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PCC Candidates’ National Briefing: Leadership the key challenge

Catherine Levin, a freelance journalist, provides an independent overview of the PCC Candidates' National Briefing held earlier this week

Presenters pictured above (left to right): Howard Rubin of Bird & Bird, plus Bernard Rix and Simon Bullock of CoPaCC.

Policing Insight will be publishing a number of further articles during the coming days on the PCC Candidates’ National Briefing held on Tuesday, 15th March. This first article by Catherine Levin provides a flavour of the day’s proceedings.

If there was one thing that the speakers at the PCC Candidates’ National Briefing were all agreed on, it was leadership. The L word pervaded everyone’s presentations and as a mantra places the Police and Crime Commissioner on a very high pedestal. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, there are many pitfalls and problems along the way. The fall from grace, as we have seen with the first cohort, can be very public and very damning.

It’s a big job. Being a PCC is a huge responsibility; it comes with expansive powers and duties; it provides the post holder with an incredible opportunity to make a real difference in their local area. The appeal is clear: with the right Chief Constable, the right Chief Executive and support team in place and with a clear plan the PCC can achieve a lot.

With an eye on the plan, a strategy for getting through a four-year tenure, the prize is attractive and only achievable with strong leadership and a touch of humility to bring everyone along for the journey.

That shows what is possible but to achieve the plan – whatever that may be – there are many legacy issues that need addressing. Simon Bullock, an adviser to CoPaCC suggested that candidates pick a few key areas to focus on, consider the shape of the legacy and focus. Fine advice but where there is a common and fundamental problem around police morale (this complaint came from many quarters) and poor public perception of the police; this is likely to bog down any new PCC. The plan must include a strategy to deal with these issues: neither can be ignored.

The candidate briefing, organised by CoPaCC, was timely as it comes weeks after the publication of Tone from the Top: Leadership, ethics and accountability in policing. The Committee on Standards in Public Life published responses from police forces, PCCs and Police and Crime Panels. Monisha Shah is a Member of the Commission and spoke at the briefing. She urged candidates to sign the Commission’s ethical checklist to demonstrate their personal commitment to high standards.


As the leader of the corporation sole, a wonderful term to describe the legal constitution of the organisation behind the PCC, the office of the PCC can be sued or even subject to judicial review. There was helpful advice from Howard Rubin, a partner at law firm Bird & Bird. He said to be successful the PCC must form a strong relationship with the Chief Constable (this advice came from many others) and ‘move around the web together’. He talked in arachnoid metaphor, but the point was well made about the fine lines they walk together to achieve great things in strong partnership.

Talk of partnership was another theme running through this event. CoPaCC had assembled an impressive line up to advise the assembled PCC candidates and those who did not attend missed out.

Martin Wyke, CEO of the Police ICT Company, set out an alarming world of IT where the money is there but “in the wrong places being spent on the wrong things”. He cautioned that the current approach to IT in the police service is “not affordable nor justified”. The joined up approach being taken by the relatively new CEO with his long history of working in the commercial sector bodes well for police IT in the future.

Commercial partnerships at a national or even regional level can lead to great savings. Matthew Bennion-Pedley from Bluelightworks reminded candidates that the NAO recognised the financial savings from collaboration, which may be small in the short term but have the potential to grow longer term.

Collaboration is a topical word in the emergency service world right now but at its heart is partnership. At an operational level a proposed new duty to collaborate confirms the government’s commitment to the emergency services working closely together, even though many from the fire and rescue service would argue that it is happening every day.

A newly elected PCC will have to carefully consider the nature of the partnership with the other emergency services on top of all the existing responsibilities framed in the 2011 enabling legislation. It’s a tough ask, particularly with the option to take on governance of fire and rescue services as set out in the Policing and Crime Bill currently wending its way through Parliament.

Rick Muir, Director of the Police Foundation asked whether it was time “to rethink policing and show how it works with other agencies to protect people from harm?” He noted that non-crime related incidents account for a staggering 83 per cent of command and control calls (to 999). He went on to describe the changing demands on the police service as a result of the Internet, globalisation and wider social trends.

Against this backdrop, police services have a range of organisations that operate in the prevention space. From Victim Support to the Revolving Doors Agency to the members of the Restorative Justice Council, the PCC has many allies on whom to call and frame a prevention agenda.

Added to this the work of the community safety partnerships and Health and Wellbeing Boards and the more traditional functions of local government such as trading standards and licensing; the PCC has many opportunities at a local level to tackle the issue of crime from many different angles.  The PCC would do well to consider the world outside the immediate confines of the police service.

“How are you going to do business?” asked Iain Murray and Paul Grady from Grant Thornton, who sponsored this event. It’s a very good question and one worth thinking very carefully about. A successful PCC will have to navigate the maze of partnerships, strategies, plans, legalities and all manner of hurdles and challenges. With an eye on the plan, a strategy for getting through a four-year tenure, the prize is attractive and only achievable with strong leadership and a touch of humility to bring everyone along for the journey.

Speakers at this event, kindly sponsored by Grant Thornton, were:

  • Gavin Thomas, President Elect, Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales;
  • Monisha Shah, Members, Committee for Standards in Public Life;
  • Adam Pemberton, Corporate Director, Strategy and Performance, Barnardo’s;
  • Robin Field-Smith, Independent Examiner for Chief Officer Appointments, College of Policing;
  • Simon Bullock, Advisor, CoPaCC;
  • Iain Murray, Associate Director, Grant Thornton;
  • Howard Rubin, Partner at leading law firm Bird & Bird
  • Paul Grady, Director and Head of Police at Grant Thornton UK LLP, the leading auditor of policing in England and Wales;
  • Martin Wyke, Chief Executive, Police ICT Company;
  • Marianne Overton, Independent Group Leader, Local Government Association;
  • Matthew Bennion-Pedley, Programme Manager, Bluelightworks;
  • Rick Muir, Director, The Police Foundation;
  • Vicki Cardwell, Director of Research and Development, Revolving Doors Agency;
  • Jon Collins, Chief Executive, Restorative Justice Council;
  • Mark Castle, Chief Executive, Victim Support;
  • Bernard Rix, Chief Executive, CoPaCC.

Policing Insight will be providing articles covering every presentation over the coming few days. In addition, the BBC recorded elements of the day’s proceedings for subsequent broadcast.

7 Responses to “PCC Candidates’ National Briefing: Leadership the key challenge”

  1. Julia Searle says:

    Dear Bernard and Simon,
    I found the last meeting for CoPaCC, very informative indeed.

    Thank you for inviting me.

    Surrey UKIP PCC Candidate

  2. Jax31 says:

    Glad I came – very informative and a great line-up of speakers. I particularly enjoyed the “hot off the press” feedback from Gavin Thomas

  3. helen korfanty says:

    The advice was invaluable. It is still sinking in.
    I particularly appreciate the comments on what to look
    for when appointing a new Chief Constable.

    Helen Korfanty
    Lib Dem Candidate Suffolk

  4. Martin Terry says:

    Hi Bernard, I send my apologies for not being able to attend due to unforseen events in Essex (diary clash with Essex Association of Local Councils police meeting which turned into an unofficial hustings) however we will engage soon I am sure.

    Thank you for your assistance so far. Martin Terry, Essex Candidate.

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