The old Police Authority was 17 appointed, not elected, people and wasn’t accountable to anyone. And yet they made decisions affecting everyone such as council tax levels (police part), forced retirement of officers as young as 48, police station closures and how £200million of public money was spent. Major public interest decisions without the public having any democratic or other power over the decision makers.
It’s now the elected PCC who makes the decisions and is responsible for every penny. As an individual PCCs are accountable to people in the area they represent… in Matthew Ellis’ case Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. People can vote out the PCC if they don’t think policing is good enough or money isn’t being spent well or if they aren’t acting in the public interest. Very different from the old Police Authority because local people now have influence each and every day and ultimate electoral power every 4 years.
PCCs also bring new expertise, influence and opportunities to get the different parts of the criminal justice, victim support and policing sector working better together to improve services. Historically, customer service has been low on the agenda meaning the experience of people using the system as victims or witnesses, or for whatever reason, is poor. In short, people have to fit the system rather than the system fitting people… that will change now.
And crucially in such difficult financial times, the expertise and new skills the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) brings will mean millions each year of public money will be saved through smarter and professional purchasing, commissioning and more effective use of technology. The early, and brand new, savings identified by the PCC will be partly used to meet national savings required but also used for front line officers meaning fewer will be lost than before the PCC came to Office.
It actually costs £50k less than the old Police Authority and could secure millions for tax payers in savings and productivity because it includes experts in purchasing, technology, performance management and commissioning. The old Police Authority budget included over £250,000 in ‘allowances’ for the 17 members and with office costs on top it totaled £1.16million annually for what was mainly an administrative function.
Daily operational policing is the responsibility of the Chief Constable and he does that independently. So although he is employed by the PCC it’s not the PCC’s role to get involved with the operational decisions he or his officers make. It’s the police that decide who to arrest or what to investigate. But by law the PCC is responsible to the public for the ‘totality of policing’ so even though the police are independent operationally it comes with the territory that overall responsibility for whatever they do sits with the PCC.
So while politics is certainly not involved in day to day policing, and nor should it be, politics has always been involved around the strategy and overarching policy making in policing. Before it sat with Whitehall and the Home Secretary but now most of the policy and priority setting sits with the PCC. It means that the strategy, policing priorities and the amount of money to allocate to different things will be tailored to Staffordshire and will be set out by me having listened to local people and accounting for issues relating to our specific area.
The £75k a year was evaluated by the Senior Civil Service pay body and accounts for being personally responsible for £200million of public money as well as the workload the role involves. It can be challenging both in terms of the scale and complexity of information as well as the decisions the PCC makes daily.
Matthew Ellis works five days a week (and attends local events most weekends) which often involves early starts and late finishes. It’s usually more than 60 hours a week but that does vary. Like every elected office there aren’t any set hours of work or amount of time off specified but the opportunities to improve the wider system and save significant amounts of public money means it feels immensely worthwhile.
Yes, and the PCC will always be happy to speak personally to constituents. You can question Matthew, get his help if you’ve got issues or a complaint and you can hold him to account. The 17 members of the old Police Authority only met a few times a month and so weren’t available to local people very easily.
Yes. But not just improvement, it’s also about value for tax payers’ money. And that’s critical because if money isn’t spent more effectively and in a smarter way in future than it is now the next few years will see services reduce and deteriorate as budgets get tighter. If the sector stays as it is now there’s trouble ahead for policing, criminal justice and crime levels. That can’t happen so we must get the sector working better.
The reason the PCC role is such an opportunity is because it’s the first time that statutory influence over all the services that play a part in making Staffordshire safer is focused in one place… the PCC. That change is powerful and has huge potential to ensure services work together towards common outcomes rather than just their own agendas. But better services for less money isn’t all about fancy new policies or big announcements. The biggest issue to get most public services working better and for less money over the next two years is getting the ‘business’ and practicalities working effectively from one bit of the sector to another. It’s disjointed. Not being afraid to change what isn’t working and above all binning the phrase ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ is the big challenge. But it is entirely possible and is central to the plans the PCC has for Staffordshire.
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