This blog is an edited version of a speech I made to a Nuance event in Portcullis House on “Innovation in policing and criminal justice: Transforming public services in an era of austerity” on Wednesday 22 February. It also appears on No Offence!, a leading criminal justice forum, here.
The police and the criminal justice system face a period of almost unprecedented change and challenge. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice face two of the most difficult Spending Review settlements of any department, meaning that by 2015, police forces, prisons and probation will have to take up to 20 per cent out of their organisations. In addition, the system faces new and complex threats every day – from terrorism to cyber-crime, sophisticated fraud to serious organised crime. Gone are the days of annual budget increases, growing wage bills and organisational expansion. Austerity is the new normal.
This challenge cannot be met with efficiency alone. Making processes a bit faster, buying equipment and services a bit cheaper, and managing staff a bit better are no longer sufficient in this new reality. In policing and justice, where the workforce comprises up to 75 per cent of the costs, nothing short of transformation is necessary to meet to budgetary and operational pressures of the coming years. A radical reassessment is necessary – of what we do, how we do it, and what we want to achieve.
That sounds like a huge challenge; and it is. But actually in a way that other services, like the NHS and schools, are not doing precisely because of protected budgets and half-way house reform, the “burning platform” in justice is driving a first-principles debate around what exactly we want to achieve and how we get there. The response, increasingly, is that existing models of service are ineffective, inefficient and in many ways obsolete to the demands of the 21st Century.
For instance, Ray Cole, Chair of Cumbria Police Authority recently announced the closure of 13 police stations to save £20 million over the next four years. As Ray explained: “The way Cumbria is policed has changed dramatically over recent years, and officers are no longer reliant upon static police buildings. The number of people visiting stations has also been in steady decline for many years…Officers spend the majority of their time in the community, leaving many of our buildings oversized, underused and outdated. A similar story has happened in Lincolnshire, which this week signed for a £200 million contract with G4S to build and staff a police station, the first deal of its kind in the UK, as part of wider plans to put 97 per cent of warranted officers on the beat. According to Barry Young, Chair of Lincolnshire Police Authority, “The cuts left us with no choice but to look for drastic changes in the ways we do things.”
Clearly police and criminal justice leaders are already looking at their delivery models in a very self-critical way, and finding that innovation can deliver better outcomes and user experience for less money. More for much less is possible.
Yet, we need to go further still. Real, meaningful transformation in policing and justice will not come from a single police force innovating on its own. If we are to really see a step-change in the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, then we need a fundamental reappraisal of not just what its individual components do, but how they work together.
Here lies both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. It is the biggest challenge for all of the same reasons that joined-up thinking has up until now proved relatively elusive - organisational and budgetary silos, central command and control, lack of local leadership. Yet there is a huge opportunity here too. The landscape is changing in favour of integration. The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and increased flexibility over local delivery provide at least some of the incentives for organisations to innovate not apart, but together.
If we can break down the barriers between organisations by giving providers greater freedom over delivery, and ensuring, through PCCs, that local leadership and commissioning is accountable for the whole criminal justice system, rather than just one part of it, then we can create the conditions in which real systemic innovation and transformation can take place.
The concept of Open Public Services is being restricted by a focus on mutuals at the expense of large providers
This piece was written for LSE Politics and Policy. The original can be found here.
The Government has made clear its intention to transform traditional models of public service delivery. Launching the Open Public Services White Paper to Reform in July last year, the Prime Minister pledged an end to “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re given” services. In its place, Cameron advocated a diverse range of providers operating new models for public sector value. The likes of personal budgets, payment by results, shared-service models and employee and community-owned ventures were touted as the future of public services. Yet, how far can these new business models really revolutionise public services? What are the challenges and limitations? What kind of public services do we even want?
A recent Reform-HP roundtable seminar, led by Professor Julian Le Grand and Richard Titmuss (Chair of the Government’s Mutuals Taskforce), set out to answer some of these questions. The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule, so comments are not attributable, but it raised a number of important points.
Firstly, if reform is going to be meaningful, it has to be fast and at scale. The Cabinet Office‘s preoccupation with public service mutuals runs the risk of mistaking novelty and complexity for effectiveness. While employee-ownership has its place and can deliver tangible improvements, it has neither the speed nor the capacity to drive systemic gains. As Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis, recently put it, the partnership model is “not the answer to all ills”. The Cabinet Office must also consider the merits of large providers whom are able to make a major and immediate contribution immediately through the delivery of innovative new models.
