Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Strategy Group


Thursday, November 24th, 2011. 4:30am


Agenda Title Page Screenshot. Details of agenda are in the article.

The inaugural meeting of the “Interim Community Safety Countywide Board” is to be held at Cambridgeshire County Council’s Shire Hall on the 24th of November 2011.

This new board is intended to be central to the strategic oversight of policing and crime related matters in the county. Its members are made up of representatives from each of the county’s “Community Safety Partnerships” (one for each district council area) along with the police force, police authority, probation, public health, NHS, fire service and County Council.

The board is the “strategy group” required by the The Crime and Disorder (Formulation and Implementation of Strategy) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 which came into force on the 1st June 2011.

The “interim” in the name is due to the fact it is intended to operate until a Police and Crime Commissioner is elected. At that point presumably the incoming commissioner will shake things up and either re-invigorate the existing board or start from scratch with something better. The current board contains only one democratically elected member, and does not contain any representatives of many groups it would be useful to have present, including, at the top of the list, the judiciary / magistracy.

Openness

Since the committee was first suggested I have been trying to find out about it. In July 2011 I made a FOI request for its meeting dates and asked for its papers to be published. I obtained an assurance “meeting information” would be published on the County Council website, and a suggestion was made that I should watch the council’s meeting calendar.

The meeting never appeared on the council’s meeting calendar. The problem might be that like the CSPs themselves, it is not seen as a council meeting. This means it can be hard to find out when the meeting is scheduled and results in papers not being published in the usual way.

I lobbied the chairman of the relevant scrutiny committee, Cllr Tierney, asking for the council to put more information about the meeting on its website. Once the meeting date was eventually published I made a further FOI request for the meeting papers. The meeting papers were eventually released on the 23rd of November 2011, on the afternoon before the meeting.

Those who know what the predecessor to the new committee was called can find the committee date, but not the agenda or papers, on the Community Safety Strategic Board webpage.

There’s a section on public attendance which states:

Meetings of the Community Safety Strategic Board are open to the public. You are welcome to attend if you have a question for the Board on matters concerning community safety but please contact Katja Nielsen from the Community Safety Team prior to attending in order that we can notify our reception staff that you are coming.

One could read that to mean that members of the public who wish to observe have to have a question for the board; and that the council need to be notified in advance of an intent to attend.

There is no public question slot on the agenda, and if meeting papers are not proactively published in advance of the meetings that limits the opportunity for the public to comment on matters before the board.

The Agenda

The agenda released in response to my FOI request contains seven items:

  1. Apologies & Declarations of Interest
  2. DRAFT Terms of Reference
  3. Community Safety Agreement 2011 -2014
  4. Funding – from April 2012
  5. Countywide Strategic Assessment
  6. Police & Crime Commissioner – Implications
  7. Future Structure and Strategy of the Cambridgeshire Domestic Abuse Partnership

DRAFT Terms of Reference

The purpose of the committee is given as:

To provide a countywide group for the oversight of community safety, ensuring action on those issues which are most effectively tackled at a county level. Those matters which are more effectively tackled at a local level should be dealt with at each individual CSP.

The terms of reference state: “The board is to agree county level priorities”. If the intent is for the board to set police and crime priorities I think that’s worrying given it contains only one elected member.

The terms also state: “The Interim Community Safety Board will meet bi-annually”, which if the Police and Crime commissioner takes over in November 2012 means it will probably only meet twice. With only two meetings it is hard to see how the requirement that meetings “will take place in locations throughout the county” will be achieved.

My main concerns:

  • The terms of reference don’t mention public attendance at meetings, or any procedures for public involvement eg. public questions or filming/photographing/recording.
  • The terms don’t set out requirements for proactive publication of meeting papers, or other aspects of openness such as responding to requests for information (the board is not subject to FOI).
  • The magistrates and professional judiciary are not represented. Even if they won’t co-operate they ought be members and “empty chaired” at meetings if they don’t turn up.
  • There are no education and housing specialists on the board
  • Policy decisions should not be made by a board made up of predominantly “officers” rather than elected representatives. This should be clarified, especially with respect to the county wide priority setting.

