Is Police Collaboration between Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire putting local policing at risk?
Is this the creation of less localized, large, super constabularies by the back door? This idea was abandoned in 2006.
The Home Office has leant on Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to come together to collaborate on a wide range of activities. The lack of government funding has made some working together with partners a necessity. But is this the right deal?
At the same time the Conservative government has pressed for Cambridgeshire to be part of a devolution deal with Norfok and Suffolk.
The government is pressing for the PCC to take responsible for the fire service in the county.
Working with others on back office functions can make sense. It can reduce costs and create sufficient critical mass in services that don’t have many staff.
But if it becomes an end in itself then focus can be lost and savings not realized. Worse, the quality of output is compromised.
Collaboration creates new work to establish who pays what share for joint services. This is monitored and audited so that each Constabulary pays for what it gets. This can lead to conflict. The collaboration teamcan grow out of control
and can become collaboration evangelists rather than focusing on the people who receive the service.
The current collaboration between the three counties has some difficulties. It has extended further than just back office functions, HR, IT, Finance etc into operational services.
It has also been forced to retain the existing three Constabularies whilst at the same time creating new command and control organisations across three counties, who all have different demands and requirements.
Police Officers tell me they are losing track who their boss
is, the senior officer in the county responsible for that function or their chief constable. Loss of clear lines of responsibility in a uniformed service is dangerous and confusing.
An extract from the recent collaboration presentation is clear:
͞Shared Vision and Values across the three forces you no longer work for one Chief Constable but three͟.”
There is a big question mark over the savings anticipated. Are they realistic or do they have ͞project success͟ bias? Could these savings be achieved in other ways? For example significant savings are being anticipated through sharing custody staff.
But when you dig deeper the savings seem to be because of a new shift system for staff. Could this not be done anyway?
But the biggest concerns revolve around geography. It is clear that Bedfordshire is funded too low, yet they have Luton, a hot spot for terrorism. What impact will that
have on manning allocation across the three counties? Equally, traffic police may be drawn away from the rural areas to the traffic hotspots of our arterial roads. And so
it goes on.
Local policing has just slipped down another rung of the ladder.
Joint protective services as a complete entity is now subject to being ͞collaborative͟. This feels like a step too far. Much better that collaboration, as a project, remains
with the non operational services.
Where it still makes sense to share operational services then these should be looked at on a case by case basis but we need to move away from the presumption that everything needs to be subject to ͞collaboration͟.
Where ever possible I believe collaboration or shared services as it is know within local authorities, should be kept as local as possible.
If this Conservative government wants to create larger geographic constabularies then it should be honest enough to come out and say that. Then the people can have their say at the ballot box.