Public Order and Safety - Forward Thinking, Progressive for all

Last updated: 7th September 2016

Albert Einstein:  “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.

Why Public Order and Safety Spending Matters

Public order and safety is a need to preserve a civilised society. Expenditure in 2015 was £29.9 billion, equivalent to 4.1% of total Government spending.

Public Order and Safety Spending, 2010-11 to 2014-15 (£ Million)

public order and safety expenditure

Source:  HM Treasury

A European comparison of the spending shows the UK spends an above average amount.

International Benchmarks of Public Order and Safety Spending, 2014 (% of GDP and % of Total Government Spend)

public order and safety expenditure in UK and Europe

Source:  Eurostat

In 2015 public order and safety spending in the UK was split as follows:

Breakdown of Public Order and Safety Spending, 2014-15 (£ billion)

public and safety expenditure segmentation

Source:  HM Treasury

It is possible to place this breakdown in an international context:

International Breakdown of Public Order and Safety Spending, 2014 (% of Total Public Spending)

International breakdown of public order and safety spending

Source:  Eurostat

UK spending is high by EU comparison on police services, law courts and prisons.

Police services

Police services are the largest part of the spend, even though it has been strongly reduced in recent years.

Trend in Public Order and Safety Spending, 2010-11 to 2014-15 (£ Million)

Public order and safety trend

Source:  HM Treasury

Law enforcement in the UK is undertaken by police officers. These serve in regional police forces within one of the four country jurisdictions. The regional forces work alongside UK-wide agencies, such as the National Crime Agency. There are also specialist bodies hosted by regional police forces, such as the Specialist Operations directorate of the Metropolitan Police. There are 44 territorial forces.

International Benchmarks of Police Force Size, 2012 (Number and Number per 100,000 Population)

Police force size in UK and Europe

Source: Eurostat

Most police force mission statements refer to the historic words of Richard Mayne: “The primary object of an efficient police force is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained.”

As the police labour force is reduced, then so the rate of solving crime declines. Statistics show that reducing the police force results in more selection of which crimes to solve. Yet there is a high rate of solving specific crimes such as homicides.

Incidences of Reported Crime and % Solved, 2010-2014

reported crime incidences

Source:  Office for National Statistics

Fire services

There are 47 territorial fire response services in England currently. In December 2012 ministers commissioned Sir Ken Knight, the outgoing Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor (2007 to 2013) to conduct an independent review of the efficiency in providing fire and rescue in England. The review showed that deaths from fires in the home were at an all-time low; incidents had fallen by 40% in the last decade, but spending and firefighter numbers remain broadly the same. The report said this suggests there is room for reconfiguration and efficiencies to better match the service to the current risk and response context. The report also found that some fire and rescue authorities spend almost twice as much per person per year than others. There is little correlation between spending and results. It suggested that if all authorities spending more than the average cut their spending to the average, savings could amount to £196 million a year.

Judicial system

The court system has evolved over some 1,000 years without being purpose designed. Even the Government document on the history of the judiciary accepts that “It’s doubtful that anyone asked to design a justice system would choose to copy the English and Welsh model. It’s contradictory in places, and rather confusing. However, the judiciary is still changing and evolving to meet the needs of our society, and despite its oddities it is widely regarded as one of the best and most independent in the world”.

Prison service

England and Wales have the highest per capita prison population in Western Europe at 143 per 100,000, Scotland the third highest at 134 and Northern Ireland one of the lowest at 79. Many prisons have more prisoners than their target limit, but meet a level reportedly considered safe. According to this definition, prisons have been overcrowded every year since 1994. Re-offending rates among offenders are high at about 66% within two years of release. Among men aged 18-21 the rate is about 75%.

International Benchmarks of Prison Population, 2013 (Number)

prison population in UK and Europe

Source:  International Centre for Prison Studies

As at June 2014 in England and Wales the prison population was 71,361 which comprised:

  • 27% for violence against the person
  • 16% sexual offences
  • 14% drug offences
  • 12% robbery
  • 10% burglary
  • 6% theft and handling
  • 2% fraud and forgery
  • 1% motoring offences
  • 11% other offences
  • 1% offence not recorded

Privately-managed prisons were introduced in the UK in the 1990s. There are now 14 private prisons in England and Wales, and all managed by one of three firms – G4S, Serco and Sodexo Justice Services (formerly Kalyx).

The prison service has partially been privatised to control costs. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in England and Wales for 2013-14 was £33,785. This has fallen since 2008-09 from £45,000.

There are three levels of Prison Incentives and Earned Privileges:

  • Basic: The minimum rights in the prison rules include visits, work, education, treatment programmes, religious services, access to the prison shop, exercise and associating with other prisoners but no televisions in cells
  • Standard: Allowed more visits than those on basic level, more time to socialise with other prisoners, higher rate of pay for work, higher allowance of private cash and in-cell televisions
  • Enhanced: Receive a greater volume of the standard level privileges include extra visits, more time to socialise with other prisoners, more private cash allowance, priority consideration for jobs that pay more money

Nearly 33% of those released from prison will have nowhere to live.

Most prisoners will have no job to go to and 60% of employers automatically exclude those with a criminal record.

