Policing and Crime Commissioners – might vital services lose out to populism?

Policing and Crime Commissioners (PCC’s) was a hot topic at #lgaconf12 given that they are less than 4 months away from being in post.

Now I’m all up for new ways of working and initiatives, even learning on the job and improving as you go, but I am slightly concerned by how this could potentially go in terms of what’s going to get funded and the extent to which populist priorities may crowd out sensible and necessary community safety areas or hidden crimes.

Ben Page always rolls out the line that the British people “want Swedish levels of welfare on US tax” to highlight the difficulties for politicians of pleasing the public. In reducing crime there is undoubtedly a need to make sure that we are addressing the issues which make people feel unsafe, as well as making sure they are not victims of crime.

All the evidence on reducing reoffenders points to the need to support those going straight on issues around housing, skills, jobs, mental health support, etc…. yet it’s going to take a brave politician to decide that with a budget 2/3 the size of what it was, that front line bobbies will have to go in order to get housing, jobs and support to people who’ve committed crime. This is especially difficult given austerity measures hurting people generally.

On issues which are not generally going to be priorities for the public at large but absolutely vital for those that need them, like domestic violence services, will these areas slip down the funding priority list. I’ve never knocked on a door and had someone talk to me about domestic violence issues but we know it happens.

Now politicians make political choices all the time and some do indeed choose to go populist, to ignore evidence for short term political gain or to support certain communities or groups for ideological reasons.

But a lot of PCC candidates have been talking about setting their budgets according to the public’s priorities, participatory budgets and the like, it makes me nervous about the potential daily mail tendency dominating an agenda because it’s easy, with those less able to represent themselves whether they are vulnerable, victims or those looking to go straight being shut out and finding their services gone?


Author: jackhopkins

Labour Councillor for Oval ward in London Borough of Lambeth, and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth covering economic development, regeneration, planning and entrepreneurship. (formerly Community Safety) Interested in partnerships, training and development, social mobility and Arsenal.

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