Agenda item

Introduction to the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner's priorities and challenges [verbal item]



a)    The Panel requests to be provided with further information on the demographic make-up of recent intakes of recruits to Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service.

b)    The Panel notes the update on the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s priorities and challenges.



The Chair congratulated the PFCC on his re-election in May and invited him to comment on his priorities and challenges at this point.


The PFCC welcomed the opportunity to give the Panel an insight into his priorities for the next three years and made the following points:

·         The PFCC would produce new Police & Crime and Fire & Rescue plans by March 2022, which he would present to the Panel before the end of 2021. The new plans would not involve a radical change of direction but would seek to build on the progress made during his first term.

·         The development of the PFCC’s proposed precepts for 2022/23 would be another key area of work. The PFCC invited the Panel to repeat the workshop session on the precept held in January 2021 and also offered to put on a finance workshop session in August or September 2021.

·         The resources for Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service (NFRS) were now at a sustainable level and the position reached was ahead of the schedule set at the time of the governance transfer. Over £4.2m of one-off grants had been secured since 2019. There remained challenges in relation to financing the NFRS Medium Term Financial Plan and a new capital programme had been drafted for discussion with the Minister.

·         Potential changes relating to pension schemes could produce significant financial pressures. The PFCC would seek to make representations on this matter as the position developed.

·         The PFCC would continue to make the case for changing the current policing funding formula and this issue remained the subject of discussion.

·         Northamptonshire had been affected by delays in the completion of external audits. The last statement of accounts for Northamptonshire Police was due to be signed off imminently but this was not the case for the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (OPFCC) and Voice. The PFCC considered that this was not an acceptable situation and would seek to highlight it at national level.

·         The PFCC had previously sought to ensure that the Panel had access to relevant information and would continue to take this approach. He had previously offered to facilitate annual briefing sessions for the Panel with the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer. He also invited the Panel to visit Darby House when COVID-19 restrictions permitted this.

·         The PFCC had provided significant investment in youth services during his first term and sought to build on this further in future. He believed strongly in acting to help divert young people from entering the criminal justice system.

·         Prevention activity would be complemented by action to create a more hostile environment for criminals in Northamptonshire such as investment in frontline policing, Automated Number Plate Recognition systems and Interceptor vehicles.

·         Local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire had created a unique opportunity to refresh and strengthen the local approach to partnership working.

·         The PFCC was proud of the significant amount that had been done during his first term in office. It was now important to maintain momentum and build on this further.

The Panel considered the PFCC’s comments and members made the following points during the course of discussion:

·         It was questioned whether there was scope to change existing external audit arrangements in the context of local government reorganisation.

·         Residents in rural areas of Northamptonshire could feel overlooked in relation to policing and there should be a more visible police presence in villages.

·         Neighbourhood policing team activity in Weedon earlier that day had been
well-received by residents. It would be helpful to repeat it on a Saturday.

·         The priority that the PFCC gave to addressing knife-crime was welcomed. Further information was sought about how detached youth workers were being deployed to respond to the recent death of a young person in Corby, the outcomes sought from their work and how local councillors could support them.

·         The force and NFRS should seek to make their personnel more diverse to be more reflective of the different communities in the county.

·         The force and NFRS were both organisations that had a relatively low turnover in personnel, which made it more difficult to change demographic make-up.

·         Investment in additional police officers was not producing a benefit in the county. Anti-social behaviour remained a significant issue. This should be addressed by deploying police officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) so that they were visible to communities and could engage with them. Local taxpayers who could be in difficult circumstances had been asked to pay a higher police precept: they should see a return from this.  

The PFCC made the following additional points during the course of discussion:

·         Northamptonshire Police had 1,367 police officers at the last count, which was 200 more than when he had taken office. The force would reach a complement of 1,500 officers in the next two years, which would be the highest number ever. However, the force was responsible for protecting nearly 800,000 people, which represented a less favourable ratio than in an area such as London. The fact that Northamptonshire was close to London also affected crime in the county.

·         The Chief Constable was responsible for the deployment of police officers in Northamptonshire. However, the force had been put in a position to double the number of officers in neighbourhood policing teams by 2022 and have named officers for particular areas. Other initiatives such as the forthcoming launch of two ‘Beat Buses’ would also support visible policing around the county.

·         Northamptonshire taxpayers had supported continuing improvement by the force. However, the county would benefit from valuable additional resources if it was funded at the same level as Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire of Leicestershire. The government had committed to review the police funding formula.

·         NFRS now had a whole-time establishment of 254 firefighters, which included an additional 12 recruited recently. NFRS did not find it difficult to recruit full-time firefighters, although there were more challenges relating to retained crewing.

·         The principal continuing challenges for NFRS related to the level of base budget funding, the age of some of its assets and the need to put in place a capital programme that was sustainable in the long term.

·         He expressed his condolences to the family of the young person killed in Corby. The OPFCC had prioritised and provided funding to support detached youth work in the county. The County Schools Challenge would use a card game about knife crime invented by a local young person as part of work to address this issue.

·         He remained committed to the use of PCSOs. A new intake had just been taken on by the force and there were now just under 90 PCSOs in the county. There had been around 250 several years ago but Northamptonshire County Council had funded some of these officers. As PFCC he had to make tough choices about how to use finite resources. Residents should see a benefit from investment in neighbourhood policing.

·         He agreed that the force and NFRS should reflect the communities that they served and considerable effort had been put into work supporting this aim. Good progress had been made with recruiting female officers. There remained challenges in areas such as the diversity of the NFRS establishment and retention of young police officers. This was a complex area and change took time to achieve.  

The Chief Finance Officer advised during discussion that Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) was responsible for contracting external auditors. PSAA was currently consulting on future contracts. Changes to existing arrangements might be possible in future but not at the current time.


The Director for Early Intervention provided additional information in response to point made by members during the course of discussion as follows:

·         The Youth Service operated on countywide basis: staff were not allocated to particular areas, which meant that resources could be deployed to work on priority issues that occurred in any part of the county.

·         The Youth Service was now carrying out outreach work in Corby.

·         The Youth Service would carry out follow-up work after targeted activity by the force. It was also linked in to the custody suites in the county and provided support to young people who had been arrested. The Youth Service currently had 11 members of staff, with some vacancies. It was hoped to expand provision in future.


a)    The Panel requests to be provided with further information on the demographic make-up of recent intakes of recruits to Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service.

b)   The Panel notes the update on the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s priorities and challenges.