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Important conversations that help keep our communities safe

In her latest blog, PCC Alison Hernandez focuses on important conversations and the community safety partnerships (CSPs).

So much of my job as police and crime commissioner is about conversations. And it’s not just about the conversations I have myself, it’s just as much about those had on my behalf by members of my team or by others on our behalf.

This is a very interesting time in policing – as it is in all public sector organisations which rely on contributions from hard-working people, via both local and national funding streams, and are lobbying for their cut of the public purse. All public bodies, councils, health trusts, fire services, and police are currently in the process of setting their budgets for next year so that those who actually deliver services know exactly how much they will have to spend from April 2018 and try to work out how best to do that.

There are basically two income streams for the police – money received from central Government (which means that each of 42 Forces receives a share of the overall police pot) and that received directly from council tax payers which is paid locally. The split is about 63 per cent from Government and 37 per cent paid locally.

It cost about £283m to police Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly last year and 84 per cent of that is spent on the excellent people we employ. The officers and staff who go out to keep you safe, prevent crime and catch criminals all day, every day, often in very difficult circumstances and all the other staff we have working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our police service running.

So now the conversations are ongoing to find out exactly how much the Government is going to give to policing in 2018 and 2019. So that’s quite a few conversations and I – much as I like to talk – can’t have them all myself. So I am grateful to others who will have them on my behalf - on your behalf.

Just this week I have thanked MPs, Peter Heaton-Jones, Neil Parish and Steve Double for having conversations with Home Secretary Amber Rudd to discuss policing in Devon and Cornwall and make the case for fair funding for our counties. That level of influential discussion is invaluable. But it doesn’t end there.

As PCC I am responsible for commissioning over £5m of services. I have prioritised protection from harm of people at risk of abuse or who may be vulnerable, for example missing children. To be effective this focus on vulnerability must permeate throughout the police service and must underpin work with local authorities, other partners and the voluntary and charitable sector.

To make sure that our commissioning budget is best used to support agencies and organisations which provide services to the most vulnerable people in our communities, we need to have lots of conversations with all those organisations to see how they are doing and if they are providing value for money.

Of course, Devon and Cornwall remains a very safe place to live and we know, because you have told us, that you have great confidence in your police – the highest levels in the country in fact. And I would like to think that a lot of this is because of the relationships that have been built up, because of all those conversations, and because of the systems we have put in place to keep you safe.

One of the most important relationships we have is with our community safety partnerships (CSPs). CSPs are statutory partnerships which ensure agencies and organisations work together to reduce crime and disorder including antisocial behaviour that affects the local environment, as well as the misuse of drugs in their area. The responsible authorities are police, probation, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities and primary care trusts.

At the moment my office gives £1.6m a year to CSPs. I am a huge supporter of CSPs – who have a hugely important role to play in keeping people safe: understanding local crime, disorder and drug misuse, consulting with local communities and formulating strategies for tackling crime, disorder and drug misuse.

My office receives lots of correspondence from members of the public and even elected officials such as councillors, who raise concerns about crime or antisocial behaviour in their area and are looking for solutions. The CSP is very often the correct place to discuss those concerns and to develop plans to resolve them.

To contact a CSP in your area visit their websites:
Safer Devon
Safer Cornwall 
Plymouth Community Safety
Safer Communities Torbay

Alison Hernandez