organised crime and terrorism,
4.       Communicate and engage with the public in order to cut crime and the fear of crime and build trust and confidence with our communities,
5.       Work with the criminal justice partners to reduce crime and support victims and witnesses, and
6.       Ensure policing, community safety and criminal justice services are delivered efficiently and effectively

  • Can you spot the differences & similarities?
The annual report says “During my election campaign, and after extensive consultation that had taken place with partners and the public, my headline election manifesto priorities were...” and then he lists the first column above. Now compare these to the actual pledges he made. They are very different!

The annual report goes on to say “I have now developed these priorities further in my Police and Crime Plan”. Again the link here is pretty tenuous. For example drugs and alcohol are mentioned in the priorities of the Annual Report but not in either the Police & Crime Plan or indeed the manifesto pledges..
  • Huh?
  • What is going on here?
  • At the very least there seems to be some confusion as to what the priorities actually are
  • Or perhaps that some sheep's wool is being pulled over our eyes (is that on the activities for July on the country watch rural checklist?)
The next page is titled “Spending and Community Safety Fund 2013/14” but says very little about where the money has gone / is going to apart from a couple of vague points. 
  • The PCC has allocated £3.5m to community safety projects. The Office of the PCC costs £1.7m
The next section is engagement. I read this page with great interest. He begins by (correctly) stating that one of his Police & Crime Plan strategic Objectives is “To communicate and engage with the public in order to cut crime and the fear of crime, and build trust and confidence with our communities”. So how will the PCC achieve this, I might here you say? He and his deputy will be visiting some events in the summer (such as the Thame Show) and he has “also agreed to hold” a series of ‘have your say’ events. 
  • No details as yet as to numbers of such events
  • And why the phrasing “agreed to hold”. Was this not his idea? Did someone have to persuade him?
  • And yep, and that is about it. This will cut the fear of crime, build trust and confidence.
  • Hang on, but he will also be “working with existing specialist organisations to consult with victims through focus groups and surveys” and he “will be attending or have representation on all Community Safety Partnership Boards as well as the Local Criminal Justice Board”
  • Phew. 
  • That is alright then. 
  • Engagement? 
  • Tick!
And that is it.

What will the PCP say, I wonder?

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