South Yorkshire PCC by-election: first thoughts

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, has, half an hour ago this morning, announced his resignation. This follows several weeks of pressure on him to resign.

What happens next? The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 provides the relevant legislation. There needs to be a by-election within 35 days of the Police Area Returning Officer being notified of a vacancy – so, assuming a) the Returning Officer is notified of a vacancy today; b) the election takes place on the latest possible Thursday, then…

The South Yorkshire PCC by-election is likely to be held on Thursday 16th October. 

[UPDATE: Thursday 16th September, 1pm]: though note Section 73 of the Police Reform Act 2011 may extend that, by allowing 35 BUSINESS days – i.e. the by-election, on this amended calculation, to be held before Tuesday 4th November.

South Yorkshire was, at the time of the first PCC elections in November 2012, one of the safest Labour PCC seats.

I’ve just heard local MP John Mann on BBC Radio Sheffield stating that he’s already emailed former Home Secretary David Blunkett (also a South Yorkshire MP) to suggest he put himself forward as a candidate at this by-election. Things have moved on quite considerably since my blog two weeks ago (i.e. well before Shaun Wright’s resignation) about possible candidates.

I’ll add to this blog (and probably create further blogs) on this topic in due course…

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.10am]: Worth noting that, if David Blunkett ran as a South Yorkshire PCC candidate, he’d need to resign as an MP.

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.50am]: The Police and Crime Panel will need to appoint an Acting PCC – the relevant legislation specifies that (in the absence of a Deputy PCC – Tracey Cheetham, the former Deputy PCC resigned two weeks ago):

The police and crime panel may appoint a person as acting commissioner only if the person is a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff at the time of the appointment.

The current OPCC Chief Executive is Michelle Buttery (though remarkably this appears not to be mentioned on the South Yorkshire OPCC website). She will be exercising delegated authority for the time being. The Police and Crime Panel may in due course confirm her as Acting PCC until a new PCC is elected.

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.50am]: David Blunkett has told BBC Radio Sheffield that he will not put his name forward for the South Yorkshire PCC election.

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PCCs and innovation: a work in progress

A couple of months ago, CoPaCC published a thematic examining “PCCs and Innovation”. This was the third thematic in a series examining how well PCCs are performing in their six key areas of responsibility – namely innovation, transparency, governance, partnership, commissioning and public engagement. As is CoPaCC’s custom, this thematic has now been accompanied by CoPaCC’s announcement of a number of “PCCs and Innovation” Awards.

As CoPaCC’s chief executive, I led the analysis determining which OPCCs (Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner) would receive these awards. This decision was guided by comments from amongst the 16 organisations and individuals who also contributed to the CoPaCC “PCCs and Innovation” Thematic. This blog is intended to provide a little more information on the process we followed, and the conclusions we drew.

Every one of the 41 OPCCs, plus their London equivalent MOPAC (the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) were originally invited, approximately six weeks before publication, to contribute to the Thematic. Eleven OPCCs responded, with one apologising for not having time to provide a submission and the remaining ten making a submission.. It’s of note that seventeen OPCCs responded to a similar invitation to contribute to an earlier CoPaCC “PCCs and Public Engagement” Thematic. There are a number of possible reasons for this lower response rate. Based on conversations with PCCs and OPCC staff, we believe that this lower response is at least partly down to PCCs (and their offices) being less instinctively comfortable with “innovation” than they are with “public engagement”.

As was made clear to PCCs and OPCCs, CoPaCC has selected its “PCCs and Innovation” Award-winners from amongst the submissions that were made to us. We know full well that there are many other examples of PCCs and Innovation, some of them recognised in the Home Office’s own Innovation Fund Awards, and in the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services Awards. These Home Office and Ministry of Justice awards required PCCs and OPCCs to submit a “bid”: the CoPaCC “PCCs and Innovation” Awards also required PCCs to submit their entry.

In assessing the ten entries, we were looking for evidence within the PCC submissions of the good practice set out in the Thematic – for example: evidence of “Targeting, testing, tracking” espoused in the CoPaCC Thematic by Peter Neyroud of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology; evidence that the innovation was delivering (even if at a very early stage) desired outcomes; and/or evidence of “real innovation” rather than either a continuation of what had already been happening or something that all PCCs were pursuing.

I’ll say more about our analysis once the Awards have been announced tomorrow (Friday) morning – so, as with PCCs and innovation, this blog is a “work in progress”…

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Has HMIC lost sight of its own ‘core business’?

This article was first published in Police Professional, 11th September 2014

Has HMIC lost sight of its own “Core Business”?

Last week, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary published “Core Business”, an inspection into crime prevention, police attendance and the use of police time. It’s a substantial document of over 150 pages, with some important insights into areas such as preventive policing, regional and local variations in policing processes, and partnership working.

