Good Evening Everybody
Chairman’s Speech - Annual Dinner
17 July 2006
Good evening everybody. And may I start by saying on behalf of all my fellow members of West Midlands Police Authority, that we welcome you all to our Annual dinner. I do hope that you are all enjoying yourselves as much as we are and that nobody is suffering from this heat wave which is so in keeping with some of the tropical surroundings we are able to enjoy this evening.
It gives much pleasure to me and all my fellow Authority members, to have brought you all together, because it gives us the opportunity to express our thanks for the contribution all of you make to the West Midlands area.
In particular this evening, I would like to offer our thanks to Cllr Mohammad Nazir and Cllr Eileen Pitt, who ended their terms of office with the Authority this year. Also Cllr Terry Williams, who sadly, is unable to be with us this evening.
We are sorry to see them go. They have all worked hard and provided valuable contributions to the Authority for which we are all very grateful. I shall be returning to one of these people at the end of my speech. But in the mean time, may we wish you best of luck and success in whatever you do in the future.
Gathered together in this room are senior police officers, council leaders and chief executives, representatives from CDRPs and faith groups, chairs and chief executives from our neighbouring police authority areas and individual guests of Authority members who have special roles in our communities. Something we all share in common is a deep commitment to raising the quality of life for all our local communities.
And the key to our success is nearly always the same thing.
None of us can succeed alone. We all rely on each other’s particular areas of skill and expertise and must work together to bring our common goals to fruition.
A great many people in this room tonight have every reason to feel very proud of the many success stories that have been seen across the region over the past year.
One of the most prominent recent campaigns has been One Knife One Life. It has been a hugely successful campaign, resulting in 5,000 knives handed in to police.
That’s potentially almost 5,000 lives saved as a result.
It is through partnership work that a new DVD to combat car crime, called ‘Security is Key’ has been produced.
And important progress has been made in combating domestic violence through initiatives such as the Lantern project.
These together with anti-drugs projects and numerous other initiatives across the area are examples of the ways that partnerships are continuing to work together to combine their knowledge and resources in innovative and imaginative ways.
Without your contributions and those of the agencies, groups and communities you represent, only a fraction of this could have been achieved.
So, this evening I want to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to everybody here for the tremendous steps forward that have been made in reducing crime and giving public reassurance across the West Midlands.
Of course, as you well know, our partnerships extend far wider than this. In fact, we could say that it is the contributions of our communities that we have to thank for the support they give which helps us to raise the quality of life across the West Midlands.
But sadly, although we would love to, we could not invite 2.4 million people to come here tonight to be thanked, so we hope you will help to spread the message for us.
Now, I’d like to tell you of an example of something good that happened when we worked together to solve a particular problem.
A woman living in Quinton with her four out-of-control children was constantly in trouble with the law. The children were filthy, poorly clothed, rarely at school. The mother was charged for criminal neglect and for the offending of her children which brought misery to her neighbourhood.
Many different agencies from police, social services, environmental health truancy officers etc were regular callers at her address. But it was when all those different agencies got around the table to see what they could do collectively, that things began to change.
The woman was visited by police. It took them a while to persuade her to let them in, but when she did, they explained to her that they wanted to offer help.
They said that arrangements could be made to clean the house, re-install missing doors and carpets, get new clothes for the children, and sort out the overgrown wilderness her garden had become.
When they told her this, the woman burst out crying and fell to the floor. This hardened woman actually broke down and sobbed in front of the police officers. She said that it was the first time any one had offered her help in her life.
Until then, she had only known police to kick her door in, take her children into care or put her behind bars.
The work was carried out as promised. The children were able to go back to school. Their mother chose to go on a college course in IT and subsequently got a job.
As a result, the family flourished. So much so, that the police never hear from them any more.
Now some people might say that it was not right for this problem family to be given all this help. But I would say to them, just think how much more it would cost to for all those agencies to keep going round, putting a plaster on the sore. How much better it is to cure the sore altogether.
