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Foundations for Policing: Proposals for Policing Structures in Northern Ireland - Section 4

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The Partnership at Work

4.1The previous chapter outlined the main elements of the new structure, and defined the responsibilities of each of the three parties. This chapter describes how they will work together in practice to shape the future direction of policing. The main stages of this process are objective setting, preparing the strategic and annual policing plans, determining the level of the Police Grant and monitoring performance. These will be linked in an iterative process as shown in the diagram at paragraph 4.8


4.2The Secretary of State will set the Government's key objectives for policing. These will help to shape the overall direction of policing in Northern Ireland in the context of the Government's priorities for policing in the United Kingdom. By way of example the Home Secretary's current objectives for England and Wales are given below:
  • to maintain and if possible increase the number of detections for violent crime;

  • to increase the number of detections for burglaries of people's homes;

  • to target and prevent crimes which are a particular local problem, including drug-related criminality, in partnership with the public and other agencies;

  • to provide high visibility policing so as to reassure the public; and

  • to respond promptly to emergency calls from the public.
4.3The Secretary of State will set his objectives, in consultation with the Chief Constable and the Police Authority. In doing so he will have regard to relevant research on policing, such as that conducted by the Audit Commission, and to advice from the Inspectorate of Constabulary.
4.4PANI will set Northern Ireland-wide objectives, having regard to the Secretary of State's objectives and after consultation with the Chief Constable and the local community. For example, these might include:
  • to reduce drug related crime;

  • to reduce road accidents; and

  • to improve access for the disabled to police stations.
4.5Together, these objectives will provide a means of focusing police activity. Close co-operation and consultation between the three parties will ensure that the two sets of objectives are consistent and coherent. Wherever possible each objective will be accompanied by a performance indicator and a target (for example to answer 95% of 999 calls within 1 5 seconds) which will provide a yardstick against which success in meeting the objective can be assessed.


4.6Once the policing objectives have been established the Chief Constable will be required cretary of State and the community
4.7The annual policing plan will set out in more detailed terms how the Chief Constable intends to achieve the objectives. It will include details of the financial resources available and will explain, in summary, the proposed allocation of those resources in the form of an income and expenditure analysis. In the longer term the plan will show the distribution of resources by output, though this will only be possible when the necessary financial and management systems have been developed.
4.8The annual plan will be submitted to the Police Authority for approval. PANI will discuss it with the Chief Constable, and may seek changes; ultimately any disagreement will be referred to the Secretary of State. Once PANl has approved the plan, it will be forwarded to the Secretary of State for endorsement prior to publication. This process is shown in diagrammatic form below. Police commanders may also, following consultation with local communities, prepare statements of local priorities on a non-statutory basis. Some pilot projects are already in place, and further development of this initiative is expected.
4.9The Chief Constable will have to have regard to, but will not be bound rigidly by, the policing plan. He must remain free to respond to changing operational priorities as and when necessary. He will, however, as at present, be expected to operate within the budget set. He will also be required to account to PANI as soon as practicable for any major deviations from the plan. Both the Chief Constable and PANI will publish Annual Reports, including a statement of the achievement of objectives under the annual policing plan. Through this open planning process the community will be able to participate in and influence the direction of policing.