Community Safety Agreement 2011 -2014

This notes: “where the chair of the CSP is not an elected member, the elected member from that area”, which is surely something which ought be in the terms of reference; but even so the elected member won’t get the vote. Better would be the elected member turning up and the elected member having the district’s vote.

Three issues are suggested as, due to complexity and wider impact, potentially benefiting from a countywide approach:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Integrated Offender Management (including Prolific and other Priority Offenders)
  • Drug and Alcohol Misuse

The agreement says funding for these areas is administered centrally by the County Council.

The report states that in Cambridge “Public chose 3/5 priorities identified from Strategic Assessment.” i don’t think this is correct, there was no direct democracy, no Cambridge wide referendum on the city wide police priorities. In fact what happened was much better, area committees voted on the shortlist and the full Cambridge City Council voted on the final selection, albeit after the CSP, made up of mainly officers, had committed to it.

The agreement states: ” Funding primarily comes from the Government’s Home Office element of the Area Based Grant which for Cambridgeshire in 2011/12 is £503,597 and notes A funding reduction of around 50% is being planned for 2012/13. All funding for crime and disorder reduction arrangements are likely to be transferred to the Police and Crime Commissioners.

Funding – from April 2012

The key elements of this report state:

The first Police and Crime Commissioners are due to be elected in November 2012 and this individual will from that point onwards be responsible for allocating all police and crime funding to agencies and organisations (statutory as well as private and voluntary) which successfully apply for funding.

The current 2011/12 grant is £503,597, the report states £254,771 is expected from 2012. The report says it has been suggested only the proportion for April-November will be paid to the County Council as the rest will need to be under the control of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

(Will the Police Commissioner will be able to redirect police funding to the CSPs if the Commissioner thinks they provide good value for money? A good Police Commissioner won’t just have money, but influence, over bodies like probation and the courts. )

Countywide Strategic Assessment

This is a presentation of crime statistics produced by the County Council. It identifies location and crime type based trends.

It makes various recommendations; it will be interesting to see if the board work through them and agree to support them or not.

The 2010/11 rate of total crime / 1000 population in Cambridge was 104.9 ie. about 1 in 10 people experienced a crime. The county average is 59.0

One of the key things the report does is identify wards with the highest crime rate. The places are grouped into two sets, one where the high crime is correlated with an index of deprivation, and the others – which are major town/city centres. The wards of high deprivation and high crime are:

  • Huntingdon North
  • Abbey, Cambridge
  • Peckover, Wisbech
  • Clarkson, Wisbech
  • Medworth, Wisbech

I think the relevant excerpts from this report relating to Abbey ought go to the East Area Committee in Cambridge, who I expect would find it very useful. (As would other local committees of councillors from the locations focused on).

There is a, justified, estimation on p27 that domestic violence costs the county in the region of £40million, taking into account policing, health, housing, social services and other costs.

Many all police and crime documents contain a definition of Anti-Social Behaviour (and they’re often widely different!) this report offers:

  • Nuisance (e.g. rowdy behaviour, street drinking or misuse of vehicles)
  • Environmental (e.g. Abandoned Cars, graffiti or fly tipping)
  • Personal (e.g. acts of intimidation or harassment directed at individuals)

I have recently written about defining ASB.

~1 in 10 of those arrested in Parkside, Cambridge in August 2010 were “members of the street life community”.

One of the many informative maps shows how many of the youth (10-19) population enter the Youth Offending Service for the first time in each year. In Arbury, East Chesterton and Abbey in Cambridge the figure is greater than 13.3 per thousand. So that’s about one for every three classes of ~30 children; which is quite a lot when you consider this is just first time entrants, and the age range includes a lot of rather young children.

