Tim Passmore is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk
It has been an enormous privilege to be Suffolk’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for the last eleven years and to have been re-selected unanimously for the forthcoming PCC elections on May 2nd 2023.
The current policing governance system replaced the former police authorities by electing a single PCC for each of the 43 police areas across England and Wales. The primary purpose of PCCs is to try and ensure levels of crime are reduced and policing is efficient and effective by holding Chief Constables to account for operational matters. Tackling and preventing crime are a top priority for all of us. it is my strong belief that good policing is a powerful economic driver since high levels of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour is a huge impediment to economic development and growth.
As a Conservative, I have always believed in respect for law and order, a low-tax free-enterprise-based economy, and the importance of the family in society so children are brought up knowing the difference between right and wrong. Parents have a crucial role here. We must be the party of opportunity irrespective of background or beliefs. The state cannot provide solutions for all our country’s difficulties – it’s high time society became more resilient and fostered a stronger sense of civic duty and pride.
As PCC you set the policing budget and level of Council Tax (for policing only), hire or fire the Chief Constable, and safeguard the public interest in this crucial emergency service, within the resources available.
To help deliver this, each PCC compiles a Police and Crime Plan for their force area which the Constabulary is statutorily obliged to deliver. This was a welcome improvement – a sound Conservative principle is for the centre to let go and enable a robust form of localism to take root. The policing needs of a large rural county such as Suffolk are vastly different to the requirements in urban areas such as Merseyside, Greater Manchester and London.
Over the last eleven years, the pattern of crime has changed drastically. Nearly every crime now has a digital footprint (criminal evidence can be found on phones, laptops, tablets) and this is the same for urban and countryside communities alike. Whilst it is true that overall levels of crime tend to be higher in urban areas, there remains a fundamental imbalance in Home Office funding which favours urban forces. This may be down to the dead hand of HM Treasury and the continuing delay within the Home Office in publishing the draft proposals for the new funding formula, originally promised back in January. Mandarins need to understand those of us who live and work in rural areas pay our dues and taxes like everyone else. I do wonder if, with all this “woke” nonsense, there has been any consideration of an equality impact assessment on funding.
Currently the reputation of British Policing is under enormous pressure, and it needs urgent correction. I know the vast majority of officers, staff and volunteers within the policing family are dedicated, hard-working and go above and beyond the call of duty every day of the year. They quite rightly, deeply resent the damage caused by a small number of rotten apples within their midst – the crimes committed by Wayne Cousins, the concealment of evidence in the Stephen Lawrence case are unforgivable.
During my term I have recruited four Chief Constables and I am particularly pleased Suffolk now has our first female incumbent. There is however an underlying system malaise for appointing senior officers. My latest recruitment process attracted only two candidates; the previous three occasions attracted a single candidate. For such prestigious appointments costing in Suffolk around £250,000 per year this is not good enough. Some larger forces have also struggled to attract candidates. In spite of numerous representations to various ministers and the College of Policing over the years any improvements are evolving at glacial speed. Competition is crucial.
One very welcome government initiative was Operation Uplift. The Home Office provided the funding to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers and in Suffolk our share was 200 new recruits. This raises the strength of Suffolk Constabulary to over 1400 officers – more than there has ever been.
All PCCs commission victims’ services. Significant funding is provided by the Ministry of Justice, most of which supports voluntary and charitable organisations who deliver excellent work for victims and great value for the taxpayer. There has been a step change in support for victims of domestic abuse and violence (most victims are female) and serious sexual assaults including child sexual exploitation. Great strides have been made in countering the threats from organised crime groups often plying their evil trade through illicit drug supply, modern day slavery, and illegal immigration.
There remains much more to be done to radically improve public sector productivity and on crime prevention. In my next column for Conservative Home I will put forward some new ideas for improving policing and criminal justice reform in Suffolk and explain why I believe it is essential Conservative PCCs are elected next May.