4.10Government expenditure in Northern Ireland is known as the "Northern Ireland Block". Within that Block the Secretary of State is currently responsible for determining the annual Police Grant as part of the Public Expenditure Survey exercise. The amount of the Grant for policing is allocated after consideration of the competing demands from other Northern Ireland public services.
4.11The arrangements for police funding are unique to Northern Ireland. Elsewhere, police authorities (which comprise a majority of members drawn from elected local authorities with a broad range of functions) obtain some of their funding from local authority tax payers. It has not yet been possible to introduce comparable arrangements in Northern Ireland, largely because of the consequences, including the disproportionate cost, of combating terrorism over some 25 years. Nevertheless, while the Government is mindful of the risk of renewed widespread terrorism, it is committed to the development of institutional arrangements which are directly accountable to all the people of Northern Ireland. The outcome of any political settlement based on consent will create a need to reconsider funding mechanisms and responsibilities, taking account of the role and responsibilities of any relevant new local institutions.
4.12But until then the Government remains firmly of the opinion that rationalisation of the existing financial arrangements is essential. The current system is both cumbersome and unnecessarily bureaucratic. It does not give the Chief Constable control over the resources he needs to provide the policing service, or enable him to take responsibility for the results of his operational decisions; neither does it allow for full accountability.
4.13The proposed reforms are designed to overcome these limitations. The bid for the Police Grant will come from the Chief Constable, through PANI, to the Secretary of State. Once the level of Grant has been determined PANI will take delivery of it but, unlike the present arrangement, the Authority will not exercise day to day management over it; this responsibility will be delegated by statute to the Chief Constable. This will strengthen his managerial ability and enhance his accountability for the deployment of police resources. PANI will hold him to account for his stewardship of resources, on behalf of the community, by monitoring performance (including financial expenditure) against agreed objectives. This will enable the Authority to form a 'judgement about the effectiveness of the Chief Constable's resource deployment.
4.14The new strategic and annual planning process will inform, and be closely coordinated with, financial planning and the production of budgetary estimates. The financial cycle is shown below. The Chief Constable will have clear and unequivocal responsibility and accountability for the management of the resources for policing, including the usual Government Accounting and audit requirements. He will be required to consult PANI over potentially controversial purchases of goods, supplies or equipment.


4.15These changes will reduce bureaucracy, and sharpen the accountability of the police for the resources devoted to policing. They will also secure greater value for money for the taxpayer. Civilian support staff will, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, come under the direction and control of the Chief Constable. This change will affect a large number of staff but the Government will only implement it after full consultation with the relevant staff organisations. That restructuring will provide dedicated, professional and cost-effective support services to the Chief Constable, enabling the development of the kind. of closely integrated services increasingly common elsewhere in the UK.
4.16The new Police Authority will also be provided with the resources necessary to enable it to discharge its functions. The Government regards it as of great importance that the Police Authority develops both its community role, and its expertise on policing issues. However, the Government does not wish to be prescriptive about the way in which the Police Authority sets about these tasks.


4.17The complexity of modern policing requires police officers to make difficult choices about priorities and resources in their delivery of policing services. In doing so, they must have freedom from political direction and consequently considerable discretion. The corollary to this is that the police must be held accountable for their actions, both operationally and in resource management and service delivery. Police officers are and will remain accountable, through the Courts and appropriate statutory mechanisms, to the law for their operational actions. The Police and Criminal Evidence legislation regulates police powers; complaints and discipline legislation regulates conduct and provides statutory mechanisms for redress; and action can be taken against police officers in criminal and civil courts. For resource management and professional aspects of policing, the Government intends to maintain existing measures and introduce effective objective setting and performance review mechanisms which will be open and visible, and provide accountability to the community through PANI.
4.18The independent Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will continue to play a key role in the process of monitoring police performance and ensuring that professional policing standards are met, by providing an objective, professional and independent assessment of the quality of policing. The reports of the Inspectorate will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the service and enable judgements to be made about its efficiency and effectiveness.
4.19The Inspectorate will also serve as a source of professional advice on policing matters for the Chief Constable, PANI and the Secretary of State and will undertake in-depth reviews of specific areas of the police service. These reviews may be conducted in conjunction with other agencies such as the Northern Ireland Audit Office. Where appropriate, reports will be published.
4.20Within the police, providing a quality service will be the responsibility of every police officer and civilian. These individual contributions will be supported by strong internal quality control mechanisms designed to obtain continuous improvement in service standards, reflecting closely the principles laid down in the Citizens' Charter
4.21PANI will take a more active role in scrutinising the quality of service delivered by the police, and will participate in developing measures to gauge the performance of the police, and commission research into aspects of policing. These activities will enable it to carry out its accountability and community responsibilities more effectively. Structured monitoring of public opinion will be a significant element in this process, as will active involvement with all sections of the community, feeding into the planning process and also into the analysis and reporting on progress towards achievement of objectives.

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