Association President Paul Griffiths has spoken about the need for a strategic review of policing governance as we await for the results of our country’s leadership contest.
The future of our country is once again uncertain as we wait for the results of the Conservative leadership election and a new Prime Minister. I have publicly urged the candidates to place policing at the heart of any plans for their political leadership.
Over previous years, the political drive was for ‘sector led’ policing. As a result of significant changes to the governance arrangements for the service, the national role of the Home Office started to diminish. At first, it felt like an opportunity, however, the inconsistencies of multiple leadership and sovereignty networks across England and Wales were challenging for any police leader with a national responsibility. The national strength weakened across the Service, as the Home Office’s influence became less obvious and impactive than it had been prior to the ‘sector led’ drive.
The Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) has been a long-term advocate for rational, informed and educated insight into national policing decisions, based on the strong experience and leadership of our membership. We have used this to become a source of positive influence over the shape of policing and have done all we can to promote the best interests of our workforce and our public. As we have witnessed reductions in police funding, the shrinking of resources and the increase in demand over recent years, we have stayed firm in our message, based on the best interests of our people, our police and our public.
Two years ago, I met with a senior Home Office official to raise concerns over the inconsistency of leadership across the 43 forces, urging the Home Office to play a greater role on the national policing landscape. The PSA has consistently delivered this message to all key stakeholders. However, the political stance was still strong and the narrative remained around ‘sector led’ policing.
With this ‘sector led’ leadership comes significant responsibilities, most notably the role of NPCC as a body to act as the employer. However, when the NPCC has to fundamentally rely on the cohesion and consensus of many, each with their individual interpretations, views and opinions, the institutional strain for national decision making and implementation is inevitable. The Home Office remained distant, despite its power over policy, guidance, regulations, legislation and funding to influence national consistency.
The pressures and strain facing our ranks are quite exceptional, something clearly demonstrated through our resilience research, which showed that almost half of our members are showing signs of anxiety. As a rank we are not alone in feeling the personal impact of policing today. We presented this evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, which is tasked to scrutinise the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of public spending, and we were pleased to see that this was accepted, leading to the Committee’s criticism of the Home Office for not understanding the demand and strain facing our Service.
Without clear policy, regulation and legislation, binding the Police Service together, the institution relies on consensus across a Gordian knot of influences that might not always serve the greater good. A review of the strategic governance of policing could be very timely, examining the role the Home Office play in organisational and employment matters, so that colleagues across the country can have increased confidence in national positions on workforce reform and procedural justice on matters such as pay and reward.
I genuinely believe that there has never been a more critical time for our country’s political leaders to start swinging the pendulum back and in doing so, strengthen the Home Office, enabling them to play a more significant role in providing coherence and consistency across policing.