The meeting of the Home Affairs Committee on the Reform of the Police Funding Formula was an opportunity for MPs to listen to the views of senior police representatives and PCCs. I suspect not many people will have watched the three hours of Q & A, so I wanted to reflect on some of the key comments.
A new era for policing
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan QPM, CBE of the Lancashire Constabulary said that demands on policing have changed significantly and therefore there needed to be more upstream activity focussed on prevention. He also suggested that there needed to be genuine integration with other public sector agencies, and more pressure on partners to step up to the plate. Personally, I do not believe it should not be a core function of the police to conduct welfare checks, and there needs to be a change in the culture of relying on the police so heavily on safeguarding issues.
It may be a surprise to the public to know 80% of police activity is not about recorded crime or that the police make more referrals to social services than arrests. Much police time is spent dealing with mental health issues, looking for vulnerable missing people and those at risk of suicide or self harming.
Whilst overall statistics show crime is down, sexual offences are up significantly, and keeping people safe is less about bobbies on the beat and more about tackling high victim impact crimes, cyber threats, organised and international crime, with patrols focussed on hotspots, and local policing providing reassurance, community engagement and intelligence gathering.
Specific challenges and possible solutions
Chief Constable Lynne Owens QPM,CBE of Surrey Constabulary commented that the police were trying to tackle today’s crime and yesterday’s crime (referring to cases of historic sexual abuse) within tomorrow’s funding envelope. A discussion about charging for and/or sponsorship of police services followed and generally was not considered an issue if done in an ethical framework. Already some villages had purchased the services of a dedicated PCSO. Bedfordshire police said they would be happy to consider sponsorship such as Easyjet squad cars!
There were discussions about the balance of precept funding and central funding and the inequalities across police forces as a result, and the possibility was raised of Police & Crime Commissioners being given more power to raise the policing precept before the need for a referendum.
It is a very exciting and challenging time to be involved to the transformational work which is underway across the country and sharing new ideas across forces.