After the general election, what now for policing?
In her latest article, PCC Alison Hernandez discussing the challenges facing national and local policing in the months ahead
Thank you to everyone who voted in the recent general election - we have a great team of re-elected and new MPs in Devon and Cornwall who I will continue to work alongside to secure resources to enable me to get the best out of the police on your behalf.
Clearly the result has left some uncertainties for the future months and it is not yet clear what the result means for policing in our two counties or nationally. Against the backdrop of national terrorist threats we face, we must work together to ensure we can protect our communities and keep people safe.
However I hope you will understand that the political influence PCCs and MP’s can bring to bear is likely to have a direct impact on the future of policing in this country and I hope to work closely with all our MPs going forward.
You will have probably seen that the Chief Constable is concerned about levels of funding, nationally and locally. As he continues to transform the local workforce, it is my role to ensure that he has the appropriate level of resource to effectively deliver the priorities in our police and crime plan and maintain our position as one of the very safest places to live in the country. There are unique challenges in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that mean that additional funding is required and I believe that there are a number of ways that we could secure this.
Regular readers will know that I am working hard with my team to influence the outcome of the police funding formula review, which has been delayed by the election. This is the share of money allocated to Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Put simply we don’t think we’re financially recognised for our massive geography, rurality and the millions of summer visitors.
If we are successful in getting a fairer deal for Devon, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, extra resources will deliver greater local policing connectivity between the public and the police. It is a central strand throughout our policing plan and, in light of recent events, that community involvement giving ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground has to be maintained and enhanced further. My scrutiny of how the force delivers this effectively will be a priority for me and my team.
Whatever the outcome, we need much more certainty for our longer term financial planning. I would like to see this fixed for at least three years so that our plans can be delivered with confidence. Currently year on year funding decisions filter down to us in December, leaving very little time to properly consult and work out our options ahead of the next financial year.
There is also a case for looking at the sources of police funding at the local level. I believe that directly elected, and therefore publicly accountable, PCCs should be given the freedom to set their own council tax level and not be constrained by the 1.99% cap set by Government. Currently local fire services get a funding from local business rates as well as through the council tax precept – our local police service does not. I believe the government should look again at this – so that both local business rates and local council tax can play a role in funding our local police services.
I meet many hundreds of local people across Devon, Cornwall & IOS and there is undoubtedly a great confidence in and support for our police. I think there was a time when maybe this wasn’t the case, but following recent events it most certainly is now. Over the past few weeks I have spent time in our major cities which have had an increase in armed officers, talking to the public, and their presence was widely welcomed. More armed officers provide reassurance, and people are also pleased to see the big uplift in the number of local officers who are able to use Taser. People want to see more warranted officers, and that is why we are investing £24 million of our public money to enable the chief constable to up our numbers again to 3,000. New initiatives like our telephone statement taking pilot will also help to free up front line officers to work in our communities and keep us safe. Our local policing resilience is paramount, and we are looking locally at policing response times – I am concerned that there are variations that we do not fully understand, with longer police response times in some geographic areas and at certain times of the day. I want to work with the public to provide clarity about the public expectations of the police and will work with the police to support improvements in the service provided.
It is frustrating for me to see policing budgets ’top sliced’ to fund other areas - HMIC, IPCC, College of Policing, police transformation funds. These scrutiny and development organisations and initiatives are important, but they use 100s of millions of pounds of the overall policing budget each year and reduce the ability for me as your elected representative to decide on how our money can be better spent to keep us safer. This has a massive impact on front line policing for all of us and is another area where I will continue to lobby hard and work with our MPs to effect change and ensure that these are proportionately resourced and that they add value locally. Currently PCCs are not consulted at all about these costs and this must change.
So the general election has been and gone, and now is the time to get to grips with the new political landscape and work together for the benefit of Devon, Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly policing and provide enough resilience to play our part nationally. I will engage with our MPs and I will make no apologies for fighting extremely hard in my area of responsibility. Your support for what I am doing is appreciated and I am very conscious that, as your representative, your feedback, suggestions and ideas are absolutely vital - so please keep them coming.