Agenda item

Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner's Annual Report for 2020/21


RESOLVED that: the Panel accepts the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2020/21.



The PFCC presented the Annual Report, outlining work done during 2020/21 and progress towards the delivery of his priorities. The PFCC highlighted the following points:

·         The previous year had been dominated by the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which was the worst public health emergency to affect the country in 100 years. However, he had still worked to make the most of the resources available to Northamptonshire.

·         Additional funding provided to Northamptonshire Police translated into the highest number of police officers since the 2000s, whilst NFRS had also been strengthened. This provided a basis for continuing improvement in both cases. The Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer were also working together to share support services to maximise efficiency.

·         He thanked the team in the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner (OPFCC) for their support and praised the dedication shown by force and NFRS staff members during the pandemic.

The Panel considered the Annual Report.

A Panel member noted that the Annual Report identified the ambition to increase the force’s professional curiosity and knowledge of trauma-informed practice in support of this objective and questioned whether the need to take this action represented a concern. The PFCC made the following points:

·         This action linked back to the 2018/19 inspection of the force by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which had identified that it was not investigating crime effectively enough. In addition, the force had recruited nearly 500 officers in recent years. A considerable amount of work was therefore being done to ensure that the force was able to provide members of the public with an effective service at all stages from the reporting of a crime to the submission of a case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

·         Overall, he was confident that the force was now in a significantly better position than it had been when he took office. He had recently met with the family of David Brickwood concerning failings in the force’s investigation of his murder in 2015. He considered that these failings would not occur now.

·         In 2016 the number of overdue visits to people on the Management of Sexual Offenders & Violent Offenders register in Northamptonshire had been 600-700, which compared to around 50 now. This was another reflection of the progress made by the force in this time.

The Director for Early Intervention subsequently advised that trauma-informed practice involved taking a considered view of how previous trauma might affect the parties involved in an incident to support a more effective police response. It was intended that as many personnel in the force as possible should be familiar with this approach.

A Panel member challenged the PFCC that the Annual Report did not say enough about progress towards meeting his Police & Crime Plan objectives, making the following points:

·         The overall vision set out in the Police & Crime Plan was ‘A Safer Northamptonshire’. LGA guidance encouraged that when the Panel reviewed the Annual Report it should consider whether Northamptonshire had become more safe over the past year. However, the Annual Report did not provide a basis for reaching a conclusion on this question.

·         The Annual Report produced by the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) was one example of a PCC taking a more quantitative approach by presenting more data to back up their conclusions. The PFCC was urged to emulate this approach in future.

The PFCC made the following points:

·         The presentation of performance information to the Panel was an area of previous discussion and the approach taken continued to evolve.

·         In the year ahead he proposed to provide the Panel with a quarterly update on performance that would include appropriate narrative information. This reflected that performance information needed to be properly contextualised when presented in public, for example, to show that an increase in recorded crimes could reflect increased enforcement activity against that type of crime.

The Panel questioned the PFCC on matters relating to his priority of robust enforcement – modern slavery and exploitation. Members made the following points:

·         The PFCC was challenged about the robustness of action being taken to address modern slavery in Northamptonshire, a member referring to a case when a perpetrator had been penalised but had then resumed activity. More robust action should also be taken in cases where travellers occupied land.

·         It was questioned why the ‘Take a Closer Look’ film commissioned by the OPFCC to raise awareness of modern slavery and exploitation was only directed at frontline professionals and not also used with members of the public.

The PFCC made the following points:

·         The Annual Report was intended to be a strategic overview: he could discuss concerns about specific incidents separately with individual Panel members if they could provide details.

·         He was satisfied that the force had sufficient focus on modern slavery, which had not been the case when he had first taken office. The OPFCC had also set up a countywide partnership board on modern slavery and human trafficking, which was chaired by the Director for Delivery.

·         A separate film on modern slavery and exploitation designed for members of the public had just been produced.

The Panel questioned the PFCC on matters relating to his priority of robust enforcement – increased accessibility and visibility in all communities. Members made the following points:

·         The force’s aim to embed its services in local communities was welcome. The force needed to be a trusted source of help to members of the public. It was also important that different public sector organisations worked together as a single team to address complex issues such as knife crime. It was positive to see that this joined up approach was reflected in the Annual Report.

·         Visible uniformed policing was backed up a range of functions that were less obvious but essential, such as criminal investigation. Reassurance was sought about the PFCC’s confidence in the effectiveness of these functions in the county. 

·         The PFCC was urged to maximise the use of his Supporting Communities Fund to work with different community groups.

·         The PFCC was challenged about whether it was planned to close Weston Favell police station and Moulton fire station. The case for this was questioned as these facilities were located in a growing area that would require some alternative provision.

The PFCC made the following points:

·         He had a continuing concern about the service that the national Action Fraud function provided to Northamptonshire. He had requested information from the force about the number of cases being directed to it for investigation, as he was not certain that victims were well-served by the current national approach.

·         He agreed that support functions were a crucial element in the overall response to crime. The importance of maximising their effectiveness in Northamptonshire was behind the decisions to withdraw from Multi-Force Shared Services and to introduce the enabling services approach.

·         The force had undertaken considerable training on investigative capability in the last three years, which should be reflected in the outcome of its next
HMICFRS inspection.

·         He was keen to look at all opportunities to use the grant schemes he controlled to work with local groups to address risks to communities. It was open to all groups to bid for funding.

·         The existing Weston Favell police station had been valued at approximately £1m but required remedial work on the roof that would cost more than this. There would continue to be a policing base in Weston Favell. Moulton fire station was not being closed: the adjacent headquarters and maintenance facilities were being relocated to Darby House and Earls Barton respectively. He had made these plans known before the election in the interests of openness.

The Panel questioned the PFCC on matters relating to his priority of prevention and early intervention – divert young people from crime. Members made the following points:


·         It had been reported in the media that referrals to social care services had increased following the end of lockdown. It was questioned whether Youth Services were seeing similar demand.

·         The development of the Youth Commission by the OPFCC was welcome and confirmation was sought about whether this was intended to be a long term project and whether it would be able to engage with young people in disadvantaged areas.

The PFCC advised that the Youth Commission was a long term project and should be able to engage with young people from all areas in the county.

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

·         The Early Intervention team was currently receiving a higher number of cases but it was not yet possible to say whether this was due to the end of lockdown or other factors, such as new operating arrangements connected with the creation of the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust.

·         Youth Commission members were appointed through a formal recruitment process that operated every 12 months, which helped to broaden involvement.

The Panel considered potential conclusions on the Annual Report for inclusion in its report to the PFCC. The Democratic Services Assistant Manager advised that the Annual Report was a finished document that represented the PFCC’s views on the progress made towards his outcomes: when reviewing it the Panel was able to comment on the robustness of these conclusions.

Members made the following points during the course of discussion: 

·         The Annual Report did not provide sufficient clarity about performance against the PFCC’s key outcomes.

·         The report was a good one and showed examples of positive progress, such as the investment of £1.5m in local crime fighting initiatives, good joint working between the force and NFRS as part of the response to the pandemic and increased numbers of police officers.

·         Differing views about the best way for the PFCC to present the Annual Report did not mean that it failed to achieve its purpose.

·         The Panel’s report to the PFCC on the Annual Report could make reference to comments by individual Panel members as well as setting out the Panel’s overall conclusion.

The PFCC commented that the outcome of the recent election represented a judgement on his performance. He believed that the Panel would be satisfied with information on the delivery of Police & Crime Plan outcomes that could be provided to it in the year ahead.

RESOLVED that: the Panel accepts the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2020/21.

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