But there is much in the document and accompanying press release to suggest that HMIC is at risk of losing sight of its own “core business”. The Inspectorate’s report seeks to instruct – outside its remit – rather than simply inform. Nowhere does it consider the impact on force “core business” of the considerable demands HMIC itself places on forces. And, perhaps most remarkably at a time of tight policing budgets, the report is almost completely devoid of any financial or cost benefit analysis.

The day before HMIC published “Core Business”, the Home Secretary delivered a speech entitled “Lessons of police reform” at a Reform think tank event, which provides some useful political and legislative context. In it, she drew attention to the 2002 Police Reform Act, which had previously required a Home Secretary, at the beginning of each financial year, to prepare a “National Policing Plan”. The Act specified that a National Policing Plan must set out “the strategic policing priorities generally for the … police areas in England and Wales for the period of three years beginning with that year”. “That was, of course, complete nonsense”, Theresa May said. She went on: “it couldn’t be further removed from the approach we have taken to police reform in the Home Office since May 2010”. She characterised policing as previously run by an “unaccountable, centralised, corporatist system of governance, known as the tripartite”, made up of the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Police Authorities (APA).

The APA is now gone and ACPO is going. The Home Office’s focus is now on three areas: its relationship with the National Crime Agency; making sure that national systems such as the Police National Computer work effectively; and, in Theresa May’s words, “developing genuine knowledge and harnessing existing expertise on matters of crime and policing”. Police forces have been made accountable to their local communities, the Home Secretary said, “through beat meetings, crime maps and elected police and crime commissioners”. It’s clear that the Home Secretary expects PCCs to work with chief constables in providing the direction for forces, and that indeed is the current legislative position.

So, what is HMIC’s place in this revised landscape? Reflecting its statutory position, its own website states that HMIC “independently assesses police forces and policing across activity from neighbourhood teams to serious crime and the fight against terrorism – in the public interest”. It states “HM Inspectors have powers to seek information from police forces”, and notes that “HMIC reports to Parliament on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces in England and Wales”.

This latest “Core Business” inspection has lost sight of much of this.

Firstly, the Inspectorate’s report seeks to direct – outside its remit – rather than simply inform. This is most vividly illustrated in its inclusion of forty “recommendations”. These are accompanied by very tight timescales for forces to implement associated actions. The Inspectorate seeks to direct forces, neither acknowledging nor recognising that it is for Police and Crime Commissioners, consulting with their respective Chief Constables, to decide the strategic approach that each force should adopt.

The HMIC recommendations are themselves unaccompanied by any consideration of the financial or operational impact on forces of their implementation. Of even greater concern – very few of the recommendations themselves are associated with detailed, evidence-based financial and cost-benefit analysis in their support.

And finally, nowhere does HMIC consider the impact on force “core business” of HMIC’s own inspection regime. These HMIC demands place a very significant burden on forces. Whilst HMIC are within their statutory remit to make these demands, should their inspection report at least acknowledge that these place a substantial obligation on “police use of time”? From figures provided to me, it appears very broadly that forces across England and Wales need to set aside resources equivalent to at least 450 full time police officers to meet these HMIC demands. Should HMIC not have at least acknowledged and examined this in its Inspection? I would be very interested to see detailed figures for this HMIC burden on forces – as, I suspect, would many others.

CoPaCC, the organisation for which I am chief executive, has a very clear philosophy: we work hard to identify and communicate good practice through independent, objective and evidence-based analysis. Though CoPaCC is a relatively new and still-developing organisation, I personally have worked as an independent policing strategist for well over twenty years. I therefore know that HMIC has a long history of producing some excellent independent, objective and evidence-based reports. Unfortunately, this latest HMIC report does not generate confidence that it meets this necessarily high standard.

HMIC’s statutory independence means that it answers not to the Home Secretary, nor to PCCs or Chief Constables, but to Parliament. I hope that HMIC will find time to respond to the concerns that I have set out in this short article. If it does not, I hope that Parliament will in due course ask similar questions of HMIC.

Bernard Rix is the Chief Executive of CoPaCC, the independent body monitoring policing governance across England and Wales

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Updated figures for HMIC’s burden on forces: 1900 fewer “front line officers”

I published a blog yesterday, claiming that “HMIC’s burden on forces: 450 fewer ‘front line officers’“. In the blog, I recognised that I was using partial data, and that to arrive at a figure closer to the real loss, the cost of running HMIC needed to be added to the costs HMIC imposed on forces.

