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Neighbourhoods to set crime-fighting priorities, police commissioner promises

Neighbourhoods to set crime-fighting priorities, police commissioner promises

🕔10.Jun 2013

policeLocal communities will be given new powers to set crime-fighting priorities in a major devolution of policing to neighbourhood level.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones says he is determined to allow “local people to use their knowledge of local needs” to set objectives for the force.

He is promising to set up a network of local policing and crime boards, based on existing Community Safety Partnerships.

Mr Jones set out the policy pledge in his first annual report since becoming elected PCC last November.

He explained: “The West Midlands is not a geographic area that most people recognise. We define ourselves more by our proud towns, cities and boroughs. Policing, and how we set priorities, must reflect this reality.

“In the years ahead there will local policing plans set by locally-led local policing and crime boards, themselves an evolution of the existing Community Safety Partnerships.

“The boards will allow local people to use their knowledge of local needs to set local policing objectives, making for a much more bottom-up, community-led process.”

Mr Jones repeated his belief that police commissioners are an expensive and unnecessary luxury, and called for a return to the former West Midlands Police Authority, of which he was a longstanding member.

He said: “I opposed the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners because the police authority, with its mix of councillors and independent members, was more representative of the West Midlands and better able to reflect the views of our diverse and varied cities and boroughs.

“I note that there is not one commissioner from an ethnic minority.

“Spending £100 million on elections where only 12 per cent of the population voted, to create a new class of politician that the public does not want, and at a time of severe cuts to policing, was a mistake.”

“One commissioner, or even one commissioner and a deputy, cannot meaningfully represent nearly three million people. For this reason I have established a Strategic Policing and Crime Board with assistant commissioners who can better link with communities, and non-executive members who bring an element of challenge.”

 

Mr Jones praised the former police authority, claiming that it had been responsible for overseeing “massive reductions” in recorded crime at a rate that was “little short of spectacular”, although that progress was now threatened by severe public spending cuts and compulsory redundancies.

He added: “Since the nineties, crime has fallen consistently thanks to investment in preventative policing and the tireless work of our officers and staff. It has fallen faster here in the West Midlands than the national average.

“The police deserve our praise and support, and one of my principal objectives is to build ‘Pride in Our Police’. Officers and staff have continued this excellent performance despite a slew of reforms, initiatives and the challenges arising from criticism linked to high profile incidents, cases and issues. Most recently, they have responded with innovation and determination to severe cuts in funding.”

Almost £22 million has been wiped from the West Midlands police budget over the past two years, with the loss of about 2,500 officer and civilian jobs.

The cuts, equivalent to just over a quarter of the budget, were described as “cruelly unfair” by Mr Jones, who added that the largely urban West Midlands was being given a raw deal by the Government when compared with rural and richer forces in the South.

Mr Jones said: “The Government is doing nothing to get us nearer to what the national police funding formula says we need. Year after year we lose tens of millions of pounds, making it all the more difficult to restart recruitment, while other forces continue to recruit and don’t have compulsory retirements.

“Nothing is being done in the Home Office or the Treasury to rectify this inequality. It simply is not fair, which is why I continue to lobby government for reform and a fair deal for policing. I am genuinely afraid that continued cuts will take us to a tipping point where preventative policing is weakened and crime starts to rise.”

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