Webchat hosted by the Number Ten website

Nick takes part in a Q&A hosted by the Number Ten Website on the Government's police reform proposals.


Good morning, Policing Minister Nick Herbert will be arriving shortly to answer your questions.

He is with us for about an hour so we will publish as many questions as we can in that time.

If you use Twitter - you can also post your questions using #policewebchat.

Nick Herbert: 

Hi, Nick Herbert here. Last week we launched our proposals for police reform and I'm keen to hear your views.


Does anyone plan to ask if the PCSOs and the like will be scrapped/reduced in number and converted to full police officers?

Nick Herbert: 

No, we're committed to PCSOs as part of the wider policing family and to help increase visibility - which we need to do - and support neighbourhood policing.

Mike Alderson: 

Good Morning As people have become more I'm interested to know why the Policing Pledge was no longer felt to have value.

Nick Herbert: 

I think the Policing Pledge was a bureaucratic, top down way of attempting to improve performance which just became a whole lot of targets in disguise. And I think it was wrong to spend £6 million of taxpayers' money to advertise it. We want to replace bureaucratic accountability like this with democratic accountability.

Sam McKenzie: 

There has been talk of a very large cut in police spending, but how major will this cut be and how will it affect us?

Nick Herbert: 

We need to deal with the deficit and police forces must play their part in reducing costs. We won't know the size of the reduction in budgets until the outcome of the spending review in October, but we are determined to do all that we can to protect the frontline. HMIC recently said this was possible while still saving over £1bilion a year - 12 per cent of the total budget. In our proposals we set out how we plan to strip out bureaucracy, reduce central overheads and share services to make the police more efficient.

Lynda Shaw: 

Do you think that one individual Police Commissioner can effectively represent a large, diverse area such as Cumbria with vastly different communities 100 miles apart? Why not continue to have a panel of people from town and country, male and female, that know and understand their own areas?

Nick Herbert: 

The Mayor of London effectively represents several milllion people and holds the Met police to account - the public decide to elect him. I think the same principle can apply elsewhere in the country. Police and Crime Commissioners will work with local authorities, and Police and Crime Panels will draw on local councillors and independents to scrutinise the Commissioners. So I think diversity will be fully recognised.


What steps will be taken to reduce the amount of time officers spend behind a desk filling in paperwork and will there be a return to more foot patrols?

Nick Herbert: 

We're determined to cut the paperwork. We can't tolerate the situation where - as HMIC recently said - only 11 per cent of officers are available to the public at any one time. We'll fully scrap the stop form, but this is about more than forms- it's about dealing with the centralised targets and processes that create them, which is why we've scrapped remaining targets and the policing pledge. We want to see police officers on the streets, preventing and cutting crime, rather than behind their desks - crime fighters, not form writers.


whats the future of the specials constables

Nick Herbert: 

First of all I'd like to thank the thousands of people who volunteer as specials - I think they do a great job, and we need more of them. In the 1950s there were 67,000 specials - over four times the number today. I want to explore new ideas to unlock the potential of volunteering in policing, and I'm looking at the idea of police reservists as we have in the armed forces and the fire service.

Marc Geddes:

How do you envisage HMIC to become more independent than it already is - who will appoint the Chief Inspector if not the Queen on recommendation of the Home Secretary or the Police? (Point 2.39 of the Consultation Paper)

Nick Herbert: 

We definitely want HMIC to be more independent of both government and the police service, shining a light on performance so that the public can judge how well their force is doing. The Inspectorate has been moving in that direction, but we'd like to formalise this, and we're consulting on the best way to do it.

Davie T: 

What will be the main difference between SOCA and the NCA, surely this is just a rebranding exercise?

Nick Herbert: 

Absolutely not. The key difference is that the NCA will have a number of commands, including border policing, and in relation to serious and organised crime it will have a formal tasking and co-ordinating role. Police forces will remain responsible for tackling serious and organised crime in their areas, but they will be under strong duties to collaborate with each other and with the NCA. So we will have a much stronger and rationalised approach to regional and national criminal threats than we do now.


What's the difference between the proposed Police and Crime Panel and the Police Authorities that already exist?


