To receive a briefing from the Police & Crime Commissioner - Giles Orpen-Smellie and the Chief Executive of the OPCCN – Mark Stokes.
The ‘Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan for Norfolk 2022 – 2024’, and how this coincides with the ‘Safer Norfolk Plan 2021-2024’.
· Members are reminded that the Overview & Scrutiny Committee reviewed the draft Safer Norfolk Plan 2021-2024 in May 2021.
· Both Plans are approved and under implementation.
The PCC began by informing Members of his six priorities for the current term of office which included appointing a new Chief Constable, setting the Police budget, establishing the Police and Crime Plan, responding to the PCC review, identifying the evolving role of the PCC in Local Government, and outlining future plans with the Norfolk 2040 project. On the Police and Crime Plan, which was required to be published by 31st March following an election year, the PCC referred to a rope analogy with the Plan at the core, whilst other plans such as the Norfolk County Community Safety Plan, were wrapped around. He described the Plan itself using the analogy of a temple, with solid ground equating to sound ethical policing and standards, whilst the foundations were solid financial planning, on which six pillars stood as key principles of the Plan. The first pillar sought to sustain the Constabulary with staff, equipment and training, as 86% of Police costs (£197m) related to staffing. The PCC stated that pillars two and three presented an expectation gap, as older residents wanted visual policing, whilst the Home Office tasked the Police with tackling crime as outlined in pillar three, and both challenges had to be met to rebuild public trust. It was noted domestic abuse was the most frequently reported crime in Norfolk, whilst drug related crimes were the highest risk to life, and in both cases these crimes were often out of sight and out of mind, but still required significant resources. The PCC stated that for pillar four, prevention of crime was key, and many crimes could be addressed via county level partnerships. For example, better mental health support could help to reduce crime and work was therefore underway to address this. Pillar five represented victim support with aims to improve charging and prosecution rates, as well as the time taken for cases to reach court. The PCC stated that the sixth pillar, representing safer and stronger communities addressed issues such as road safety, and finally the roof of the temple sought to promote engagement and communication with the public to improve awareness of Police activity and help restore trust.
Questions and Discussion
i. The Chairman referred to public confidence in Police ethics, which had been described as a key foundation of the Constabulary, and asked whether the Code of Ethics could be positioned as a more public-facing document. The PCC replied that he had a responsibility to hold the Norfolk Constabulary to account on its values and standards, and had previously checked whether this information was available to officers and easy to find. He added that improvements were required to improve officers’ access to this information, and a review was underway following the actions of former officer Wayne Couzens. It was noted that any officers party to similar issues would now be treated as a primary party, rather than a witness, and officers were expected to report on each other in similar situations. The PCC noted that he had tasked the Chief Constable with resolving the issue as soon as possible, with public accountability meetings available on YouTube. He added that at a national level, he was Portfolio Holder for Police Ethics, Transparency and Complaints at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and was in the process of reviewing the Police disciplinary system in response to the issues raised by Wayne Couzens. The Chairman sought clarification on whether the PCC could provide the public with a better visibility of Police ethics and standards guidance. The PCC replied that he would seek to place this information in the public domain, though he did not expect many to review it, and the best solution would be for the Police fix the underlying issues, with citizens encouraged to use the complaints mechanism when necessary.
ii. Cllr W Fredericks stated that one of her primary focuses was tackling domestic abuse, and asked whether the PCC could offer more support to the Council to improve partnership working to address the issue. The PCC agreed that he would attend to the issue as a matter of priority. Cllr W Fredericks sought clarification on which services would be available to support North Norfolk and how this would be communicated to the Council and residents. The PCC replied that NNDC would be encouraged to improve its partnership working with NIDAS and Leeway representatives to explore all opportunities to improve the level of support available.
iii. Cllr J Toye noted that all assistance calls directed to the Help Hub were asked whether there was a service history, as this enabled officers to direct individuals to additional support, and asked the PCC whether Norfolk Constabulary took the same approach. The PCC replied that there was significant support available, though various organisations and charities needed to take a joint approach, and reiterated that work was underway to improve mental health support. Cllr J Toye referred to the Veterans’ Gateway app, and suggested that these sorts of resources should be considered for use by the Constabulary. On a separate note, he added that the prevention of offending priority within the Plan needed to promote shared road spaces as outlined in the new Highway Code, and asked the PCC whether there was a plan to improve education on this issue. The PCC replied that efforts were being made to improve education among vulnerable groups, but there was no easy solution and prosecutions for speeding had to increase. He added that he would also like to see all speeding motorists attend road safety awareness courses, and suggested there should be less leniency for repeat offenders.