Another key thing the report notes is the lack of information sharing from the NHS, both A&E and the Ambulance service. this is something it’s really important to solve if we’re going to focus (as I think we ought) on the crimes which really disrupt lives by causing injury.

I’ve seen one of the lead authors of the report Michael Soper present statistical reports on crime to the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership. I was very impressed then, and I am very impressed by this report. Mr Soper does some excellent work presenting crime statistics and has a very good understanding of the data. I’d like to see him share some of his skills with those who produce the neighbourhood profile documents.

Police & Crime Commissioner – Implications

This report is a document produced by the Local Government Association and Centre for Public Scrutiny; it’s a high level briefing on the introduction of Police and crime panels and Police Commissioners.

The details are of course in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and we’re still awaiting lots of details to come out in the form of regulations.

One interesting note is that the Home Office proposes to make £30,000/ year available to the lead council which takes on running the police and crime panel (this will presumably be to give it independence from the commissioner).

The suggestion of “task and finish” groups to enable the panels to do more in-depth work than is possible at panel meetings is made. I think somewhere we will need to replicate some of the current police authority committees eg. the scrutiny committee. If possible I think making those committees of the of the police and crime panel might well make sense, as we ought have on that panel the relevant elected councillors with an interest and responsibility in policing and crime related matters. I think that members doing detailed scrutiny work would provide a good foundation of knowledge and understanding on which to base the panel fulfilling its strategic statutory roles.

Future Structure and Strategy of the Cambridgeshire Domestic Abuse Partnership

This report gets off to an odd and in my view rather inappropriate, start, as it describes one of its purposes as being “to celebrate past achievements”.

It notes “the continuing rise in the number of domestic abuse incidents to Cambridgeshire Constabulary (5000+ in 2008 to 7000+ in 2010)” (Though there has been work to encourage more reports).

The main, highest priority, recommendation is suggesting transferring scrutiny and oversight of Domestic Violence related activity to the scrutiny board responsible for the health service. There appears to be little logic presented behind this proposal.

My Pre-Meeting Views

I’m wondering what this group can realistically achieve in two meetings?

This looks like an exercise being forced upon the various bodies by the legislation.

The police should be leading on Domestic Violence and Drug and Alcohol misuse, working with others when needed.

I can’t see how any sensible discussion on offender management can take place without magistrates and judges (and perhaps the sentencing council).

4 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Strategy Group

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I attended Cambridgeshire County Council HQ to observe this police and crime strategy board meeting.

    I was let in past reception, but once in the meeting room I was told by Mike Davey,who introduced himself as the council’s director of communities, that the meeting was not open to the public and asked to leave.

    I said the meeting had been advertised as public on the council’s website and said that I’d like to stay and see if meeting’s chair, Cllr McGuire, threw me out (or not).

    Cllr McGuire delayed the start of the meeting for a couple of minutes while he apparently asked officers to investigate if the meeting had been advertised as open to the public.

    Cllr McGuire was provided with a print out of a council webpage showing it was advertised as open to the public. Cllr McGuire opened the meeting saying that the intent had been to hold the meeting in private, without the public, but that as it had been [accidentally] advertised as public he would allow the press and public (me) to remain. I thought this was very odd logic.

    Cllr McGuire ordered that no “video or filming” was to take place without permission of the board, observing that I have been known to engage in such activities.

    Cllr McGuire did not though allow for a public speaking slot at the meeting, despite that having been advertised too.

    This, combined with the failure of the board to proactively publish its meeting papers, was a complete disaster of openness. Had I been less cheeky and persistent the meeting would have gone ahead in private.

    Apologies were given. Notably Cllr Bick, Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for policing was absent without explanation or apology. Cllr Bick, while not a board member, ought to have been formally invited to attend according to the Cambridgeshire Community Safety Agreement.

