Tim Passmore is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk
Whilst ten years is a very long time in politics, all I can say, having had the privilege of being Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, is that time has passed very quickly indeed. The election of Police and Crime Commissioners remains a very new office when one examines the history of our parliamentary democracy. Out of the original forty-three PCCs originally elected ten years ago, only four remain – three Conservatives (Katy Bourne in Sussex and David Lloyd in Hertfordshire) and one Labour.
Naturally, I am an ardent supporter of the role of PCCs in England and Wales and wish to pay tribute to the then Home Secretary (Theresa May), the policing minister (Nick Herbert) and Lord Gordon Wasserman. Without their collective support, this significant change in policing accountability and oversight would never have happened. And don’t forget this democratic change took place during the days of David Cameron’s coalition government when the Liberal Democrats fought these proposals tooth and nail – a remarkably curious position for a party that is always carping on about the need for greater localism, accountability, and democratic mandates…
PCCs replaced the previous system of police accountability (the former Police Authorities) by electing a single person for each policing area in England and Wales. I believe the role has brought much greater transparency, public engagement, and accountability, benefitting us all.
Reflecting on the ten years in Suffolk, there are several significant improvements. The awareness of the terrible impact of domestic abuse and violence on individuals and families – especially against women and girls, is now right at the top of the political agenda. In Suffolk (a large rural county) the extra focus on tackling rural crime in its various guises has made a real difference.
Our strategic policing policy is contained within my Suffolk Police and Crime Plan; is compiled in consultation with the force; and is the primary document for helping direct local policing operations. This is hugely beneficial as the approach is customised to meet the county’s requirements – as I hope you agree, the needs in Suffolk are somewhat different to Manchester or Birmingham; one size does not fit all and slowly Home Office officials are starting to understand this.
The establishment of dedicated operational teams to arrest high harm individuals and destroy organised crime groups has been superb – Suffolk Constabulary featured in the television policing documentary “Fast Justice”. This team’s successes demonstrate the urgency of securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration, which I’m sure contributes to organised crime including forced labour, extortion, the illegal drugs trade, and serious violence.
In all public services there needs to be greater recognition the money comes from the taxpayer and is not squirreled away in a biscuit tin (to quote Lee Anderson MP). Keeping taxes down has always been a priority for me. When will the Left ever comprehend that you do not improve productivity and effectiveness by throwing money around. That said, there have been significant increases in policing precepts; but every year precise details are published detailing what the extra funds will deliver along with timelines and outcomes. There continues to be comprehensive programmes for further savings and efficiencies.
Two examples stand out here; the collaboration programme with Norfolk Police has yielded recurring annual savings of over £20 million for Suffolk (annual gross budget is £161.2 million). The joint estates programme with Suffolk Fire and Rescue has fourteen joint police and fire stations helping operational collaboration and saving taxpayers money. For the record, the budget for the previous Suffolk Police Authority stood at over £1.2 million and for my team including my allowance of £73,300 is now £895,000 – a reduction of nearly 30 per cent.
Looking forward, there is much more that requires reform and improvement. The Home Office funding formula is a shambles, discriminating against most shire counties. It cannot be justified that Northumbria, Manchester, and London receive around £190+ per resident or even more, whilst in Suffolk we receive £114. We are not looking for equality but a much fairer distribution of funds.
Crime patterns continue to change with nearly all crime having a digital footprint and there must be a much greater focus on tackling and preventing that pernicious crime of fraud in all its forms.
Demands from other parts of the public sector are putting a huge burden on our police nationwide. Forces are always there to help in times of need, but they are not a substitute for the NHS, ambulance services, or mental health practitioners. Maybe a directly elected health commissioner might help?
As Suffolk’s PCC I can assure you all that we stand ready to help other agencies to reduce demand and the public sector needs to stop this silo culture with deeper and longer-term planning and collaboration. As Churchill said many years ago ,“Let us go forward together” – a very sound Conservative principle.