Do the numbers add up on a wafer-thin blue police bill?
Four months after taking office as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Lincolnshire, Coun Marc Jones has produced his first vision of policing across the county.
Far-reaching, wide-ranging and even ground-breaking, The Community Safety, Policing and Criminal Justice Plan for Lincolnshire seeks to give every person who lives and works in the county a direct stake in keeping it as “a low crime area”.
With nine years of experience in local government to draw, most recently as executive member for finance and property at Lincolnshire County Council, the Commissioner is suitably equipped to try to draw the vast strands of criminal justice in the county together.
Coun Jones said: “If you think in terms of local democracy, the PCC is the only person in the county who has a remit from all seven parliamentary constituencies.
“But it’s not just about policing, it’s about bringing together all the services in the county to see how we can deliver community safety and policing all together.
“The PCC is a key player in making that happen and the document itself has primacy in the county so that other organisations in Lincolnshire have to take it into account.”
Coun Jones has christened his blueprint as the ‘Safer Together Plan’, with its overall concentration on tackling “conventional crime” such as theft, burglary and assault, while also putting measures in place to deal with child sexual abuse, human trafficking, organised and cyber crime.
“No force is fully equipped to deal with cyber crime because we don’t know how big it’s going to get,” Coun Jones said.
“What we do know is that you can’t enforce yourself out of these crimes but it’s about educating other people about such crimes.
“We are part of a collaborative group, the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, and directly linked to the National Cyber Crime Unit so we’re very well placed to deal with it.
“But I’m very keen on prevention as well, finding new ways of reaching into people’s homes to protect children and vulnerable adults online.”
One advantage Coun Jones has over his predecessor, former TV presenter Alan Hardwick, is the benefit of hindsight having come into office almost five years after PCCs became statutory under The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
A test of such hindsight will come when the Commissioner and Chief Constable have to argue for an extra slice of the policing budget cake from new Policing Minister Brandon Lewis to plug and estimated £6 million hole facing Lincolnshire Police in three years’ time.
Coun Jones said: “It’s a very brave thing to be the first one in anything and back in 2012, did anyone have a clear idea of what the role would be?
“The second cohort of PCCS have the benefit of doing some real learning, based on the experiences of the first group.
“The previous Commissioner (Alan Hardwick) made a decision to put into the budget a presumption that the Government would give us £4.4 million in 2017/18, £5.7 million the following year and £6 million the year after that.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen yet and we’re filling a hole of £2.5 million in our policing budget from our reserves this year.
“It was an assumption that was made and we have to deal with the reality of that.”
“Can we bring in new technology which means we can do things in a different way and by jointly working with other partners, can we get the money to deliver these services?”
Another job of replacement faces the Commissioner after confirmation earlier this month that Mr Rhodes is to retire as Chief Constable in February 2017 after 31 years in the police service.
But in making it clear that Mr Rhodes’ decision was his own, Coun Jones said: “Neil Rhodes is an exceptional Chief Constable and there was no ‘pushing him out’ involved.
“Most police officers do 30 years and Neil has done 31 years.
“I’ve known for quite some time that Neil intended to leave his post early next year and I know, under new rules, that I can appoint a successor from four countries outside the UK – the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
“There are brilliantly talented people out there, but why should I say no to someone from another country?”
• The Community Safety, Policing and Criminal Justice Plan for Lincolnshire has been dubbed the ‘Safer Together Plan’ by Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, Coun Marc Jones,
An extract from the plan said: “Lincolnshire is a low crime area and we need to work to keep it that way.
“Conventional crimes of theft, burglary and assault, though reducing overall, will not go away and the scourge of anti-social behaviour continues to blight some communities.
“Crime is changing as growing threats like child sexual abuse, modern day trafficking, organised crime, online fraud and other computer-enabled crimes are reaching into our homes and communities, posing new types of risk to us and our families.
“The changing face of crime means that we must respond in new ways and while neighbourhood policing must remain at the heart of our response, we must ensure that it expands to protect us from new threats wherever they originate from.”