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PCC updates Police and Crime Panel on policing in Norfolk

An update on victim support services and a look ahead to the future of the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner were on the agenda when PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie met with the county’s Police and Crime Panel.

The meeting, on June 27, saw Giles give updates to the panel on a number of areas of policing in the county. Whilst the PCC is responsible for scrutinising the work of the constabulary, the panel in turn reviews the work of the PCC.

Speaking about the Police and Crime Commissioner Review Giles said:  “My team are looking at the aspirations of the Review. The Conservative manifesto pledged to strengthen the accountability of PCCs and to expand our role. It’s fair to say that the role of the PCC is here to stay.

“In May 2021, West Yorkshire transferred the function of the PCC to its Mayor. My understanding is that Norfolk will not be following this example.”

Giles went on to explain the key aspirations of the PCC review: “to improve their transparency to the public, clarify the relationship between PCCs and Chief Constables, bring more consistency to the PCC role, raise professional standards and improve the checks and balances in place.

“The PCC is held to account by the electorate. One of the reasons to replace Police Authorities with PCCs was so that the public could endorse or ‘boot out’ a named individual – a degree of accountability that was not possible with the 17 strong Local Police Authorities.”

Legislation has already been enacted to allow local elections to elect a PCC on a first past the post basis and not via a second and third preference system as before.

Giles currently holds the National Portfolio Lead for Transparency and Ethics on behalf of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

“In terms of the scrutiny function of the PCC’s office, I’d like to suggest that Norfolk is ahead of the game,” he said.

Overview of PCC Commissioned Services

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have the power to commission services and to award grants to assist them in delivering the priorities of their plan.

Following publication of the Police, Crime and Community Safety Plan 2022-24 (“the Plan”), the Panel’s Chair and Vice Chair agreed that it would be helpful to receive an update from the PCC to better understand what services and projects he is funding and how they are supporting his Plan.

Total funding committed in the last financial year was £2.7m with approximately half of that funding awarded to the PCC by the Ministry of Justice.

Giles said: I would like to congratulate my office who provide leadership and to those who deliver our commissioned services across Norfolk, after all, it’s the effect on the ground that counts.

“The team keeps a watchful eye and moves quite swiftly to submit careful evidence-based bids despite competitive bidding processes.”

Independent Member, Air Commodore Kevin Pellatt, asked how the Office measured value for money and what would happen if the commissioned service was not performing.

Giles explained that most services began as a pilot to test feedback and delivery. Choosing locally based charities was always a priority over national ones.

Dr Gavin Thompson from the PCC’s office explained how commissioned services did not overlap with services provided nationally such as Fraud Action.

Cllr Mike Smith-Clare suggested the commissioning of a service for young people to help them understand the impact of domestic abuse.  Giles agreed that education had a part to play for future generations and would take this idea forward.

Further discussion took place about the role of the Independent Advisory Group, a volunteer led group and the newly formed Working for Women group, formed in response to the murder of Sarah Everard.

The benefits of what the Youth Commission brings to policing were also explained. For example, feedback on the transparency of stop and search policies had proved invaluable.

It was agreed that the Chair of the Independent Advisory Board, Samantha England should be invited to come along to the next Panel to present their action plan.  The Panel would also benefit from the Board’s perspective.

Cllr Cate Oliver asked whether the cost of living crisis was having an impact on how people could receive services, especially in rural areas. 

Dr Gavin Thompson responded by saying that initiatives such as Norfolk’s Integrated Domestic Abuse Services (NIDAS) were no longer a ‘postcode lottery’ as delivery was available across the county providing a tailored service.

Responding to the pandemic had meant projects such as PANDORA had had to work differently by changing the way it reached people in need with the use of a mobile unit in King’s Lynn.

Cllr Cate Oliver asked about the Project CARA (Conditional Cautioning and Relationship Abuse).  Developed and run by Hampshire Constabulary and The Hampton Trust, with the permission of the Director of the Public Prosecution (DPP), this allows the Police to use out of court disposals, conditional cautions for reported first-time domestic abuse incidents.

The ethos behind CARA is that it is very much a positive opportunity to support offenders in addressing their actions and attitudes in order to prevent reoffending and repeat victimisation.

It was noted that a national survey from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners was asking the public to have their say on their experiences of 999 and 101 calls, to help inform future planning.  The survey is still ongoing, however, local performance data released in 31 May showed that in the last six months to May, Norfolk Constabulary had an average time to answer a 999 call of 8.53 seconds putting it fifth in the tables nationally and with the fastest response time in the eastern region.

The panel was asked to note that there would be a visit to Hethersett Old Hall School on 12 September which was now home to a blue light training centre.

You can watch the meeting by clicking on the following link: Norfolk County Council YouTube

The next meeting would be a Police Accountability Meeting on 3 August at 10am at Breckland Council Offices in Dereham.