In this guest blog Richard Bradley, Deputy Chief Executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, talks about devolution, their review of community safety arrangements and the role of the voluntary sector.
In Gloucestershire, we applied to the government to devolve more powers down to us at a local level, and we were the only area to include improved community safety in our plans. We are doing this to ensure we have resilient communities, are able to harness support and that our communities receive an efficient and cohesive response from public agencies when needed. I believe we need to think differently about the way in which we approach community safety in Gloucestershire and this review will lead to a new approach that will provide strategic governance for this and ultimately create a safer Gloucestershire.
Including community safety in our devolution bid
The Government is currently in the process of negotiating devolution deals as a means of providing greater powers and funding locally to stimulate economic growth and to reform the way that public services are designed and delivered locally. As part of this, the Government is requiring new collaborative governance arrangements in the form of Combined Authorities as part of the proposals.
In support of a devolution deal for Gloucestershire, the County Council, six District Councils, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Police and Crime Commissioner have jointly developed a proposal for a new Combined Authority where their resources will work closely together to secure shared strategic objectives.
We decided to include community safety to ensure that we have an integrated and cohesive approach at both a county and local level. The inclusion of community safety in the proposal is unique when compared to other bids across England. It seizes upon the opportunity created by the new authority to augment community safety as the proposal aims to achieve greater cohesion between relevant partnerships, strategies, plans and communities in order to make Gloucestershire a safer place. The bid also sets out our wish to create a whole place grant to support community safety, which would pool budgets and join up community safety and safeguarding systems, and we hope this would engage and empower the voluntary sector in its community safety roles. We have also asked for more flexibility in how we support 18-21 year olds in the youth justice system, and for the government to remove the requirement to have a distinct Youth Offending Service to support this. We are advocating that services and support are based on an individual’s needs not their age, as many individuals do not mature until they are 25 years old. We plan to re-establish an innovation scheme between probation and youth support staff which was stopped following the reorganisation of the probation service nationally.
The devolution bid hasn’t been agreed yet but we are hopeful that it will be, and are using the process to refresh our community safety systems in the meantime.
Reviewing our community safety arrangements
Gloucestershire currently has six Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs, formerly Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships) based within each of the District Council areas respectively that includes or has included members from the County Council, probation, fire and rescue, police and health.
The 2012 introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners, changes to the Health Service structures, and changes to probation, have introduced major change to the partnership landscape. The impact of this could have created some benefit, but in many cases has caused fragmentation within CSPs as each new partner has their own strategy that does not always interface or integrate with community safety.
The secret to success
Strategies to reduce crime and help people to feel safe need to operate at both a local and strategic level whether this is countywide or from a national perspective. In Gloucestershire this requires partners at both district and county level to work together and to be clear about their respective responsibilities. The secret of success is to get a clear, integrated and cohesive strategy in place which can be fitted into each local community.
A major part of the review was a stakeholder consultation process which has involved interviewing over 65 people, including the local VCS Alliance, which has a Stronger, Safer Communities Forum. The voluntary sector will also be consulted on the final report and is a key part of the Community Safety Steering Group. The group will provide guidance and support through the process including implementation. Post implementation we would expect the voluntary sector to be a key member of Community Safety Partnerships.
For us at the Office of the PCC, the voluntary sector is a respected and valued partner. They enable access to many organisations and communities who can support the work of community safety. They also enable us to maximise the strengths of the local communities in which they are located. This is also set out in the PCC Martin Surl’s current Police and Crime Plan and the new plan for 2017/21, which we have just consulted on.