@nickherbertmp P&C commissioner + P&C panel sounds just like a PA Chair + PA committee. Only dif = Chair is elected? #policewebchat [via Twitter]

Nick Herbert: 

There's a clear difference. For the first time the public will be able to vote for an individual to hold their local force to account, set the budget and priorities, and hire the chief constable. Police and Crime Panels will be drawn from local councillors and independents to scrutinise the Commissioners - they won't be doing the job which police authorities did. These reforms will re-build the bridge between police and communities and make the accountability of police forces far more visible.

Andrew Richards: 

Given that merged forces will save monet and reduce cost why are you against them? Beds and Herts were looking at paying back merger costs after less than 3 years and had an excellent NPV

Nick Herbert: 

We're opposed to compulsory force mergers to create regional police forces which would be more distant from their communities - big isn't always beautiful. We've said that we will consider voluntary mergers if there is a robust business case and they have local community consent. In the case of Beds and Herts, I understand that some elected representatives in Herts are not happy with the idea of merger. I've suggested further consideration of enhanced collaboration between the forces to save money.

Tom W:

Will Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships remain under the new coalition goverment? And will the role of the local authority be as influencial given the shrinkage in services?

Nick Herbert: 

We think that partnership working such as through CDRPs (or Community Safety Partnerships as they are now known) is really important. I want them to be action-focused rather than talking shops, and the new Police and Crime Commissioners will work with them with a mission to cut local crime. We also want to look at the relationship with Local Criminal Justice Boards. We intend to free local partners up, strip away unnecessary prescription, and ensure that we are getting real delivery on the ground. I'd be keen to hear from practitioners about how to improve local arrangements.


How do you envisage these changes will impact on the services offered to Victim of crime?

Nick Herbert: 

In my speech to Policy Exchange in June I said that we want a criminal justice service - not a so-called 'system' - that never stops thinking about the interests of victims. We need a holisitic approach to criminal justice reform and radical solutions - for police, courts, prisons, probation - to mend every broken link in the chain of justice. We need to support victims more effectively - and that means targeting our resources better - and our mission with these reforms is to cut crime and reduce re-offending to prevent victims in the future.


#policewebchat what tax raising, charging, budget holding and spending powers will directly elected police commissioners have? [via Twitter]

Nick Herbert: 

Commissioners will be able to set the police precept, budget, and strategic policing plan - and they will hold their chief constable to account for achieving value for money.

John Burbeck: 

There are big savings to be made in Police procurement. Do you have any plans to simplify the current complex and lengthy processes, and how soon will you be requiring all forces to buy standard national solutions.

Nick Herbert: 

I agree, and yes. I've just published proposals to direct police forces to collaborate on national procurement of things like equipment and IT where we can save money by avoiding 43 forces doing their own thing.

Richard Price:

I fully support the plans for Directly Elected Police Commissioners, but can you reassure me that the proposals will not be watered down to the extent that the commissioners will be powerless?

Nick Herbert: 

Yes. We need to ensure proper checks and balances, as the Coalition Government agreement pledges, but we also need to ensure that the Commissioners - who will all have a considerable local mandate - have sufficient powers to hold their force to account, drive up police perfomance, and deliver effective action on crime and anti-social behaviour for local people.


RT @multizone: @nickherbertmp #policewebchat How many directly elected #police commissioners will be ex chief constables? [via Twitter]

Nick Herbert: 

That depends on how many ex-chiefs decide to stand and whether the public elect them! I say trust the people.


You scrapped the policing pledge and confidence models, chief cons have ignored this and kept them, front line police officers agree with you in that it should be scrapped, but if chief cons ignore you how will it ever improve?

Nick Herbert: 

We scrapped the policing pledge to cut central bureaucracy and ensure a focus on cutting crime. Of course the police need to deliver a high quality service, but this won't be achieved by central dictat. In future it will be local people who judge whether the service they get is good enough, through the Police and Crime Commissioners, and it will be for Commissioners to determine the strategic priorities of the force.

Andrew C Fisher:

Will your reform take cognisance of Peels original policing philosophy i.e. working with the people rather than antagonising them? Also, will you look at the successful reform of OW Wilson in 1960s Chicago?

Nick Herbert: 

Peel's principles are at the heart of our reforms, re-building the bridge between police and public, and focusing once again on his first principle - that the basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder. I went to Chicago a couple of years ago to look at their community policing, and was impressed by their beat meetings. I've also been looking at good practice in other states and countries - LAPD's crime mapping, for instance (and we plan to give the public far better information on local crime).

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2 August 2010


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