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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Police Commissioners and the Voluntary Sector

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It will be interesting to see if PCCs build on this promising start and make the voluntary sector a keystone of their work in tackling crime locally. They will face two substantial challenges over the next two years. Firstly, the outcome of the general election will have a significant impact.

PCCs two years on

One of the relatively few criminal justice policy areas where the main political parties have strongly different views is the future of Police and Crime Commissioners.

While the Conservatives are keen to expand the role of PCCs, Labour is reportedly committed to abolishing them.

But what have PCCs been up to since they were elected on 15 November 2012?

Clinks has just published an interesting report on PCCs interaction with the voluntary sector to coincide with their second birthday.

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The Survey

A total of 130, mainly local,  voluntary organisations responded to the Clinks survey on which the report is based. Although there was considerable variation, overall the findings were more positive than I had expected:

  • Most respondents saw PCCs as being willing to work in partnership with the voluntary sector  and with other statutory bodies, in order to ensure joined-up commissioning.
  • The largest proportion (56%) of respondents described their primary PCC’s understanding of the voluntary sector as ‘good’, but some gaps were identified.
  • There is as yet no significant change between how respondents felt about their overall engagement with PCCs, and their previous overall engagement with police authorities, although PCCs are regarded as much more visible.
  • Most respondents thought that both Police and Crime Plans and the PCCs’ wider priorities reflected their issues either well or very well.

Clinks identified two key areas where there was a need for improvement:

  1. Strategic engagement
  2. Funding

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Strategic engagement

Although there were good examples of voluntary sector input into PCCs’ plans and broader priorities, this was not yet widespread. This was demonstrated by the gulf between the high proportion of respondents who had met their PCC or their PCC’s staff, and those who said they had been able to actually influence them.

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Funding

A reasonable figure of just under a third (32.4%) voluntary organisations who responded to the survey were receiving funding from their local PCC in 2013-4. However, Clinks felt that this was “at the lower end of the scale… given that between 27.9% and 55.6% of respondents said that they worked to address each of the Home
Office’s community safety priorities.”

The funding has mainly been in the form of small grants to small voluntary sector organisations.

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Looking forwards

It will be interesting to see if PCCs build on this promising start and make the voluntary sector a keystone of their work in tackling crime locally.

They will face two substantial challenges over the next two years.

Firstly, the outcome of the general election will have a significant impact.  How important an issue PCCs are (an extremely debatable point given the very low turnout for the first election) may become clearer if there is a hung parliament.

Secondly, if they do survive, PCCs themselves are due for re-election in 2016 which will either stimulate them to re-double their efforts or provide a mammoth distraction.

It will be interesting to see if there are any birthday candles to light in 2017.

 

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