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CAREERS - SKILLS TO CUT CRIME

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Using his transferable skills as a project manager, Jon Underwood was inspired to tackle crime, after seeing a job ...
Using his transferable skills as a project manager, Jon Underwood was inspired to tackle crime, after seeing a job advertisement in LGC, says Suzanne Simmons-Lewis

Jon Underwood, Crime strategy and performance manager, Tower Hamlets LBC

Advertised July 2005

Started work September 2005

Qualifications

Politics, philosophy and economics degree

Systems engineer

Previous experience

Corporate performance officer,

Tower Hamlets LBC

Centre manager, Jamyang

Buddhist Centre

Graduate training scheme, EDS

(IT service provider)

Reports to Head of crime and reduction services

Best bit about the job 'The can-do attitude of our team - there is a great buzz from feeling we are getting somewhere and there is a real commitment to improving. It is also great to see the results of the progress we have made in local communities.'

Biggest challenge 'Making things happen fast enough, particularly with some agencies in the partnership, it can be quite slow getting them on board.'

'Crime is the biggest concern for local people in Tower Hamlets. So if you want to make a difference, it's a good area to work in,' says Jon Underwood, crime strategy and performance manager at the London borough.

Last September he moved from his role as corporate performance manager at the council to his current post, relying heavily on his transferable skills and motivation to improve the lives of the borough's residents.

'The role involves a lot of project management work. I see myself as an experienced project manager, so it went down well. The job also involves working on a lot of different projects with many different people.'

Mr Underwood worked in the voluntary and private sector before joining local government. After completing a graduate training scheme for an IT firm which gave him a systems engineering qualification, he took on a more generic role as manager for a Buddhist centre.

'I decided to work in local government because there is a motivation to help people that you don't find in the private sector. There are many opportunities in local government and the transferable skills you gain can be used across the public sector, or even in the voluntary sector,' he says.

Mr Underwood manages the crime strategy and performance team, which has eight officers.

He explains: 'This is a new post. Before, the team had a slightly different function, the emphasis was on community safety, with the direct delivery of projects. Now there is more emphasis on strategic partnership working to deliver the results residents want.'

Mr Underwood and his team are responsible for: developing policies and delivering projects to ensure the council meets its crime targets; communicating with residents and business to ensure they are aware of the progress the council is making; improving communication between partnership agencies to work more closely together; and performance monitoring to drive further improvements.

He says: 'We use data from across the council and external agencies to aid the way we work. For instance we get information on abandoned vehicles, intelligence from the police and the fire service and registered social landlords. We draw together this information to look at the big picture and see how we can work together.'

Mr Underwood particularly enjoys the can-do attitude of his colleagues. 'There is a great buzz from feeling we are getting somewhere and there is a real commitment to improving.

'The biggest challenge is making things happen fast enough, it can be quite slow getting some agencies on board with the partnership.'

According to Mr Underwood officers with backgrounds in performance management or policy development with experience of project management would make ideal candidates for a similar role.

Key skills and experience include: communication skills; understanding of various organisations and people; understanding of organisational change; influencing skills and a strategic view to see what needs to happen to get the required results.

All councils must work within a crime and disorder reduction partnership to make life safer for their residents. Partnerships are the statutory vehicle for different agencies such as the police, fire and primary care trusts to work together.

Mr Underwood concludes: 'There is no doubt partnerships are the only way that we can make a dent in crime, so it is clear that having a strong partnership focus at the centre of the service is essential.'

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