In the first of a series of articles on policing, academic and former NPIA CEO Peter Neyroud says elected individuals continue to face some stiff challenges in their new roles.
It is still early days, but police and crime commissioners have had a pretty hectic first three months.
By holding the election in November, the Home Office set the new PCCs an almost impossible task to shape a strategy, settle a budget, consult widely enough to give it legitimacy (particularly after the low turnout) and, for 15 of them, appoint their chiefs. The last has presented an unprecedented round of senior appointments, unprecedented since the amalgamations of the 1960â€™s.
The policing plans that have emerged have varied widely from sophisticated strategies to what appear to be the hastily cobbled together product of the cut and paste keys on the word processor.
Even the best plans have had to rely heavily on consultation by the internet, which, while a useful means of sharing information, is not sufficient to ensure that all communities have been properly engaged.
The budget cycle, which requires PCCs to agree the level of precept before the end of February (while the plans do not need to be settled until the end of March), means that all PCCs have had to present their budget to their police and crime panel before their plan has been settled â€“ a far from satisfactory position.
The Avon and Somerset PCC has, after her testing of the process of chief officer appointment in the courts, also tested the meaning of a â€œmajorityâ€ supporting a budget.
The public in Avon and Somerset may well have been surprised to learn that an 11-5 majority against the budget was actually a sufficient â€œmajorityâ€ in favour for the budget to go through. I doubt whether that two-thirds rule on the budget will survive a review of the legislation.
As they settle their budgets, PCCs will need to turn quickly to some key national issues. Given that the new office holders are divided between Labour, Conservative and Independents and between Metropolitan and non-Metropolitan, acting collaboratively nationally while preserving their new found local ownership from the clutches of the Home Office, may be a sensitive challenge.
It would not be sensible to fall back on the old â€˜tripartiteâ€™ ways â€“ meetings hosted by officials and ministers, in which the power usually lay at the centre.
The new arrangements call for a new, flexible way of working that emphasises the new division of labour in policing, while providing scope for collective thinking and collective representation where it is required.
It will certainly be required in the relationship with the new College of Policing and the National Crime Agency, in the negotiations to renew or replace Airwave, which are looming, and ways in which the PCCs and their CEOs look to share good practice and opportunities for shared services.
Peter Neyroud is currently a resident scholar at the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology at Cambridge University.
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