Secondly, the introduction of new business models should not be limited to specific areas of policy. The Government has made much fanfare of payment by results in justice and welfare, and personal budgets and community budgets in local government, but great swathes of the public sector continue to be run in a largely uniform manner. The Prime Minister last February claimed that the Government was “creating a new presumption… that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service”. Yet, as recent announcements over the Health and Social Care Bill have shown, the commitment to diversity and best value is restricted to specific areas of policy, rather than a presumption across the board.
Thirdly, real diversity and flexibility will require lower barriers to entry. Some obstacles – portability of pensions, access to capital, and so on – have held back innovative new providers for years. A skills gap on both the supply and demand sides of the debate makes it even harder for new models to enter to market; both new providers and commissioners need to improve their capabilities. Moreover, the Government’s recent attempt to create a level playing field through new ‘rights’ – to redress, to choice, and to buy – will be futile unless they have real power. Lacking both proper definition and legal foundation, these ‘rights’ currently amount to little more than empty words.
The Government is right to pursue a more open, innovative and diverse public service landscape. Yet by restricting the focus to some new business models in some departmental policy areas, it is holding back the development of lasting and meaningful change.
This post was originally written for the Reform events blog after a Reform roundtable event I chaired with Dame Anne Owers, former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 2001 - 2010. The original can be found here.
The Government has placed prisons at the heart of its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ in criminal justice, pursuing innovative forms of payment by results, the development of working prisons, and the introduction of greater competitive pressures in order to improve value for money and outcomes across the estate. This seminar was convened to explore the subject of “Unlocked potential: The role of prisons in offender rehabilitation”, and was led by Dame Anne Owers DBE, who between 2001 and 2010 served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. The discussion around the table, held under the Chatham House rules, was broad and valuable, raising a number of key points.
Prison is all too often a service of last resort, forced to pick up where other areas of society and government have failed, and where intervention is, in many respects, already too late. The problems that prisons deal with are complex and not merely criminal, incorporating mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness, family breakdown and other social issues too. The incentives – political, financial and operational, and for providers and commissioners alike – all lean towards containment rather than rehabilitation and isolation rather than partnership. Clearly if the criminal justice system is to effectively rehabilitate offenders, then prisons must be part of a greater, multi-agency whole that is equipped to deal with complex demand and incentivised to do so.
This is possible. The evidence from around the table demonstrated that innovative prisons, from both the private and public sectors, are already developing valuable partnerships with other local organisations and intervening further upstream, with a real, positive impact on recidivism. However if these pockets of best practice are to become both systemic and sustainable, other providers need to be incentivised to do the same. The greatest incentive is financial. The Government’s introduction of payment by results in this regard goes some way to incentivising providers, but a more intelligent approach to commissioning holds greater promise still.
In commissioning, the best way to incentivise reinvestment, partnership and earlier intervention would be to devolve budgets and powers for criminal justice to a local level. The Ministry of Justice has neither the capacity nor the expertise to deliver payment by results schemes in every locality in the country, and the Government has already hinted that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will have powers wider than their current policing brief. The geographical challenges of the prison estate notwithstanding, PCCs will be well placed to provide leadership and accountability for a broad range of justice outcomes, and they would be incentivised to look beyond the silos of the criminal justice system at more integrated solutions.
If prison is going to be more than just “an expensive way of making bad people worse”, as Douglas Hurd remarked in 1991, then a focus on rehabilitation is vital. Developing a more local approach that places the offender, not a specific service, at the heart of the solution is key to finding a cheaper and more effective way of preventing offenders from repeating the same mistakes.
This post originally appeared on The Guardian’s Public Leaders Blog. The original article can be found here.
In these straitened times, the challenge for public service organisations is to deliver more for less. This means reforming both the workforce and the public sector property estate, where huge efficiency gains are possible. But in today’s digital age, it also means sweating at another key asset; the exabytes of data that the public sector generates in its delivery of services and other public tasks.
Here, perhaps more than anywhere else in the public service debate, the government is striding ahead. The 2011 autumn statement committed the government to opening up swaths of publicly owned datasets to “catalyse new markets and innovative products and services as well as improving standards and transparency in public services”, and pledged £10m to a new Open Data Institute to lead the charge. The data.gov website now lists 7,800 datasets, including key government property estate and transport information. On 30 January, the Cabinet Officeannounced its first ever executive director for transparency and open data in the form of expert and former adviser Tim Kelsey.