iv. Cllr S Penfold referred to extremism and hate crimes, and noted that there had been an increase in extreme right-wing ideology and asked whether this would be addressed as part of the Plan, alongside national policies such as Prevent. The PCC replied that hate crime was on the Constabulary’s radar and would form part of the strong and safe communities priority, as well as being covered by the Community Safety Plan. He added that Prevent and other initiatives were helpful, though there were still struggles with non-crime related incidents, such as freedom of speech issues. It was noted that clear legislation was required to enforce the law whilst policing by consent. The DPCC stated that he chaired the Community Safety Partnership meetings and worked with Community Relations and Prevent Groups, with Prevent and anti-hate work embedded in the Community Safety Plan. He added that reviews were also underway to improve knowledge to better identify and police these crimes. It was noted that Prevent worked on the basis of information sharing, and Councils were part of this arrangement.
v. Cllr A Brown noted that he represented a rural area with issues relating primarily to motoring crimes such as speeding, fly tipping and fuel theft, and many of these issues were not represented in the Plan. He asked why there was an absence of statistics on motoring crime in monthly Police newsletters and cited possible issues with data sharing. He added that many Parishes were also frustrated by the significant barriers faced when trying to implement road safety improvements. Cllr A Brown then asked whether the PCC felt the increase in the Police precept was justified, given the £4.3m of savings identified within the report. The PCC replied that working at County-level, he was not aware of content shared in local newsletters and this would need to be raised at a local level with the area Superintendent. He added that the PCC review would establish a ’duty to collaborate’ with the Police and local authorities and provide the PCC with the ability to oversee unpaid work programme. On fly-tipping, it was suggested that options were being explored to utilise individuals on probation or unpaid work to undertake clearance, which would reduce impact on landowners and victims. The PCC referred to the precept and noted that the decision had not been easy, with a budget £197m, 55% was funded by a Government grant whilst the remaining 45% was met by the Police precept. He added that whilst this appeared a substantial budget, in real-terms it was £6.3m less today than in 2010, with the most visible impact of this being a reduction of officers from 1812 Police and Community Support Officers in 2010, to 1704 Police Officers and no PCSOs today. He added that it was therefore necessary to rebuild the Constabulary and its capabilities. It was noted that the Government had announced a £9m budget increase, however £5.7m had come from Government, on the assumption that the remaining £3.3m would be an increase in the precept. The PCC noted that the Government had therefore allowed a £10 per year increase on a band D property equating to £0.19 per week. He added that costs overheads which had to be absorbed equated to £19m, so even with the increase there was a requirement for additional savings which would not equate to an ability to lower or freeze the precept. The PCC noted that the additional pressure of inflation had meant that the decision to increase the precept was unfortunate but necessary. He added that future spending pressures suggested it was likely that Police funding arrangements were likely to place greater emphasis on local funding, as the alternative of cutting officer numbers would seriously limit the efficacy of the Constabulary.
vi. Cllr E Spagnola noted that she was the Member Champion for Disabilities and also a mother to children with disabilities, and sought clarification on the Police approach to people with disabilities and asked where it factored into the Plan. The PCC replied that disability issues were covered as part of the stronger and safer communities priority, and added that officers were trained on a wide range of disabilities, with support provided by an independent advisory group with direct access to himself and senior officers. He added that the Constabulary also sought advice and support from the Youth Commission, who were a further invaluable resource.
vii. Cllr N Pearce noted that the Constabulary’s focus appeared to have moved from online scams to domestic abuse, and asked whether online scams were still a significant issue. He referenced issues with rogue officers and asked whether these were the result of inadequate training, and whether this was under review. The PCC replied that domestic abuse equated to 24% of all crime reported in Norfolk, and whilst it was estimated that 40% of all national crime was expected to be online, it was very rarely the case that these crimes originated in Norfolk, which made it difficult for the Constabulary to address. He added that addressing cyber-crime and online fraud required a national response, and at present it was handled by Action Fraud in London, though significantly more resources were required. It was noted that banks could also work more closely with Central Government to help safeguard customers, and better education was required to ensure that people were more aware of risks. On training issues, the PCC noted that austerity had resulted in basic training being cut from sixteen to ten weeks, which needed to reversed. He added that a Police degree was also being introduced that would provide twenty-seven weeks training, though much of this would be academic. It was noted that the Police would likely be expected to be educated to degree level in the future, and questions remained over whether annual refresher training was necessary. The PCC stated that upon completion of the Government’s uplift programme to recruit 20k new officers, one third of Norfolk Constabulary would have less than three years experience, so he had requested that the Chief Constable review all training to ensure it was adequate.
viii. Cllr C Cushing referred to low prosecution rates and asked whether the PCC had the powers to resolve the issue. The PCC replied that there were measures in the PCC review that would provide greater authority to place the Local Criminal Justice Board onto a statutory footing, with PCCs acting as Chair. He added that the next issue was addressing silo working within the Criminal Justice System, to bring the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts and Tribunals Service, Probation and Prison Services together, to ensure that focus was placed on victims of crime to help resolve significant delays.
To note the Briefing.