Spending your money better

Today, I have been re-elected as the Chair of the BlueLight Commercial company – an important initiative established last year.

Today, I have been re-elected as the Chair of the BlueLight Commercial company – an important initiative established last year.

When I became Chair of the National Commercial Board in November 2019, the case for change in procurement and commercial activity was strong. Policing was presenting a fragmented voice to the market. Best practice was not always being shared. Data wasn’t being used in its most effective way and it was clear that more could be done to boost our use of resources.

There is no such thing as “government money”, and so at the heart of all of this is ensuring that we use taxpayers’ money in the most efficient and effective way – to aid the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour, support Officers and Staff in giving them the tools they need and getting the most value out of every pound, in what remains a tough financial settlement.

The work that was being done prior to the establishment of BlueLight Commercial was showing the benefits of co-ordinated efforts on savings and commercial activity, but it was clear that the company was needed to drive this further.

And so with every Police and Crime Commissioner joining the company as members, the support of Chief Constables and strong backing from the Home Office with over £13m of funding over three years, BlueLight Commercial has a strong mandate for change to deliver commercial excellence within policing.

There have already been some early signs of success. The work in three keys areas is going to bear fruit very soon, with deals struck on fleet, in car CCTV and contingent labour. The social value tool which has been delivered is seen as market leading. Police Forces are approaching BlueLight Commercial to ask for support on local issues. Collaboration has been secured with fire and rescue services, non-Home Office forces and policing abroad.

And as word of our successes grow and people see what BlueLight Commercial can deliver, the company is being asked to lead other pieces of work including at governmental level.

We can all be tremendously proud of what the team has achieved in its first year and the year ahead will I’m sure lead to further savings and improvements in policing’s commercial capabilities. I thank Lianne and the team again for all their efforts and wish them continued success.

Domestic abuse continues to rise even as lockdown eases

Domestic abuse reports have risen in recent years and continue to do so during the pandemic.

Every Monday, I meet with Chief Officers to discuss crime and antisocial behaviour, operational issues, performance, community engagement and the matters that residents raise with me.

A key issue during the course of the last fifteen months has been domestic abuse and violence, which many correctly warned would increase in volume during the period of lockdown. There has, over the last five years, been an increasing number of reports made by victims to police of 47%. (Source).

I have been briefed this week that the numbers of crimes have continued to rise, with an increase of 9.7% this April compared with April last year. And in April 2020 we had seen an increase of 14.1%.

There will be a number of reasons for this rise. There is of course greater awareness through increased efforts to encourage people to come forward, both at a local and national level. This increase in confidence is a positive step, even if it seems like an increase in crime reports might be negative; it’s important because more people can get support from the police and others, especially if they have reported for the first time.

Other factors have been contributing to the increase – domestic abuse between family members has been on the increase for some time and locally we have new services in place to support victims of adolescent to parent violence. Crime recording standards have improved. And unfortunately, the nature of lockdown itself will have contributed to the increase as well.

We also discussed the landmark Domestic Abuse Act, which has received Royal Assent. This is an excellent development because for the first time we will have a legal definition of domestic abuse that is wide-ranging and delivers extra protections and support for victims. I will be working with Kent Police and the charities that I commission to ensure that we are all ready for the implementation of the Act.

Please remember, if you or someone you know needs help, dial 999 in an emergency. Information about support services can be found here.

A note of caution on the roll out of e-scooter trials

Let’s fix the issues with e-scooters, before the problems grow further.

In launching an extensive trial of electric scooters in London, Will Norman, the walking and cycling commissioner, says that:

“No-one is going to be riding all the way across London on one, but what I wanted was enough ‘joined-up spaces’ to make this work.”

Evening Standard

I’m sad to say that people will, if they aren’t already. The Government-backed trials of e-scooters are taking place in many locations, including in Canterbury, to look at their positive and negative impacts and how they could regulate them in the future.

And there are some obvious environmental benefits which Mr Norman points to, if people use them as an alternative to cars. Sales are soaring, but the schemes already in place are contributing to confusion around the law. I’m regularly receiving complaints about the inappropriate use of e-scooters.