Jeff Harris, Surrey Deputy PCC, has now provided some additional information. For the “top slice” from Surrey set aside for HMIC additional running costs, he has tweeted:

Jeff Harris re precept

Note: this is not Surrey’s part of the FULL cost of running HMIC, it’s just the ADDITIONAL amount top-sliced this year. So even this updated calculation won’t represent HMIC’s full cost on policing. [though see UPDATE below]

Surrey is one of 43 forces in England and Wales, and accounts for approximately 1.5% of the country (i.e. 1970 Surrey Police officers out of 129,584 nationally). So a contribution of £1.1 million from Surrey would pro-rata to a national contribution of £72.4 million.

Add that to the £22.5 million calculation from my earlier blog produces an “HMIC burden” on forces of at least £94.9 million. Using a “back-of-envelope” cost of £50,000 per police officer per year (their salary plus relevant on-costs), that suggests that HMIC’s inspections are the equivalent of 1900 police officers per year rather than my earlier figure of 450 police officers per year.

Put another way, on these figures HMIC’s inspection regime currently prevents 1900 officers from performing “front line duties”. On average, around 44 police officers per force. The impact on a large force like the Metropolitan Police is even greater: around 38o Metropolitan Police officers lost to London front line duties through the “HMIC burden”.

As always, comments welcomed – particularly if you can help improve on the accuracy of this data.

UPDATE [Friday 5th September 2014, 3.30pm]: Jeff Harris has tweeted as follows – note this would suggest that the “HMIC burden” actually lies somewhere between 450 and 1900 police officers per year. It will have to remain, for the moment, as a broad range – until, perhaps, HMIC can provide us with the actual figures?

Jeff Harris re precept 2

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HMIC’s burden on forces: 450 fewer ‘front line officers’

Back in July this year, I published a blog entitled “The HMIC burden – a cost that must be published“. It called on HMIC to recognise (and publish) details of the substantial cost burden on forces that result from HMIC inspections.

Today, HMIC published their inspection report “Core business: an inspection into crime prevention, police attendance and the use of police time“. It made no mention of how much police time is spent on responding to HMIC inspection requests.

I’ve published some commentary on this HMIC inspection on the Police Oracle website. I also asked Twitter for help in calculating the administrative cost on forces of responding to HMIC requests – and Surrey Deputy PCC, Jeff Harris, responded:

Cost of HMIC tweet from Jeff Harris

 

So, if there are 35 HMIC inspections of each force (there are 43 forces) per year, each inspection costing each force £15,000 in support costs, that makes an HMIC burden on forces of £22.5 million. Using a “back-of-envelope” cost of £50,000 per police officer per year (their salary plus relevant on-costs), that suggests that HMIC’s inspections are the equivalent of 450 police officers per year.

Put another way, HMIC’s inspection regime currently prevents 450 officers from performing “front line duties”. On average, around 10 police officers per force.

As always, comments welcomed – particularly if you can help improve on the accuracy of this figure.

UPDATE [Thursday 4th September, 2014, 6.15pm]: Despite Jeff Harris’s second tweet (see picture above), I forgot to add the cost of “unilaterally top sliced” 50% of local precept rise. I don’t have this information to hand – will see if I can find it. Ideally, I’d need to add HMIC’s budget to the above costs…

 

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Seven summer lessons for policing governance reforms

This article was first published in Police Professional, 4th September 2014

Seven summer lessons for policing governance reforms

by Bernard Rix

Events during Parliament’s Summer Recess will have provided the Home Secretary with much food for thought – not least on her reforms to policing governance. Since the House of Commons rose on 22nd July, there has been a PCC by-election in West Midlands, and cross-party calls on the PCC in South Yorkshire to resign. The PCC in Bedfordshire has had his party whip removed, and the MP credited with the original idea for PCCs has resigned to force a parliamentary by-election in Clacton. Whilst these may not all be at the top of Theresa May’s lists of concerns, each has implications for policing governance, providing at least seven questions that the Home Secretary and her team will need to consider.

Even before the Summer Recess, it was clear that the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 was not operating as smoothly as Parliament had intended. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published a report in May this year on “Police and Crime Commissioners – progress to date”. This contained more than twenty policing governance recommendations, covering training of PCCs, their transparency (or rather, lack of it), the process for their removal of Chief Constables, and more.

 

The Select Committee did not, at that time, consider the process for the removal of PCCs, though a similar inquiry today would almost certainly do so. Here are seven suggestions for the Select Committee’s next examination of PCCs’ progress: three areas that have already been well aired, and four that have had less exposure to date.

Firstly, the legislative timetable for PCC by-elections undoubtedly needs amendment. The sudden death of Bob Jones, the former West Midlands PCC, led to a statutory imperative that the by-election be called even before his funeral had been held – unintentionally but clearly disrespectful of the late PCC and his bereaved family and friends. The legislation also provided no alternative to holding the by-election in August, with many electors away on holiday and – as many of the usual polling stations were unavailable over the summer – producing real headaches for the Returning Officer’s organisation of the poll.

