This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It is collaboration, Tim, but not as you want it?

A small squall is brewing off the East coast as Norfolk & Suffolk police services and commissioners seek to resolve their differences over establishing a joint control room. The Ipswich Star reports on a event happening tomorrow when the two pairs of PCCs and Chiefs are having a summit meeting at Norfolk police HQ to sort out the matter. This has also been reported on by Sally Chidzoy from the BBC in recent weeks.

It is an old chestnut when it comes to collaboration: even when only two forces are involved, it is likely that one will benefit less than the other. Indeed the 'benefit' might be negligible or even negative. And if each collaboration project is seen in isolation, then each project faces failure if the 'losing' partner takes their ball home.

The question is, as it has always been with collaboration, can the players be strategic and see that where one initiative might be balanced in favour of one partner, the next initiative may well favour the other. But it is a tough call, especially when those making the decisions fear they may face the wrath of the voting public in a couple of years time.

From speaking to Tim Passmore last week at the Grant Thornton event, I know that he is committed to finding efficiencies through collaboration. (Although when I wickedly suggested that having one PCC for both Suffolk & Norfolk could immediately save the taxpayer a good deal of money, he was not so wild about that idea!) The article linked above, outlines some of the real risks identified by the Suffolk Chief Constable. The question is whether the four players involved can agree on a way forward that is best for all of the people in the two counties collectively - not just separately.

And if they cannot: what does this have to say about the future of collaboration under PCC governance? The eyes of many people, not just those of Suffolk & Norfolk, are on Wymondham tomorrow.

And I cannot leave this topic without linking it to calls to reform the whole 43 force structure after the next election. It is difficult to see, no matter who is voted into power, that the pressure to amalgamate resources will not inevitably push towards having fewer strategic policing bodies. 

UPDATE 1324 | 010514: It would appear that the decision to form a joint control room has been called off. The news story "Norfolk/Suffolk police control room merger plan scrapped" suggests that it was Mr Passmore (Suffolk PCC) who pulled the plug while Mr Bett (Norfolk PCC) is quoted as saying "I accept today's decision and now we move on. I am disappointed but not surprised". Hmmm.


  1. Anonymous1/5/14 13:09

    I'm going to predict that the welsh forces could be the first to amalgamate. Three out of the four already use the same operational IT (NICHE), albeit in differing iterations, so one national force could make some logical rationalisations.

    It would be interesting if they keep the same number of PCCs/oversight body after nationalisation; the PCC could still hold the a national force to account in their area and would be an interesting contrast to the approach in Scotland where there is only one ovesight body for the whole of the country.

    1. Interesting indeed especially given the possible changes in scope of the Welsh Assembly....