Outside of the trial areas, you can’t use them on public land, but many already are. This places an additional expectation on the police to do further enforcement (which they are) and I’m aware of one council who has already asked directly for this outside of their trial area.

There are other issues too. For example, you must be over 18 to use an e-scooter. During an awareness campaign on the law surrounding e-scooters I ran at Christmas, I was even told in a Facebook group that I should:

Let kids be kids… mine have one and they ride it out on pavements they certainly don’t run it into people or cars…it’s a craze at the moment just let them enjoy life while they’re still young! More important things to worry about than a child riding a scooter…

Facebook Post

Besides the fact you are enabling children to put themselves and the public at risk. Parents have a role to play here as well.

We are in danger of adding problems to the road network rather than fixing some of the outstanding issues that we have, creating extra burdens on policing. It’s similar to the problems I have warned about with smart motorways. There aren’t enough refuges, and so safety risks have been created before some of the solutions – like improved lane cameras – are live.

So let’s solve the issues now, else their use, and the associated confusion and risk, will continue to grow.

Guidance on e-scooters can be found here.

Boosting our mental health, enjoying nature and protecting the countryside

Let’s get out into nature and enjoy what we have around us – and look after the countryside too.

Mental Health Awareness Week is always an important opportunity for us all to talk about this important issue. After a difficult year for so many of us, it remains something that should be at the top of the agenda for Government and society as a whole. We all have a part to play in supporting one another with the nation’s mental health. I’m pleased that the Queen’s Speech included a commitment to doing just this.

Measures will be brought forward to support the health and wellbeing of the nation, including to… improve mental health.

Queen’s Speech 2021

In my last term, I was appointed to the Independent Mental Health Act review, working with experts, charities and professionals from across the health and care sector on getting people the right care from the right person at the right time. Policing will always have a role to play in mental health, but it remains a concern that a lot of police time is spent dealing with it. A White Paper, based on the recommendations of the review, was consulted on by the Government recently. This will take forward proposals on where people can be safely detained and how patients should be conveyed to a place of safety.

In addition, I attended a meeting of the Crisis Care Senior Operational Group, which includes the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office and representatives of both policing and health, to discuss a draft proposal to improve the handover of patients by the police to health professionals, which is a key reason for some of the delays that Officers experience.

I’m pleased that we are making progress in this area and that it remains a national priority for action.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week itself is connecting with nature, which given the restrictions we have had over the last fourteen months and having to spend so much time at home, is a fantastic idea. You can find nature where ever you are and connect in so many ways. You can get out in to nature or bring it home to you. You can exercise in nature or just take a moment to pause and experience it with all of your senses.

We are so lucky to have nature all around us, especially here in Kent. And we can all give something back to nature at this time, either by recycling more, walking more often, or joining up community clear up groups.

If you do get out in to nature, it is important that we respect and protect our environment too and remember the Countryside Code. Please be considerate to others and your surroundings. Follow the advice provided and local signage as to which routes you can use. Keep your dogs under control and away from animals. And take any litter away with you.

Finally, do remember. You are not alone and it is ok to not be ok. You can call Samaritans any time on 116123.

The White Paper on mental and what it means for policing

The Government has today published “Reforming the Mental Health Act”.

The Government has today published “Reforming the Mental Health Act” – a revolutionary White Paper aimed at improving provision of services and the system itself. I was privileged to serve on the independent review and Chair the Police Working Group.

I’m pleased that the Government is taking forward the recommendations that were made. Some highlights:

“We have committed to reform the MHA to stop the use of police cells as places of safety by 2023 to 2024.”

Not the police’s fault this happened – and use is already falling by choice and design.

On conveyance, people were more likely to be transported by police than health services after being detained by police under section 136.

“The NHS Long Term Plan commits to investment to improve the capacity and capability of ambulance services to meet mental health demand – helping to avoid the use of the police.”

On the time spent dealing with s136 cases:

“We will establish a national agreement between mental health services, social care and the police to ensure that people detained under section 136 are safely and effectively transferred into health services in a timely way”

Other issues addressed include options around the commissioning of health services in police custody and monitoring of police interactions with people from BAME backgrounds.

The White Paper takes on the recommendations that Chief Constable Mark Collins and I helped to make. Well done to everyone involved!