The Role of the Police Commissioner

Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, this month's guest speaker, gave an upbeat assessment of his first 18 months in the role. His talk is summarised in a press release issued by his office and it is set out in full below. However, it is probably of assistance to those members who did not attend the meeting to provide a little more background.

Matthew came to the post with experience both in the private and public sectors, where in the latter case he was a Staffordshire County Councillor responsible for delivering Social Service budgets. Thus he has a strong grounding in both running a business and understanding local government culture. He is clear in his own mind that it is NOT his job to be involved in the day to day running of the police force, but rather to set the overall strategy and hence its priorities. This means achieving its objectives in the most efficient way possible; balancing service delivery with budgets. Critical of the way the force was managed, he openly admitted that the Staffordshire Police Force, like many other forces, does not spend money very well.

He has set about tackling this situation firstly, by putting in house systems in better order (reducing the number of multiple information technology systems was mentioned); secondly, by setting out priorities (mental heath initiatives now bring together the NHS, police and courts services as a co-ordinated group, for instance) and thirdly, by developing a dialogue with police officers on the ground to ascertain their concerns. These and other initiatives mean that the force is becoming more efficient at managing its resources, both staffing and finance, with the result that there has been no increase in the police precept this year. Indeed, the efficiency savings achieved mean that the force will be able to recruit 100 new officers this year and that neighbourhood policing will be protected. Unlike some Police Commissioners, Matthew has a relatively large staff of 23 persons, but defends this investment by saying that so far his team has delivered 30 millions in efficiency savings, which can now be dedicated to improving policing in Staffordshire.

Matthew clearly relishes the challenge and his positive presentation reassured the audience that, although in some force areas the new Police Commissioners have received a poor press, we are lucky in having Matthew overseeing the police in our own area.

Roger Hockney
June 2014