The government is right to take open data seriously. This is not just about transparency; it is about public service efficiency and economic growth too. Estimates of the potential value of government data vary widely, but the prize could be considerable and the UK is already leading the way. Examples range from TfL’s new real-time bus information app to the government’s plans to open up health data to aid pharmaceutical research, and crime mapping on police.uk. Far greater value still will come from using data to systemically improve performance across the public sector.
Yet while “making open data real”, as last year’s consultation was called, may offer significant opportunities, it is not without challenges.
Firstly, government is notoriously bad at collecting data, much less organising it afterwards. The revolving door of performance targets and budget streams, handed down by a changing landscape of departments, quangos and regulators, has led to a labyrinthine public sector data store. Even now, leading figures are calling for a list of “endangered” datasets after the government’s “bonfire of the quangos”. If data is to have meaningful impact, maintaining the continuity of time-series data and ensuring the consistency and quality of new datasets is key.
Secondly, Whitehall is rarely best-placed to decide which data might have interesting applications in the real world. The very concept of government officials prescribing data releases, and by implication their potential uses, directly contradicts the aspiration for new products, services and markets. Innovation rarely stems from central prescription. Yet, given the risks to national security and personal anonymity, government is wary of throwing all the data at the wall to see what sticks.
Yet the existence of risk must not be used as a bulwark against doing things differently, and trying to predict unintended consequences is just oxymoronic. Yes, public service leaders should ensure safeguards around data, but they should also accept that the benefits of wholesale release will outweigh the risks and hold their nerve if the data is not used as they intended.
Finally, there is the question, whose data is it anyway? The question of data ownership plagues many organisations that use data to optimise their service, including Tesco, Facebook and Google. If the government is serious about using data systematically, it must be clear where it stands. There is certainly a strong argument that anonymous data collected in the public task should be open for public use rather than held in a data archive. Yet how you determine the public task, and how you anonymise data without limiting its potential impact both remain difficult and sensitive questions that the government has yet to answer.
The government has said that it is “determined to have the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world”. To achieve this, it will have to overcome big technical and political challenges. But if it can, this should become a defining characteristic of future public policy.
This post was originally written for the Reform events blog after a Reform roundtable event I chaired with Baroness Eaton, Former Chair of the Local Government Association. The original can be found here.
The Government has made devolution a key priority. The Prime Minister has pledged to end the “Whitehall knows best” attitude to public service delivery with greater plurality, decentralisation and local accountability. Yet while some of the policy milestones have been met, people are still uncertain about how to do it. So to explore the issues, Reform convened a roundtable seminar yesterday, led by Baroness Eaton, the former Chair of the Local Government Association, on the subject of “Letting go: Shifting power from Whitehall to town halls”.
At the heart of the Government’s proposals for decentralisation is the notion of delegating authority to “the lowest appropriate level”. Yet the idea that specific governmental or organisational levels are most appropriate for specific functions misses the point. The real question is the extent to which citizens, the users of public services, are engaged with service design and delivery. This does not mean citizens delivering services themselves (although it can), but does mean civil servants, local commissioners and service providers – including businesses – treating citizens as customers, and designing services with and around them.
Leading councils, such as Hampshire, are showing that it can be done. They are merging budgets and taking the decision to commission services, rather than try to deliver them too, which boosts efficiency and responsiveness. Other simple innovations, like putting complimentary services in the same buildings, have their place too. The Government’s community budgets pilots may move this agenda forward. But as one attendee commented, “the time for pilots is over”. It is time to translate all the rhetoric around shared services, personal budgets and voucher schemes into action.
Really pushing power away from Whitehall comes down to money. And with power comes responsibility, in budgets as elsewhere in life. For years central government has given local authorities money and freedom but come riding to the rescue when they fail. This has created asymmetries of power, which has ultimately left councils dependent on central government support. If localism is to work, Whitehall must trust local government, local government should be free to raise more tax revenue itself, and everyone should hold their nerve when services fail.
The £3.5 billion real terms reduction in local councils’ funding this year represents an unprecedented “burning platform” to change the way local services are delivered. This is not easy, but examples like North Dorset District Council, whose 25 per cent funding shortfall since 2006 has led to radical devolution to communities, show what can be done. In 2010 North Dorset was named as Best Community Partnership in the country.
The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule.