    The Board’s Role

    A discussion was held about the role of the board. Shockingly both Cambridgeshire County Council officers and Lis Bisset from Cambridge City Council were unclear on what the legislation required of the board, with Bisset saying: “I haven’t been able to read the legislation”.

    Appropriately it was a Cambridgeshire Police representative who was suggesting the board follow the law.

    Discussion of who ought be on the board followed. Bisset, on behalf of Cambridge City Council told the board: “Cambridge City Council are not interested in having elected members on the Interim Community Safety Countywide Board”. I found this surprising given that the Liberal Democrats run Cambridge City Council and have “democratic” in their name. The board makes policy decisions, it sets county wide priorities, so I think there ought be elected members on it.

    The board decided not only not to give seats to elected members, but to cancel their formal invitations too which would have allowed them to join the debate.

    Cambridgeshire Police proposed adding a representative of the Local Criminal Justice Board to the board, either as invitees or as full members.

    (I’ve tried to get the LCJB’s board papers published, without success, and can find no online reference to the LCJB’s meetings. Weblinks for the board such as http://lcjb.cjsonline.gov.uk/Cambridgeshire/home.html and http://www.cjsonline.gov.uk/ now fail. )

    If this is a way to communicate with the magistrates and judiciary (as well as perhaps open up the LCJB itsself) I think this is a very good idea, however it was not adopted by the board and the police did not push it to a vote.

    Cllr McGuire proposed having separate members for the Fire Service and Fire Authority, this was agreed.

    It was noted that the district councils and not the community safety partnerships are technically the “responsible authorities” the board legally is required to bring together. The suggestion that the authorities act through the boards was made, but got a mixed reaction.

    The discussion faded with no real decisions. I got the impression the officers supporting the board are going to think again about who should be on it and come back to the next (and possibly final!) meeting with some new proposals.

    Cllr McGuire suggested the board ought decided if it was going to meet in public or not in the future. ACC Hopkins asked if the debate on holding the meetings in public ought be held in public. Cllr McGuire ruled that “that’s the position we’re in”. The board agreed to operate in public except if a paper needs to be debated in private on “police and crime grounds”.

    Funding

    The board took the formal decision to cut the funding for all the projects it funds: the local community safety partnerships as well as the domestic violence and offender management projects all by 50%. They had decided to pass on the 50% government cut equally across the board.

    Board members complained about funding uncertainty. Some appeared primarily concerned about their own and their colleagues’ jobs, with people facing redundancies and changes to job descriptions.

    The board agreed to write to the Home Office to express its concerns about uncertainty; though not actually with the expectation of changing anything.

    Statistics Report

    The statistical report was presented. It was billed as a draft, a final version of such a statistical report is to be provided to the Police and Crime commissioner on their election; as it is expected they might want it, as they come into office, to base their policing plan on.

    Surely police and crime commissioner candidates need to be formulating manifestos based on current evidence not waiting until after the election to look at the statistics. I would also have thought that the relevant statistics will depend on the commissioner’s manifesto.

    The board considered crime in Cambourne, one of the locations of higher crime, and was told it was being carried out by people who had “been moved” to the new town out of the poorer areas of Cambridge.

    During the presentation of the report it was questioned if victims of crime who are not people, eg. companies are included in police statistics. The answer from the police was no, they only consider real people to be victims of crime (when reporting statistics on victims of crime). This was a good example of why police statistics always need to be questioned.

    ACC Hopkins said that Health and Wellbeing Boards need to have crime matters on their agendas. One reason given was that mental health is key cause of, or factor in, crime.

    There was debate on if services should be based on an individuals’ needs or where they live, and if it was fair to focus resources on particular geographic areas.

    It was noted that those with mental health problems and disabilities, including learning disabilities were over-represented as victims of crime.

    A graph of Cambridgeshire wards showing Relative deprivation and crime rates was shown. I have noted in the article above the wards where there is high deprivation and high crime. Two points showed wards with high deprivation and low crime. I have made a freedom of information request for the raw data behind the chart in part find out which wards these were (the officer presenting the report didn’t know).

