The introduction of police and crime commissioners is both an opportunity and a challenge
Funding arm of the law
On 15 November the first elections will be held for police and crime commissioners in the 41 police force areas outside London. Much of the attention so far has focused on the PCCs’ role in holding the police to account. Yet they are police and crime commissioners, not police commissioners, and for many people from outside the police service the role they will play in community safety may be more significant than their responsibilities for policing.
The landscape in crime reduction and community safety is complex - with a range of organisations, partnerships and powers - but PCCs will have an elected mandate to shape and lead a shared approach that delivers effective services.
They can use this mandate to pull together agencies that are not directly in their control.
PCCs will also take control of the funding currently made available to community safety partnerships to support their work to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as some further strands of Home Office funding.
They will, in due course, be able to spend it entirely as they see fit, whether by commissioning services from the statutory, voluntary or private sectors or, for example, by simply spending it on more police officers or police community support officers.
This is a both an opportunity and a challenge for those people, from within and outside the statutory services, working to reduce crime and tackle ASB. PCCs are likely to focus attention on the issues that most concern the public, in particular ASB, and established approaches may be abandoned.
They will be able to use the funding available to them to drive innovation, and services that fit with the PCCs’ agenda and manifesto commitments will clearly be in a strong position to receive funding. Service providers will need to be clear about what they can offer to PCCs and be able to demonstrate their impact, especially given the current move towards ‘payment by results’.
PCCs may find it difficult to match services with specific local needs across large geographical areas, and they will need to work with a host of local bodies that play a role in crime in community safety. This may be challenging where different bodies locally support different approaches.
But for all those with a stake in tackling crime and ASB, the introduction of PCCs will have a transformative effect on the future delivery of local services.
Jon Collins is deputy director of the Police Foundation, an independent policing think tank