This week the Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd held a scrutiny session to examine my plan for the next three years of GMP. I have been chief for five years now and I was recently given a three year extension to my contract. We are going through the most challenging time GMP has ever faced due to the economic situation and the cuts to our budget. We have already been through two years of budget reductions which has seen us lose 1800 staff posts. Based on the projections made by the Chancellor we have a further four years at least of cuts and the total amount of savings by April 2017 will be £130m. Given that for the previous 30 years there has been an uplift in spending each year this is a huge change around.
About eighty five per cent of our budget is spent on staff costs so the total reduction in staff over this period will be about 2700. Back in 2010 we had a total of about 12,500 staff and we will go down to about 10,000. At the same time we are seeing new operational challenges with the changing nature of crime and increasing numbers of vulnerable people that we have a responsibility towards. One of our key responsibilities is managing the risk presented by crime and by dangerous people and the public appetite for risk is certainly not diminishing.
The huge budget reduction creates a need for constant change and reorganisation to cope with fewer staff and to introduce new ways of doing things. This in itself creates upheaval and uncertainty for staff. There is a reduction in opportunities for promotion and huge numbers of good people who want to join the force but with few places for police officers available.
How are we going to get through this ?
The foundation for effective policing is the relationship with the public and our understanding of what is going on locally. Over recent years we have put more staff into neighbourhood teams to build that knowledge of local people and particularly local criminals. We want to strengthen that approach and expand those teams to include colleagues from other agencies because we are all dealing with the same people and the same streets. Through this approach we can be more efficient in solving local problems and thereby reduce demand.
Our neighbourhood teams work hard to deal with the local problems of crime and anti-social behaviour but they need to be supported by specialist teams who can deal with more complex issues or particular peaks in demand. This may be the major investigation team, the traffic unit or the squads that deal with organised crime. We also have experts who deal with forensic examinations, digital evidence or financial investigations to take assets off criminals.
As we are going to have a smaller workforce we have to ensure that we get the best out of all the talent and dedication of our staff and remove the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy and checking and trust our staff to use their expertise and professionalism. We will have to reduce further the number of managers and give more responsibility to front line staff. We will have to ensure that the maximum amount of our budget is spent on policing and so for instance reduce the amount we spend on buildings.
It will be crucial to encourage more involvement from the public. Policing is a team effort and works when local people play an active part in helping solve local problems, looking out for one another, volunteering to help young people or the vulnerable and taking responsibility for their own conduct and looking after their property.
We will not get through this by doing the things we have always done in the way we did it when there was a lot more money. There will be some difficult choices and some difficult conversations with the public and local businesses and we try to agree what we should concentrate on. Over the past week for instance we have highlighted the huge cost to policing of alcohol misuse and the pressures created by the extended licensing hours. There are many other issues we will place in focus over the coming months so there is more public awareness of what police officers spend their time doing. We will need to deal with more issues over the internet or on the phone. We will need to make sure that police officers spend their time on tasks and issues which need the particular expertise, skills and powers of a police officer and use other colleagues for other tasks. We will need to make best use of technology and information and that is why we will be investing in a major new computer system. We will need changes in legislation to help us deal with the more persistent and the more dangerous criminals and to help us keep up with the fact that more crime and planning for crime takes place on the internet.
Given that there will be less money spent on policing there has to be a change in the level of public expectation and acceptance that GMP needs to concentrate on the greatest threat, harm and risk to the community. We have to continue the move away from simplistic statistical targets and take a broader view of how to measure police effectiveness. When tragedies occur when things go “wrong” we need to react by learning lessons, not seeking scapegoats or just introducing more bureaucratic processes. We need to consult and involve the public but also very importantly consult and involve our own staff.
If we are not able to make the fundamental changes we need to make if we are not able to change the way we do things then we will revert to what used to be called “fire brigade policing ” just responding to emergency calls or investigating crime after it has happened. All the benefits we have gained from neighbourhood policing and more targeted and intelligence led approaches to dealing with crime and criminals. We will be there as the safety net to deal with crises caused by cuts in other agencies’ services.
Confidence in policing has been shaken recently by cases of police misconduct and incompetence sometimes from many years ago. Policing needs to be more transparent and accountable and resist short term pressures aiming for the highest ethical standards. We encourage staff to report instances of poor practise or misconduct by colleagues. We are there to safeguard basic human rights and protect the individual from those who want to exert their power through greed or extremes of violence. We must aim for the highest standards of professional conduct and the minimum use of force.
I am an optimist although the challenges created by austerity make for some bad days. There are four reasons to be cheerful.
- We have a great workforce committed to the protection of the public
- The public support us and believe in what we do
- Hard times force hard choices so difficult issues have to be confronted
- We are good at what we do.
Over the last ten years crime has halved in Greater Manchester and the city has lost its reputation for gun and gang violence. We have seen significant increases in public confidence in policing. We are not going to give this up easily.