    It was reported that Huntingdon has high levels of people who need drug and alcohol treatment but the service capacity is not there.

    Board members said public bodies spend too much clearing up after alcohol abuse and not on prevention. The NHS being the exception, they do spend money on preventative wor.

    Police and Crime Commissioners

    The Chief Executive of the Police Authority said that the Police Authority would disband a week after the Police and Crime Commissioner is elected. This surprised the meeting’s chair Cllr McGuire who said he had thought it would continue for six months.

    The Police Authority Chief Executive spoke about how she envisaged a commissioner would act as an advocate for victims of crime, and would be interested in another key group, the offenders. She quoted an estimate of the numbers in each group at around 20K offenders and 100K victims. I think this is odd, I think a commissioner will have to work equally on behalf of all residents. Everyone is a potential victim of crime; I don’t see why a commissioner has any specific extra duty towards those who have become victims of crime in a particular year (over time, given the current state of policing and crime almost everyone becomes a victim of crime).

    The board were told that police and crime commissioners will “conduct”, “like an orchestra”, the criminal justice system and crime reduction efforts as well as the police. (This is exactly what I want to see a commissioner doing, I very strongly agree with this description of the role).

    None of the members of the board knew who the returning officer for the commissioner elections will be. (This was reported to Cambridge City Council as being the East Cambridgeshire District Council chief executive.

    A discussion on police and crime panels (who have various statutory roles in terms of scrutinising the Police and Crime Commissioner, and potentially vetoing their plans) took place. The board were told of a proposal to fill the spare seats on the board (once all the councils had a seat, to be filled by elected councillors), by additional councillors selected in order to achieve more politically proportional representation on the panel.

    Cllr McGuire, the chair of the board, appeared to be casting himself as a potential chair for the Police and Crime Panel. He suggested we could see a “shadow” panel as early as April, but noted it had not yet been decided if he, or the scrutiny lead (Cllr Tierney ) would be chairing it.

    Domestic Violence

    On Domestic Violence the police said this was an area where there was an opportunity to invest to save. The police reported that many murder cases, and child abuse cases have, when investigated, domestic violence in the history leading up to the offence.

    The domestic violence statistics showed a peak which co-incided with the period of the football world cup.

    Research from Bristol university was mentioned saying domestic violence was more likely to be reported by neighbours in urban areas than rural. Cllr Hoy was encouraged to cover this in her review of Domestic Violence. Cllr Hoy was also asked to consider in her report where data could be better, for example where information could be obtained from the NHS.

    The structure of Domestic Violence teams, and their management co-ordination was described. The new key co-ortinating body is to be the Multi Agency Referral Unit. A role for the Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children Board was also mentioned .

    An interesting note raised was that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) are to produce guidance, which would have relevance for the police, on Domestic Violence. This was reported as the first time NICE had moved into the police and crime sphere. There is a webpage on this element of NICE’s work.

    Following the meeting

    Apology

    The council officer who asked me to leave at the beginning of the meeting apologised to me for doing so.

    ACC Hopkins

    I had a short discussion with Assistant Chief Constable Hopkins about some of the things which had been discussed, particularly police and crime commissioners.

    ACC Hopkins expressed a concern that commissioners might be faced with a choice between doing the right thing or the doing the popular thing. He expressed concern that a commissioner focused on re-election might do what was popular.

    My view of representative democracy is that ideally you elect someone you trust to make the right decisions, someone who has set out their principles and aims during the election process. I am a supporter of representative, rather than direct, democracy because not everyone has the time or inclination to keep well enough informed about all decisions which need to be taken to express a view on them. By voting every now and again we can delegate the decision making to our representatives who ought ensure that they are informed before they make a decision. Of course we still need to keep a close eye on our elected representatives, but we don’t need to keep up to speed with all the detailed decisions on a day to day basis. I would hope that the public would elect someone they trust to make policing decisions on the basis of the best evidence available, rather than in response to what is perceived to be popular.

