This week, voters across most of England and Wales head to the polls to choose a police and crime commissioner (PCC) to oversee their local force area.
Once the campaigning stops, the hard work begins. The PCC will be at the helm of organisations going through significant change and facing some daunting challenges. They need to get up to speed as quickly as possible and start making tough decisions from day one.
When PCCs take office, each will have a long list of decisions to make and people to see. As immediate priorities, the following should be on the PCC’s ‘to do’ list.
Get briefed on the finances
Getting to grips with budgets – policing and non-policing - will be a significant challenge. Many police forces manage budgets of several hundred million pounds, employ thousands and operate a diffuse range of assets.
The PCC will need to look at how resource can be allocated most effectively against the Police and Crime Plan and other commitments such as budget reductions or the Strategic Policing Requirement.
- Can they find capacity to take out cost in the force’s property or IT budgets?
- Can they share services or space with neighbouring forces or other public services?
Some might look to the private sector for answers.
Meet the stakeholders
PCCs can expect local politicians, public services, charities, probation trusts, media and community groups to place demands on their time, among others. Some force areas cut across county boundaries and cover several constituencies and councils.
All will want to do deals with the PCC on a range of issues and the PCC needs to listen and respond to their concerns. But in fact, the PCC could act as a focal point for everything from health to education, welfare to charities in helping communities tackle some of their biggest common challenges.
After all, the PCC is responsible for ‘crime’ not just policing, so interacting with other services will be essential.
Assemble a team
PCCs won’t just need a desk, phone and a computer. They will need a high quality team around them to help them manage stakeholders, implement commissioning decisions, manage community or media relations, and keep manifesto commitments on track.
They are obligated to appoint a chief finance officer to help them navigate key financial decision-making.
By design, there is no blueprint for how the PCCs should interact with the chief constable or the new Policing and Crime Panels.
- Who signs off the budget?
- Does the PCC get access to sensitive operational information?
- Is it the PCC or chief that speaks to the press, and on which topics?
Start looking ahead
By March 2013, the PCC will need to publish their police and crime plan, a comprehensive five-year vision for the force. This will require careful planning and a delicate balancing act between the commitments they made to voters, the reality they find themselves in and the demands placed upon them by stakeholders around them.
The election of PCCs will be a landmark in the history of policing and an intriguing new addition to the political landscape. PCCs have an opportunity to reshape policing for the better and break down barriers between public services.
There could be a lot that they could teach us about delivering joined-up services. But how each PCC chooses to run their business and work with partners will define success in the medium term.
James Taylor, police and Home Office lead partner, Deloitte