Secondly, the mechanisms for removing a PCC between elections are very weak. This may have been intended in the legislation, to demonstrate the primacy of the electorate’s decision. However, it means that PCCs can be suspended mid term (and potentially removed on conviction) only where they face charges that carry a penalty on conviction in excess of two years’ imprisonment.

Thirdly, the wider powers currently available to Police and Crime Panels are also limited. They must review the PCC’s draft Police and Crime Plan, and can object to a PCC’s proposed precept or Chief Constable appointment.  Though they “may require the relevant police and crime commissioner… to attend before the panel”, Panels have no sanction against PCCs who choose not to obey that instruction. The Police Reform Act emphasises a supportive “scrutiny” role for the Panel, rather than one where they are there to hold the PCC to account.

Fourth, there may be little motivation for some Police and Crime Panels to put much effort into scrutinising the work of their PCC, even if the Panels were to be granted additional powers. Where a Panel Chair and the majority of Panel members share political affiliation with their PCC, the Panel will be particularly vulnerable to such suggestions. South Yorkshire is one such Panel, as is Hertfordshire, where two Panel members have resigned in frustration that their Panel “has no teeth”.

Fifth, financial provisions for PCCs on departure are significantly less generous than for MPs – particularly those with Government or Shadow responsibilities. MPs can resign from their Government or Shadow post, maybe keeping their party whip. Even those that have the whip removed can remain as an independent MP to the subsequent election. If they stand in that election and lose, they are then entitled to a “Resettlement Grant and Winding-Up Allowance” which can amount to tens of thousands of pounds. PCCs have no such potential financial parachute.

Next, accepting PCCs’ commissions introduces an additional reputational risk for HMIC. I first raised this potential risk with Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary when he gave the Police Foundation’s “John Harris Memorial Lecture” in July 2013. Two months later, HMIC accepted a commission from the South Yorkshire PCC to examine “the effectiveness of the current arrangements within South Yorkshire Police for protecting children from exploitation”, at a cost to the PCC estimated by HMIC at £13,152. HMIC submitted its first report to the PCC in November 2013. Then, following a revisit, HMIC provided a letter to the PCC that was reported by the BBC in July this year as “South Yorkshire Police praised over child crime cases”. The PCC cited this commissioning of HMIC within his response to Alexis Jay’s Independent Inquiry.

Finally for this article, reforms to policing governance – whether under a Conservative or Labour government – could weaken the position of independents, who currently account for 12 of the 41 PCCs. Labour are currently considering the replacement of PCCs by the Policing Boards recommended by the Lord Stevens review it commissioned. These Policing Boards, made up of elected local politicians, would seem likely to reduce independents’ influence: the vast majority of council leaders from whom the Policing Boards might be drawn have a party political affiliation. Even were PCCs to be retained (the likely outcome under a Conservative administration), Independent PCCs and their supporters could find it harder to influence Parliament’s amendments to policing governance than would those PCCs and supporters with party affiliations.


Bernard Rix is the Chief Executive of CoPaCC, the independent organisation monitoring policing governance

 

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South Yorkshire PCC, HMIC and child sexual exploitation

Following publication earlier this week of the “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham“, the South Yorkshire PCC is under considerable pressure to resign.

It’s worth noting that a year ago, Shaun Wright, the PCC, commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to “carry out a bespoke independent inspection around the effectiveness of the current arrangements within South Yorkshire Police for protecting children from exploitation”. The HMIC report was published in November 2013, with a revisit in May 2014. HMIC wrote to the PCC in July 2014, with their response to this revisit. The BBC reported this under the headline “South Yorkshire Police praised over child crime cases”.

Earlier this morning, I updated an earlier blog of mine entitled “South Yorkshire PCC: where next?“, to suggest that the Home Secretary might consider use of Section 40 of the Police Act 1996. I’d said:

Section 40 of the Police Act 1996 does indeed provide powers that the Home Secretary can turn to in certain circumstances where an inspection finds significant weaknesses in a force’s operation. As HMIC has yesterday published a report containing significant criticisms of South Yorkshire Police on crime recording, will this option be on Theresa May’s desk this morning?

Might Shaun Wright now choose to argue that his much earlier commissioning of HMIC to investigate the force’s approach child sexual exploitation, and its subsequent report, should prevent the Home Secretary’s use of this power?

My blog from July 2013 entitled “Accepting PCCs’ commissions: a real reputational risk for HMIC” may also be relevant in these circumstances.

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