For this particular family and their neighbourhood and for a host of other achievements we have every reason to feel proud of work that is taking place in the West Midlands.
And a principle we can apply to all our partnership working is that when we make an investment in solving a problem, we all reap savings in the long term.
That when we reduce pub violence, it lessens demand on the health service.
And when truancy is reduced, schools can improve their key performance indicator results.
I hope that this gives us all even greater enthusiasm in meeting the challenges that lie ahead as we work even more closely together to deliver neighbourhood policing across the West Midlands.
Neighbourhood policing has already been introduced to many of our Operational Command Units and should be rolled out to the rest of the force by Autumn of this year.
I know that some people here will know a great deal about this subject already and you are most welcome to take a quick nap at this point. But I would like to give the rest of you just a few moments to consider what is happening to bring police officers right into the hearts of our communities.
Each neighbourhood will have a dedicated policing team that will work closely with the public, local businesses, schools and local authority partnerships in pooling resources and money.
Together they will tackle crime and disorder and identify local concerns that affect peoples’ lives. These might be resolving crime and disorder problems such as the family I described to you earlier.
Or they might include graffiti, smashed bus shelters, damaged telephone kiosks, speeding cars or excessively loud music.
The idea behind neighbourhood policing is that every household will learn who is in their dedicated policing team and will have a range of ways of bringing their concerns to police and partner agencies.
The Authority looks forward to seeing the great benefits that this is sure bring to our communities.
Now, moving on to a different subject:
As you will be aware, one of the biggest issues that has faced us over the past ten months has been the programme for structural reform. When the Home Secretary announced the consultation period on changing the structure of police forces we embarked on a journey that has had many twists and turns.
Many of you took part in our consultation and your engagement with us has been very much appreciated.
Since our journey began last September an extensive process of making assessments has been carried for this area.
They convinced us that a merger of the four forces of this region, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia Constabulary and ourselves would bring the greatest opportunities to provide both neighbourhood policing and protective services to national standards.
West Mercia Constabulary and its Authority, as you will know, took a different view, and there has always been mutual respect for each other’s professional opinion.
Throughout the process, we stressed to the government, that we would not commit the people of the West Midlands into any agreement without first receiving proper reassurances that the areas of finance, governance and human resources would be addressed to our satisfaction.
As you I am sure you will know, last week, the Home Secretary withdrew the notice for the proposal for the four forces of this region to amalgamate.
The Home Office has been unable to address the concerns we had raised.
But I do assure all of you that we will strive to ensure that we make best use of the lessons gained during the work undertaken and debate around Police Reform.
During the course of our work, police authorities and forces across the nation have acknowledged that there is ‘gap’ for protective services, which still needs to be tackled.
There is already an excellent history of collaboration between our forces. We have assisted each other with services in a number of policing areas for several years and will continue to do so.
We will not lose sight of the Government’s recognition that additional resources will be needed to address the protective services gap while delivering the neighbourhood policing agenda. It is hoped that the government’s commitment to providing funding will continue in the future as we work to address this issue in the future.
We are of course, continuing with our colleagues in this room, to work with the Home Office to gain clarification over Government plans for the future direction of policing.
I know that Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee and his team are committed to continuing to deliver an excellent police service at both neighbourhood level and protective services.
And if we consider the priorities that the Authority has agreed in consultation with the Chief Constable for the present year, we note that the force is working to reduce total recorded crime by 5%.
Challenging targets have also been set to provide greater reassurance to our communities.
For example: increasing the amount of time uniform staff are engaged in visible patrol and frontline activities.
And, improving the number of non-urgent phone calls from the public, which are answered.
And increasing the number of people who say they were satisfied with the service they received at incidents where a police officer attended the scene.
All the targets we set are demanding, but Authority has confidence that the Chief Constable and all his staff and our partner agencies will do their utmost in working toward achieving these aims.
So finally, behalf of myself and my colleagues, may I end by saying thank once more for being with us this evening and for all your support. The Police Authority looks forward to continuing to work with the force and all our partners and friends into the future.