This post was originally written for the Reform events blog after a Reform roundtable event I chaired with Paul Minton, Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Operating Officer at the NPIA on 13 January 2012. The original can be found here.
For the police service, the coming years represent a period of unprecedented change and challenge. The Government’s reforms will fundamentally transform the way in which policing operates at both local and national level, while Chief Constables are having to make difficult decisions in order to meet the 20 per cent funding reduction set out in the Spending Review. Yet it is precisely this changing landscape that is giving rise to a first-principles debate as to what the police actually do, how they do it, and how best the police can meet modern challenges in an age of budgetary restraint.
At the heart of this is the question of the police mission, specifically defined by this Home Secretary as cutting crime. Some have criticised this mission as too narrow for the complex and multifaceted role that police officers fulfil. Yet, as the discussion bore out, it need not mean a narrow and reactive approach to policing based on simply “catching criminals”. In fact, those around the table argued that the way to cut crime is to identify and understand its root causes, and then apply a preventative focus and early intervention. As one attendee said, the best way to cut crime is to reduce demand.
The implications of such changes for the police service itself are profound. If the police are occupied with more preventative work, then what is meant by the “front line” and the “bobby on the beat” change fundamentally. The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police terms and conditions, expected later this month, offers a real opportunity. Chief Constables should have far greater freedoms to adapt their workforces in order to deliver a new approach and to respond to changing demand.
Better relationships between police and other organisations would promote early intervention. For many years, some police leaders have argued that localisation will threaten the efficiency and effectiveness of national policing arrangements. However, as the roundtable heard, existing examples of collaboration and inter-operable solutions within the 43 force structure show that there is now fertile middle ground in between centralisation and localism. Police and Crime Commissioners will encourage this co-operation because their own efforts to cut crime in their area will be encouraged by joint working between forces.
This post was originally written for the Telegraph on 23 September 2011. The original can be found here.
In the last few years, the language of police reform has been that of “efficiency”, “streamlining”, and “modernisation”. In the good times, when police budgets were rising steadily year on year, the way to reform what’s widely known as the “last unreformed public service” was to make processes a bit quicker, equipment a bit cheaper, and manage staff a bit better. But as forces face 20 per cent cuts over this Parliament, efficiency savings will no longer be enough. What is needed now is transformation: a radical reassessment of the way policing operates.
This was the message that underpinned Reform’s summer policing conference, Value for money in policing, held in partnership with KPMG. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, put it well in her keynote speech: “Doing what’s always been done but just a little bit better won’t be enough. What is needed is a fundamental systems approach looking from top to bottom at the whole policing process.” As the conference heard, Greater Manchester Police, West Midlands Police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency are already demonstrating that delivering more for less is possible, and these models offer some key lessons for Chief Constables struggling to salami-slice their way towards balanced books.
First, transform the culture. As all the policing leaders acknowledged, a “risk-averse” culture that is resistant to change is the greatest barrier to positive change in policing, as police leaders shy away from taking the difficult decisions in favour of the safe but wasteful status quo. Yet evidence from West Midlands Police shows what can be done. In 2009, West Midlands introduced Operation Paragon, reorganising the force around ten new local policing units, which follow local authority boundaries and are led by specific local command teams. Since the move to the new model, attendance to emergency incidents has improved by more than a fifth, despite the fact that the force has a third less staff on response teams.
Second, lead from the front. In Manchester, the introduction of a New Policing Model was made possible by senior officers believing in the change and convincing the rank and file. Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, stressed that the notion of the “captain on the bridge”, visibly and knowledgeably taking the decisions, was key to making the new system work. As a result, the force has gone from a rigid, target-driven and inefficient force, rated second worst in the country by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2009, to a force built around neighbourhood policing. The results have been dramatic. Since 2009, response times have fallen consistently, the crime backlog has fallen by two-thirds and detection rates are up by nearly 40 per cent, while at the same time saving the force £20 million.
Third, we need to re-establish the role of the police. The Home Secretary has said that the sole objective of policing should be to “reduce crime”, but how forces achieve this remains an open question. Sir Hugh Orde has previously spoken of what it is the police “stop doing” as budgets start to fall, while others have questioned whether “front line policing” can be maintained with less police on the beat. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has shown that re-evaluating how you work can mean using the resources you have far more effectively. By cataloguing all serious organised criminals for the first time, and using disruptive tactics, such as alerting businesses to criminals and disqualifying criminals from holding driving licenses and running companies, SOCA has freed up considerable capacity. The number of persons of interest SOCA is actively monitoring has risen from 39 per cent in April 2010 to 100 per cent this year.