Forward Thinking Public Order and Safety Policies

The adage of being “tough on crime and the causes of crime” is correct at all levels for improving society. It can only work by using integrated strategies that address all the issues that lead to crime. This alone, demands a fundamental change of political policy to address poverty and inequality.

As is the case with all public spending, the government’s role is to set a budget and objectives. The services themselves must decide the best use of that budget to meet those objectives.

Regulatory bodies, from the services, need to review both the police force and the fire services. These are not political decision areas. Those reviews would examine any efficiency gains from integrating emergency service providers.

If the public vote for regional service providers, then these would take control of local public safety. Each region would need to assess policing and fire response service needs and costs to meet the targets set by regulators. A regional service would make better use of manpower compared with 44 territorial police forces and 47 fire response services. This would improve coordination and collaboration between these services if they work in identical regions. It would also offer better connection with the health service that would also work in similar regions.

Even if the public support regional bodies replacing local Government, if both or either of the police and fire service reviews do not identify benefits from change, then it would be left. Equally if the public do not vote for regional bodies, if the reviews of the police and fire service reviews support change, then this would be made. The important issue is to have the best possible operation of the services.

By far the most effective method of reducing spending on public order and safety is to reduce the incidence of crime itself. This needs a coherent policy including the economy and society in general. It means tackling major issues such as poverty, housing and work opportunities as well as perpetuating crime cultures (not only re-offending but issues that lead to it). There also need to be a far greater support to the laws through sentencing. It needs to restrict custodial sentences to crimes worthy of such penalties and use greater fines and community service designed to deter re-offending of lesser crimes.

There is a tendency to reduce the number of front-line police when budgets are cut. This creates a danger that crimes are graded by their importance and lesser crimes become ignored. This is not how public order should work. The reviews need to decide if technology or greater manpower will help the police forces to meet their objectives. There needs to be greater support for the police from the courts and the penalties it gives.

Number of Police Officers in England and Wales, March 2003-2015 (Number)

Number of police officers in England and Wales

Source:  Office for National Statistics

The existing review of the fire service decided that where local services could provide a business case, they should merge. It suggested central Government should provide financial support for the transition. It also showed the scale of change needed to transform the fire and rescue service was unlikely to be achieved through local action. The report suggested national level changes are needed to enable greater collaboration with other blue-light services. It believed that shared governance, co-working and co-location, would unlock further savings. These conclusions are in line with the Forward Thinking policy of developing regional provision bodies.

A review of the entire judicial procedure is also necessary. The court structure has evolved over some 1,000 years. It needs to be redesigned for today’s society. Inefficiency in the court system needs changing and new guidelines on sentencing need creating.

Forward Thinking would set up a public order regulator to assess the judicial system to:

  •  review the court structure and procedure to reduce delays, increase efficiency, make sure the procedure is not intimidating for witnesses, and to reduce the number of adjournments
  • examine ways for sentence pleas to be made before a court hearing, so reducing the demands on the courts the number of times the court needs to convene
  • look to adopt Lord Justice Leverson’s January 2015 recommendations to use technology to allow ‘remote hearings’ and to make sure evidence from police body-worn cameras can be shown to improve efficiency
  • examine the potential to house magistrates in police stations
  • repeal the defendant’s right to choose jury trial for offences that can be tried either in the magistrates or crown court to reduce the time taken on such crimes
  • examine if fraud cases (including tax fraud) would benefit from being tried by a panel of specialists similar to tribunerals rather than by jury given the complexity of some cases
  • review sentencing guidelines, to make violence, sexual offences and burglary as custodial sentences and using community service at a greater level for less serious crime. This will reduce the demands on the already stretched prison services and increase the benefit to society from those who break the laws
  • look to a greater use of community service orders so crimes are punished with a benefit to society
  • replace the current fine structure with one based on day-fines. This makes punishment proportionate to income and is a more effective deterrent to offences. For driving offences the deterrent will lead to greater road safety so reducing demands on the health service. In drunken disorderly cases the deterrent will reduce the demands on the police force and health service

Prison sentences need be restricted to suitable crimes to reduce the prison population. That is one where the public has a right of protection from the perpetrator. Punitive community service needs to be used for other offences. Community services cannot enter commercial markets since this provides unfair competition. However, sentences need to serve the community and environment in a way that is cost-effective.

Community service should not restrict a person’s ability to work but can be converted into weekend equivalents. There is a need to be consistent with being tough on crime while looking to relieve the causes of crime. Waste separation has technological limits but environmental benefits. Community servers can contribute to the activity. It has the advantage of being measurable so noncompliance should nullify the days activity and be repeated.

The private and public provision of the prison service also needs re-evaluating. Clearly cost is a major consideration, but there are many other issues on which to measure the service. These include re-offending levels, levels of violence within prisons, and levels of provision for rehabilitating into the community. There is a need to provide both education and compulsory work for prisoners with the work contributing to the cost of their internment. Those who do not work should not be eligible for the earned privileges schemes.

Private suppliers of prison services should report to a regulator. Measures such as the impacts on re-offending and programmes to rehabilitate ex-prisoners, should take priority in awarding contracts. That regulator can also assess further privatisation opportunities.

There is an anomaly in that some people ‘lose’ their driving license after breaking laws. They do not retake the driving test before regaining that license.

© Forward Thinking 2017, Progressive for all.