PermaLink There is one main issue facing policing and the rest of the public sector at the moment and that is the current economic situation.07/06/2010 10:31 AM
There is one main issue facing policing and the rest of the public sector at the moment and that is the current economic situation. This is a period of great uncertainty when it is very difficult to plan for the future. While there are some general figures from the Government on future funding cuts we probably will not know the detailed figures until the autumn.

There is a changed atmosphere throughout the Force as many staff wonder about how cuts may affect them personally. The police workforce is made up of police officers and police staff from a range of different roles who don't have full police powers from motor mechanics to Police Community Support Officers. Police Officers as crown servants cannot be made redundant but police staff are covered by normal employment law and so in extremes can be laid off.

However, the concern over the future funding situation is certainly not affecting the performance of staff. As I write this blog we are seeing a continued reduction of crime with 7000 fewer victims since April and 1400 more crimes detected. There have been significant convictions for serious offences and outstanding police work leading to arrests and seizures of drugs, firearms and cash.

To be fair we knew that the economic situation would have a serious impact and we have been planning for this for some time. Work has been undertaken to identify where we can make savings without affecting the service to the public but it all depends on the size of the cuts and how fast we have to achieve them.

Historically we have been through a long period of growth. During that time many additional initiatives, legislation and requirements have been added. On the whole when there was a problem - money was available for us to solve it. When bad things happened ministers felt under pressure to take quick action. To be fair many of the initiatives involved raising standards for the public or introducing additional safeguards or entitlements. This cannot be the way for the future.

Some of the safeguards are really important. Policing is a crucial public service officers hold great power over the public and are able to use controlled physical force as well use intrusive tactics to gain evidence. There have to be proper controls and accountability for the public. So some of the red tape and bureaucracy in policing is crucially needed but much is not and we will need a different attitude to the management of risk.

There is a lot of discussion about how to make savings on what we spend but less abut how we reduce the demands on policing and indeed the wider public sector. All the analysis shows that it is a relatively small number of individuals, families and locations that soak up a disproportionate amount of public spending and effort. Whether you look at anti-social behaviour, drug or alcohol abuse, educational under-achievement, domestic abuse or mental health the maps of the hotspots come back to the same places. Different agencies are all dealing with the same people and we go back to them time and time again. If you look at reoffending about two thirds of those coming out of prison commit crime again soaking up more public money.

So we need a different approach to how we deal with these demands. If we can reduce the number of times we go back to the same addresses or the same people to deal with the same problems then we can make savings. This requires more joined up local activity, teams of professionals from different backgrounds trying to solve the problem rather than just react to it. Making sure there is a considered balance between support and rehabilitation and enforcement and sanction.

In Greater Manchester we have a great chance to do this because of the City Region structure and the way this allows all the agencies to work together. There is already a plan to launch a series of pilot schemes in neighbourhoods in each borough to test this out.

This will only work however if we can get more local people involved in voluntary activity to help sort out some of these problems and they feel they have more power and influence. Last week I went to Reddish to open a cafe for young people set up by a local church. This provided a facility for young people to meet up after school on a Friday with a number of different activities. It was run by volunteers with a lot of support from the local policing team. It is inevitable that as money gets tighter it will be harder for agencies to provide things like youth facilities and therefore what's provided by voluntary groups and sports associations become more important. There were more examples of this at an event at the Velodrome organised by Redeeming Our Communities, which showed other examples of how church groups are getting involved in supporting local people through activities like debt counselling.
On Saturday I was with the Boys Brigade in Trafford at their award ceremony - another example of worthy local effort.

Over recent weeks I have been heavily involved with the Home Office and chief officer colleagues in terms of the policies of the new Government. We were happy to welcome the new Police Minister Nick Herbert to Manchester where he visited Longsight and Gorton Police Stations and talked to staff and members of the local community. Clearly the number one subject of discussion has been the economic situation but there has also been discussion on the proposal for directly elected individuals to replace police authorities and the reduction of bureaucracy.

Yesterday, Monday 5th July, I was involved in webchats with both my staff and the public. You can see the results on the webchat on this website.

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