Annual Report of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Objective: Consider the PCC’s annual report
Chris Nelson (Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner)
The annual report of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) had been circulated, and he thanked Members for the opportunity to attend the meeting to discuss it and answer questions. He highlighted the following:
- the focus on strengthening the constabulary to be stronger, bigger and better- resourced. 200 extra police have been recruited in the last year, working towards the manifesto target of 300;
- the focus on dealing with anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood crime, which dropped by 59% in last year;
- from the government’s Safer Streets initiative, two successful bids totalling £3m have been awarded, to help tackle anti-social behaviour, violence against women and girls, and rural crime. This makes Gloucestershire the second most successful force out of 43 in that bidding process, and although not the most dangerous county in the country, there are definite crime hotspots in Cheltenham, Gloucester and elsewhere, which justify this government funding;
- after a difficult first year balancing the budget, and an overspend of £1.4m last May, projected to go up to £10m over four years, the last financial year has produced an underspend of a few million which can be put to use in growing the constabulary, and for emergency IT infrastructure, which is desperately needed within the force;
- the constabulary has been in ‘special measures’ since 2021 when HM Inspectorate found it to be inadequate in five key areas: investigating crime, supporting victims, recording data about crime, responding to the public, protecting vulnerable people and good use of resources. This is a serious situation, and the PCC is working hard with the chief constable and the force to improve matters as soon as possible.
In response to questions from Members, the PCC stated that:
- resident concern about policing levels during race week is taken seriously, and although the festival as a whole is well run, anti-social behaviour and street safety has always been a problem. A stakeholders’ meeting was held recently, involving the PCC, police, county council, borough council and race course, to discuss what more could be done. At the moment, about 100 officers provide security inside and outside the grounds; the festival organisers don’t provide any financial support for policing outside the grounds, and it is up to the Chief Constable to make operational decisions as to where officers are deployed. Bringing in more support from outside the force would incur cost, or result in fewer officers to deal with issues elsewhere. In view of its huge commercial advantage, he feels the Jockey Club should do more, providing more marshals, supported by police, particularly on the main route between the town and racecourse, and this is his focus at the moment;
- it is true that law and order is a matter for the police, but officers would be on hand to support Jockey Club marshals when necessary. It is all a question of balancing resources;
- the legal situation is that event organisers do not pay for policing outside the event grounds, which is why encouraging the Jockey Club to pay for additional marshals seems a suitable solution. If they refuse, he would be minded to lobby for a change to the law requiring big event organisers to pay for police outside the grounds;
- he is also aware of harassment of serving and hospitality staff during race week, and covert officers are deployed, in particular to target people being aggressive towards women. In addition, action can be taken by the licensing authority if rules are not being followed;
- these discussions can be continued outside the meeting, as he has great sympathies with anyone trying to protect the interests of their community;
- it is important not to think that the force is failing, despite being in ‘special measures’ - the Inspectorate described it as ‘good’ in four categories - but a good way to get to grips with improving the areas described as inadequate was to reach out to other forces which are doing better in those areas. Six forces, including Durham and Avon and Somerset, have been visited in the last year, to pick up detailed information based on their experience and practices;
- road safety is a particular passion, and encouraging a county-wide strategy through a new approach with GCC is important. Any attempt to reduce speed limits will usually bounce against Gloucestershire Highways saying a reduction from 30 to 20 mph won’t work unless traffic calming measures are introduced and will not be popular with the police. A number of firms offer low-cost, low-tech speed cameras which definitely have the potential to improve road safety. Getting people to think differently is a slow process, but if suitable stretches of road can be identified and, with the agreement of GCC and the police, a number of the low-cost cameras installed, it could help bring about a behavioural change. The cameras clock the speeding vehicle, send information to the police, the police send warning letters, with enforcement and fines deployed if the speeding continues. He hopes that this more pragmatic, affordable, quick and simple approach could work, with pilots in different areas;
- anyone caught speeding via the speed cameras, who has not done so in the previous three years, is offered a course to refresh their knowledge of the Highway Code, rather than receive points on their licence straight away. This is the normal procedure, and generally works well;
- he is aware of the growing problem of bike theft and subsequent re-sale on eBay, and is talking to the constabulary about developing a protocol for dealing with this, to consider how the police work out their lines of enquiry, and look at new ways to upload information. As usual, finding the resources is a problem, but bike theft could be better handled;
- hare coursing is a dreadful crime, involving many cross-border criminals, and Gloucestershire is working other forces in the south-west to tackle it. A new fleet of drones and high-performance equipment, together with excellent WhatsApp groups, are helping, as well as strengthening the constabulary and specials to fight crime in local communities;
- fly-tipping is a recognised problem, usually the responsibility of the local authority; the police generally defer to them, but if fly-tippers are caught in the act, the police will get involved. There are mechanisms to deal with the issue, including neighbourhood police, or an email direct to the PCC, who will then pass it to the appropriate body;
- the target for 101 call wait time is two minutes, the average is eight minutes, but unfortunately sometimes people are waiting as long as 30-40 minutes for a response. Better telephony could help – advising people where they are in a queue, for example – and more call handlers in the force control room. Unfortunately, the same call handlers deal with 101 and 999 calls, so callers often drop off a 101 call when they fail to get a response and call 999 instead, so creating a vicious circle;
- concerning low-level ASB, CBC’s SOLACE team works well – the best in the county - and is set to improve with the Community Trigger, which is activated when three ASB incidents are reported in three months, to review the case and ensure best practice.
The Chair thanked the PCC for his report and honest responses.