12 November 2004
Policing in England will have a 'slimmed-down landscape' from next year with just three core bodies: the Police Standards Unit, an improvement agency and the Home Office.
In the latest policy reform paper, published on November 9, Home Secretary David Blunkett outlined a major rationalisation of police agencies that could begin as early as next April and be complete by 2006/07.
A National Policing Improvement Agency will merge all 'operational' bodies. It will focus on three core areas: good practice, improvement and operational support. The agency will take over bodies such as the National Centre for Policing Excellence and the training authority Centrex, as well as some Home Office functions.
Blunkett also wants the Association of Chief Police Officers' policy work 'enshrined' within it.
A spokesman for the Home Office was coy as to whether significant areas of the department will be transferred. 'Three core functions will be dealt with by the agency – but that's not to say the Home Office won't have a role,' he told Public Finance.
The agency will also fit into the Home Office's rationalisation of the inspection and regulation regime in criminal justice.
Blunkett announced that he would begin consulting on the move, which involves five bodies, early next year. It is expected, however, that all five will become one overarching body covering police, probation, courts, and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Local and police authorities welcomed the paper after the Home Office abandoned its more radical proposals for directly elected police boards and regional police forces.
The Local Government Association described proposals to enhance the role of councillors as a victory. 'This white paper recognises the part [councils]
have to play in ensuring resources are deployed on the issues that matter to local people,' said Sally Powell, the chair of the LGA's Safer Communities Board.
Also in the reform paper:
- Police forces will have ten new commitments to communities, including better service levels
- Dedicated neighbourhood policing teams
- More flexible working for the police to encourage diversity
- New performance grading system
- Enhanced role for local authorities to scrutinise crime and disorder reduction partnerships
- Intervention in poor performing police forces will no longer be dependent on sole information from HMIC