To hear any announcements the Commissioner may have for the Panel.
The Chair invited announcements from the Commissioner who explained that, whilst he hadn’t brought forth any announcements for this meeting he would be happy to address questions raised by Members under item 7 of the agenda. The Commissioner also extended his welcome to the Members who had recently joined the Panel.
The Commissioner assured Members that the new investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial included the sharing of all historical data. The Commissioner expressed that the level of support for this investigation at a national level had been good and had ensured that appropriate priority was given to the review, whilst minimising the impact on current policing priorities. Members heard that all costs for the review would come through Hampshire Constabulary and that national government had covered 85% of the initial costs of the first bill. The Commissioner assured Members that he was maintaining a dialogue with the Home Office to ensure that they were aware of the cost implications of the investigation. The Commissioner reminded Members that the review was an operational policing matter and that both himself and the Chief Constable had supported the decision for the investigation to be undertaken by an independent force.
The Commissioner stated the following figures in respect of previous, current and anticipated staffing for Hampshire Constabulary:
January 2019 – 2032 establishment,1925 strength
June 2019 – 2055 establishment, 2011 strength
January 2020 - 2055 establishment, 2092 strength
Police Community Support Officer (PSCOs)
January 2019 – 339 establishment, 259 strength
June 2019 – 241 establishment, 236 strength
January 2020 - 236 establishment, 194 strength
The Commissioner expressed that he felt these figures were representative of data presented to the Panel in January 2019, as part of Panel’s consideration of the proposed policing precept. At that time the Chief Constable had made an operational decision to increase the number of Police Constables and therefore reduce the number of PSCO's, based on the changing crime landscape and a need for increased availability of full warranted powers. The Commissioner was clear that the value of the PSCO’s and how they contribute to safer communities was well appreciated. The Commissioner further explained that the Chief Constable’s intention was to release PSCOs time, by increasing the number of officers available, to enable them to enhance their work and impact within the communities of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (IOW).
The Commissioner affirmed his commitment that the additional funds raised through the increase to the precept should wholly and fully be spent on local safety, and as part of that increasing officers on the ground. Members heard that the Commissioner had recently written to the Chief Constable who had confirmed that the Constabulary were on track to recruit and complete the initial training of the anticipated 210 new police officers by the end of December 2019.
The Commissioner presented a short video following recent police officer recruits through their training.
In response to a question from Members it was heard that the Commissioner had challenged the Chief Constable to continue to encourage applications to the force from those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. The Commissioner stated his confidence that the Chief Constable was strong in her commitment to making the force representative of the communities it serves. Members heard the Commissioner shared regular dialogue with the Chief Constable looking at barriers, changes and appropriate adjustments throughout the whole of policing to ensure that applications from those communities were encouraged and inspired, and to ensure that BAME recruits felt equal to any other.
In response to the question of knife crime, the Commisioner explained that incidents in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were lower than other areas, and the key concern locally, in respect of violent crime, was Domestic Abuse. He further explained that violent crime and risk from sharp instruments is not just knife crime but can take other forms. Members heard that Hampshire was one of 18 forces nationally who had been successful in bidding for surge funding to tackle violent crime and had received £1.2m additional funding to set up violence reduction units. The Commissioner had also recently secured £316,000 of funding from the Home Office early intervention fund and that £300,000 had been granted by the Ministry of Justice to Hampshire as one of five policing areas involved in a pilot to tackle sexual abuse. The Commissioner was clear that such issues could only be tackled through a strong partnership approach, with partners sharing knowledge and resources to deliver the best outcomes for the residents of Hampshire and IOW.
Following temporary staffing changes, the Chairman asked whether the Commissioner felt comfortable that he had sufficient resource within his office to deliver in the short term. In reply the Commissioner expressed his concerns that his office was underfunded. Members heard that a reduction in headcount in the Commissioner’s team, as a result of budget constraints, had impacted on staff morale and upon resource to deliver against the Police and Crime Plan, against a backdrop of underfunding for policing and community safety.
Members heard that the statutory requirements upon the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner required significant resource and that the Commissioner recognised that the Panel had, when appropriate, challenged recruitment of staff within his office, to ensure they were required. Requests for information from the Panel also required resource, which was a challenge for the Commissioner, and in reply Members clarified that where possible the Panel would only ask for information which was already being produced for other purposes or otherwise readily available to the Commissioner and his team.
The Commissioner was confident in the value contributed by his team, both to policing and crime prevention and noted that through its working groups the Panel had both supported and valued the work of the Commissioner’s team.