Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.  
Commissioner's Office: 01707 806100
Strength in Numbers
I said at the start this is a team game – keeping Hertfordshire safe and strong isn’t just a job for the police but for all of us. A lot of my recent work has been on this topic of partnership working and I think we are making real progress.

I was asked to speak at the Local Government Association conference at the beginning of the month, on the subject of “collaboration” and work across boundaries – the overall conference theme being ‘rewiring public services’.

With the current financial challenge to do more with less across the public sector firmly in mind, my pitch to the conference was that Police and Crime Commissioners, because of their novelty and wide remit, are in a good place to ask very fundamental questions about the way we design, run and fund public services.

It is largely through accidents of history and evolution that the various public sector agencies have come to have in their purview what they do, and to report to the respective Whitehall departments quite as they do.

If we were to start afresh – to ‘re-wire’ our services - would the public sector look like it does?

Probably not.

This may sound a little philosophical, but actually it is at the heart of how we should be challenging ourselves at the moment. And I think it could be the role of Police and Crime Commissioners to grasp this nettle. Given our novelty, there are not tracks laid down which we must follow.

The direct levers of power available to Commissioners are relatively few for the breadth of the remit. Policing, community safety, and roles in victims’ services and rehabilitation are where the hard levers end.

But knowing what we know about how people become criminals, or victims of crime, should we keep doing education and youth services as we do them currently? Should we keep supporting our local families and communities according to the current models? Should healthcare workers be quite so removed from social welfare, housing, police and schools? Should the blue-light services be more closely aligned? They are often all at the same incidents…

The nervous Commissioner may retain a narrow focus and end up hiding behind a strong Constabulary lead. But if we want to, and as long as we can take our partners with us, we have an open field in front of us.

In Hertfordshire, I have made partnership my number one priority. It is writ large in my Police and Crime Plan. (It is called Everybody’s Business for good reason). And for the most part I have been made very welcome around the various tables.

Teams are working together - there is a director from Probation in my office; there is tight-knit work with county and district leads on community issues; there is a strong collaborative relationship building with criminal justice colleagues; work on enterprise is strong.

We could do better on Health and Wellbeing - there is clearly a role for Commissioners like me build a bridge between Health, Community Safety and Criminal Justice. For now I am doing this through my own Community Safety Board (with some great input from Clinical Commissioning Groups and a forward thinking Director of Public Health) whilst we resolve the formal Health and Wellbeing links.

To return to my initial pitch then…

Step one is building the new relationships.

Step two is asking ourselves the hard questions; the vital requirement for transformation helps us to do this, but so does the new politics where there are ambitious and influential Commissioners in place.

 Step three is getting down to business, of course. And as this is a sector that thinks about the user, the resident, the victim of crime, the taxpayer, how we work must be entirely about them too. Transforming our services collaboratively can help us deal with the hard questions and deliver some seriously good change.