Those police leaders that continue to rely on greater “efficiency” to meet the stringent budget requirements of the Spending Review are missing the point. As Greater Manchester, West Midlands and the Serious Organised Crime Agency show, forces can transform, rather than just improve, the way in which they deliver policing. By doing that, the prospect of better, cheaper and more responsive policing, all at the same time, is possible.
Today, Nick Herbert came out once again to defend the Government’s beleaguered plans to introduce Police and Crime Commissioners, after defeat in the House of Lords and calls from the Deputy Prime Minister for the model to be piloted in advance of a national roll-out. Speaking on the Politics Show, the Policing Minister contended that London has been the pilot for these reforms, and argued that elections will go ahead in May 2012, suggesting a serious legislative battle is on the cards over the coming month ahead of recess.
Yet while the Government’s reaffirmed commitment to the key issue of locally accountable policing is receiving the lion’s share of media attention, the Government’s plans for the national policing landscape seem to be in disarray. The Home Office Structural Reform Plan Implementation Update, published last week, recorded missed deadlines on five crucial issues – the organised crime strategy, the structure and function of the new National Crime Agency, the Prevent and Contest counter-terrorism strategies, and the dispersal of NPIA functions. The last of these “actions” was due to be completed by December 2010 - the Home Office now does not expect it to be resolved before July.
While delays and difficulties, both within Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster, are an inevitable part of the political process, the need for a consistent and predictable direction is paramount. This is especially true of serious and organised crime policy, where anything less than a seamless transition can be simply catastrophic.
Perhaps less importantly, but nonetheless significant, is the continuing uncertainty over the future of the functions of the National Policing Improvement Agency. For a government committed to efficient procurement and local policing, the Coalition would do well not to lose the good work done by the NPIA on local collaboration and partnership, and the promotion of national IT integration through ISIS.
As the debates on health and PCCs have demonstrated, the political capital needed to push through real, far-reaching reform is fast diminishing. While Police and Crime Commissioners detract all media attention in the direction of local policing, the Government must not let departmental delays cause the ball to drop on strategies and structure in the national context.
In recent weeks, and again this morning, Ken Clarke has come under sustained political pressure over his proposed reforms to the criminal justice system. The Justice Secretary’s pledge to reduce the UK’s record prison population by 3,000 prisoners by 2014-15, engendered by a “rehabilitation revolution” and, most controversially, widespread reform of sentencing guidelines, has been branded as “nothing short of a betrayal” and “a recipe for disaster”. Interestingly, it is not the Opposition benches, nor rebel Liberal Democrats, that have been most vocal in their criticism; it has been the right wing of the Conservative Party. This is not altogether surprising, of course, for a party perennially associated with the “prison works” school of law and order policymaking, especially amidst fraying public opinion on penal reform issues and in regard to a Minister long attacked for his liberal beliefs.
Yet, as a recent Economist article demonstrates, it is conservativism, rather than liberalism, that is fast assuming the vanguard in sentencing and prison reform internationally. Indeed, it is the conservative, Republican-dominated states of Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina that have successfully passed legislation to divert low-risk offenders towards rehabilitative programmes instead of custody, at no expense to political credibility or electoral standing. A recent Republican bill to mandate drug treatment instead of prison for non-violent offenders in Kentucky’s Senate, for example, was passed 38 votes to none.
The key to this nascent reforming zeal among conservatives is the unsustainable cost of incarceration. In an era of unprecedented budgetary constraints, the use of custody is viewed as an unaffordable response to low-risk offenders. However, the move towards community sentencing has delivered improved rehabilitation outcomes in addition to the predicted savings. In Texas, the investment of $240 million in alternatives to custody, in lieu of the $2 billion projected cost of new prison places, has seen recidivism rates fall by 7 per cent, from 31.9 per cent to 24.3 per cent, since 2004. Increasingly, it seems, budgetary impecunity is leading to legislative ingenuity in criminal justice, and with it improved value for money and outcomes for taxpayers.