    More fluorescent jackets patrolling the streets might be something which would instantly resonate with voters; but if there is a vigorous campaign hopefully we will see intelligent debate on the value of putting police resources elsewhere, such as into prevention of re-offending, domestic violence, serious crime, fraud as well as into the myriad of other areas of police activity including preparedness for all sorts of potential emergency situations, from general strikes, to epidemics of disease to floods.

    I would hope that police and crime commissioners will focus on doing the right thing over populist policies designed to seek re-election. A police and crime commissioner might even conclude that the “right thing” is to merge their force with another and thereby do themselves out of a job (saving the taxpayer not only the costs of the PCC, but the costs of a police HQ and swathes of senior management). That’ll probably need some negotiation with the Home Office though, the current legislation doesn’t appear designed to easily enable it.

    As an example of choosing something popular over “the right thing” ACC Hopkins suggested a commissioner might request visible policing patrols even of low crime areas on the grounds that everyone pays their taxes, and everyone should get the service, even if this can be shown to not be a very good use of resources.

    ACC Hopkins said that one possible candidate had already said they’d stand on a manifesto of keeping a dedicated helicoptor for the force. ACC Hopkins noted this would, if followed, be at the expense of police officer/staff numbers.

    We discussed the operational independence of the police force. Clearly many senior police officers have fears about this, and what a commissioner might seek to do.

    I suggested that the police might have to explain to the public the consequences of following a policy proposed by a commissioner; ACC Hopkins expressed concern about the police then being drawn into political debates.

    I shared my view that commissioners, commissioner candidates, and the police would ideally have to improve public knowledge about things like the benefits of targeting police resources in areas where they are particularly effective, be those locations, or in particular crime areas (as had been discussed in relation to domestic violence).

    We discussed about how local priorities and views of local residents might be relayed to the judiciary, including magistrates. Crime and Justice Boards were mentioned. ACC Hopkins told me how he occasionally got to speak to judges, but generally in relation to specific cases. This exchange has prompted me to reinvigorate my attempts to blast that board open and find out when it meets.

    ACC Hopkins also talked about the potential for chief officers to end up on short term, two year, contracts if Police and Crime commissioners are keen to exercise influence via their power of appointment. The risk of this resulting in more politicisation of chief officer ranks, and more “political” appointments of officers who share the commissioner’s views was raised.

    Who will do the detailed scrutiny work currently carried out by the police authority committees was another subject discussed, particularly in light of the fact the police and crime panel being described at the board meeting appeared to be intended to be separate from the commissioner. I think a good commissioner would want to have in place some kind of committee structure to help them monitor the performance of the police and help them deal with some of the detailed work such as analysing complaints, monitoring custody, and running the finances and estates aspects of the role. Where will that be: will a commissioner set up their own “office” and committees or will they use the police and crime panel, or even perhaps the county council’s scrutiny committee? Clearly avoiding duplication ought be an aim, if a lot of this scrutiny work can be done within the local councils, in collaboration with the commissioner, that would appear desirable to me.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I noted the meeting did not discuss what themes it ought work on, it accepted those already proposed of offender management, domestic violence and drug/alcohol misuse.

    I’d have liked to see it add another theme of openness and transparency in crime and policing related areas. I think that’s an area where the board could be effective, once it leads the way by getting its own house in order!

  3. Rupert Moss-Eccardt

    If it is a County Council Meeting it must meet the usual LGA stuff – papers published a week beforehand, meeting in public except for ‘exempt’ matters etc. Or there has to be a entry in the Constitution describing that it isn’t public, for example.

    If it wasn’t a County Council Meeting then:
    Mac McGuire can’t claim expenses unless he was appointed to it by the Council or a delegate thereof and,
    there should be a nominal charge for the use of the room

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