Published 27 September 2016
In the next few weeks Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales will put out their Police and Crime Plans for consultation. They’ve done the hard thinking, so are they ready to start pulling the levers? Crest’s Managing Director, Gavin Lockhart-Mirams, and Director of Strategy, Harvey Redgrave, suggest what may be on PCCs’ minds. As public documents go, it’s a big one to put your name on.
A plan that sets out your vision and priorities for your police force, makes clear the objectives you will hold your chief constable to account against and turns your manifesto commitments into practical actions.
And then there’s the ‘and crime part’ of it too. The broader aims you have to improve community safety, support victims and pull together the rest of the criminal justice system, other local services and the voluntary sector too.
You want this plan to be read, to bear up to scrutiny, to inspire those you commission, to influence partners and to kick off a process of meaningful change across the communities you have been elected to represent.
But how to make this happen? How do you pull the right levers, check performance, stick to your timetable and keep everything on track?
Crest Advisory has worked alongside PCCs since 2012
We believe in the power of devolution to improve outcomes across the criminal justice system. We’ve seen how Police and Crime Plans can harness public support for innovation, for change and for bold thinking on how to tackle problems which central Government has for many years struggled to recognise or address.
We’ve also seen how important it is that PCCs have the right people around them to help deliver their vision. Form may indeed follow function, but for PCCs that function may well follow their Police and Crime Plan. New priorities may need new expertise. A different focus may require different structures and different skill sets. Rightly, PCCs seek value for money – their electorate expects and deserves no less. Investing in the right team at the start is critical to securing that value.
That starts with the basic functioning of the office itself. PCCs will want to rapidly understand the strengths and weaknesses of their teams. Do they have the right skills? Are the right people in the right roles? Often it is the most simple things that will make the biggest difference: an experienced private office to filter the vast amounts of information a PCC has to deal with and act as a conduit to the rest of the office; a ‘fixer’ who will go the extra mile in helping the PCC recruit the talent they need/ want, from writing the job description to conducting a head-hunt.
Being a PCC is a high profile and high pressure role – so having someone on hand who can swiftly (but calmly) help refine the message, draft a press release/ arrange an interview/ sort a soundbite/ clip for the evening bulletins will be essential.
But of course good communication goes beyond reacting smartly to events. The best communications advisors will seek to help their PCC find ways to proactively get their message across to the communities they serve. For example, Police and Crime Plans are statutorily required to be consulted on before the final version is published. But publication of the plan should mark a new phase in communication – not the end. Right now, many PCCs will be thinking how can they concisely, accurately and frequently explain their plan through their police force and beyond?
A PCC will need a strategy
What is the golden thread running from the strategic priorities down to frontline officers? How will that be communicated effectively and efficiently? How will those other organisations that PCCs commission respond to the plan? How can PCCs ensure other local services which must have regard for their plan do so with enthusiasm? And, critically, how can the messages PCCs need to send out to influence, to cajole and corral their partners hit their target – not just when the plan is published but again and again, increasing their impact each time?
Finally, what is the point of pulling levers and influencing partners if a PCC is unable to measure performance against the plan? We know how much some PCCs have struggled to get accurate data from forces about often basic outputs and outcomes. The quest for the single version of the truth, available to all, can be long, arduous and frustrating.
A dashboard is a good start but questioning the data is as important as producing it.
PCCs need enquiring minds on their side – analysts who on their behalf can ask the questions they will want the answers to: Why is this happening? Why could this be the case? What could make a positive difference? Is my plan working the way I want it to…?
Many PCCs know this and much more besides. But it’s worth the rest of us reminding ourselves how important their plans are, how important it is that they work and how accountable PCCs are once they put their names to them.
Pulling the right levers, checking performance and keeping on track.
By the end of this month it will be full steam ahead.