The success of these initiatives demonstrates two things. Firstly, and most importantly, that precisely because conservatism has a historic reputation as the party of law and order, it has a genuine chance of introducing real criminal justice reform to improve both value for money and results. With the one of the most expensive criminal justice systems in the world and some of the highest reoffending rates in the OECD, this is long overdue in England and Wales. Secondly, it suggests that opposition to Ken Clarke’s reforms (radio comments aside) have more to do with personal victimisation from a recalcitrant Right than a genuine antagonism to the thrust of the policies. As it struggles to implement reforms to healthcare and policing, the Government must ensure that personality politics does not derail the right reforms in justice as well.
“The police alone cannot win the fight against crime and disorder. It requires a coordinated response by the community as a whole. Local authorities, schools, health services, the voluntary and private sectors, and individuals all have to work in partnership with the police to develop and implement local crime and disorder reduction strategies.”
Home Office, Policing a new century: A blueprint for reform, December 2001
Policing has a somewhat chequered history when it comes to inter-agency partnership and collaboration. The central government impetus for partnership has been protracted and inconsistent, spanning the 1981 Scarman Report and the 1991 Morgan Report before the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act mandated forces to establish statutory partnerships with local authorities, expanding in 2002 to include other blue light and healthcare services. In the local context, partnership has been equally gradual and patchy. There has been some good work, including Devon and Cornwall’s ADVA work around domestic abuse, the Safer London Foundation, and commercial partnerships to civilianise police custody suites, but ultimately the prospect of integrated, multi-agency crime prevention and community safety has remained unfulfilled. As a result, policing continues to operate largely independently of local agencies, charities and commercial organisations across many issues, delivering offender and victim pathways in virtual isolation.
Yet in the present climate, a number of factors make the time ripe for partnership and collaborative working.
Firstly, there is a financial imperative. The Spending Review not only set out 20 per cent cuts to police budgets over the course of this Parliament, but 27 per cent reductions to the Local Government Formula Grant and further reductions to the probation service and other criminal justice agencies. This represents an unprecedented challenge, of course, but it is also an unrivalled opportunity. They say that innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat, and there is no greater catalyst for ingenuity than the manifold pressures of impecunity. Indeed, such forces as Essex have argued that the Spending Review is the very basis for a new ‘Blueprint’ for policing. In this way, police forces as well as other organisations must refrain from the natural tendency to solely protect one’s own organisation in times of financial hardship, and instead reach out to other agencies working in areas of shared endeavour. And this is not to say that police or others should merely shift responsibility for some services to another provider – partnership must be built on a mutually owned and operated framework of genuine collaboration.
Secondly, there is a previously unseen political will towards localism and alternative models of service delivery. The Localism Bill, whatever its shortcomings, will transfer far greater powers and freedom to local areas and their communities over strategy, means of provision and, crucially, budgets. The prospect of a local area partnership around specific issues, provided by a diverse range of agencies, and funded by a community budget sourced from a variety of previously siloed streams, is now a reality. A good example of this is Westminster Council’s Family Recovery Programme, where a multi-agency team, including the council, police, health agencies and civil society organisations, came together to tackle the plethora of issues around family breakdown. The result was not only a £2.10 saving for every £1 invested during the scheme, but also significantly improved outcomes in anti-social behaviour, the number of ‘accused’ or ‘suspected’ offences, and in public perception indicators. Spreading this practice and scaling it to both a larger geographical area and other areas of police activity is key to maintaining effective provision in times of reduced resource.
The final factor that lends this time to partnership and collaboration is the development of directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. Sidestepping the internecine controversies and disagreements that have plagued this particular piece of legislation for a minute, the introduction of locally accountable bodies responsible for policing and crime priorities could genuinely engender a step-change in partnerships between police and criminal justice. The “and Crime” section of the PCC title is crucial. The Government’s focus on reducing reoffending rates and commitment towards more community-based solutions to criminal justice is not merely the domain of prisons, probation, Welfare to Work or alternative providers, it is also the preserve on the police. A locally elected leadership coordinating efforts to reduce crime has the potential to integrate services far better than Crime Reduction or Community Safety Partnerships previously, and better outcomes on reoffending, employment and settlement will have a far-reaching positive impact on police budgets, as with others.
Police forces in England and Wales face an extraordinarily complex array of demands on both time and resources in the 21st Century, and in a time of budgetary restraint the challenge is huge. A siloed approach to crime prevention and reduction is not only undesirable in terms of achieving the right outcomes; it is also frankly unsustainable financially. Yet the time is ripe for a more integrated approach, and policymakers, officers and officials would do well to promote a greater level of partnership towards ultimately shared aims.