Theresa May axes police performance targets

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The Independent Online

Police across England and Wales were told today that they must not chase performance targets any longer.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the immediate abolition of the last remaining target, which was to increase public confidence in police.

She told senior officers gathered in Manchester that their role is simply to "cut crime".

Speaking at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) conference, she said targets hinder the fight against crime.

Mrs May also axed the Policing Pledge, a 2008 New Labour innovation outlining the standards people can expect from their force.

She said: "I can also announce today that I am also scrapping the confidence target and the policing pledge with immediate effect.

"I know that some officers like the policing pledge, and some, I'm sure, like the comfort of knowing they've ticked boxes.

"But targets don't fight crime. Targets hinder the fight against crime.

"In scrapping the confidence target and the policing pledge, I couldn't be any clearer about your mission: it isn't a 30-point plan; it is to cut crime. No more, and no less."

Mrs May warned that removing centrally-driven targets should not encourage chief constables to create new bureaucracy of their own.

She added: "When times are tight, when we are removing red tape imposed by the Home Office, it simply cannot be right that this bureaucracy is reinstated at a local level.

"Nor can it be right for remaining paperwork to be gold-plated by forces.

"So I call on all of you, chief constables and police authority members alike, to take the same, radical approach to cutting bureaucracy as we are taking in Whitehall."

The previous Government announced all forces must meet a single target of increasing public confidence in March last year.

The target was part of the policing pledge detailing what the public should expect from the police at both national and local level.

It included minimum standards for response times, the publication of crime maps and changes to police authorities.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mrs May urged senior officers to back changes to renove the "top down" culture of policing.

The Home Secretary underlined the dire economic circumstances and said officials will be "ruthless" at cutting waste.

She warned the "big" cuts will be "tough to achieve" and will fall on police as on other public services.

But Mrs May said she does not agree with comments by senior officers that forces must shrink and frontline numbers fall.

She said: "But these practical measures can only go so far, and together we have to make sure that - despite the cuts - policing must remain visible and available to the public.

"So we are going to have to make sure that every penny of your budgets is spent in the most useful possible way."

Mrs May added: "I am determined that frontline availability should increase even as budgets contract.

"I acknowledge that increasing the visibility and productivity of officers, PCSOs and other staff is a major challenge.

"But I firmly believe that it is a challenge that chief constables can - and must - meet."

Delegates heard that police officers and staff must be ready to "make sacrifices" and "accept pay restraint".

Mrs May criticised "institutionalised" overtime and said managers must examine opportunities to save cash by working together.

She said the Government is considering co-ordinating the procurement of items such as vehicles, uniforms and IT nationally.

Mrs May said forces must also look more closely at opportunities to outsource work other than human resources and finance.

But she said mergers will only be permitted between forces which volunteer and when they have the support of their residents.

It emerged that Acpo is drawing up a "national plan" examining how police forces buy goods and organise their resources.

Mrs May said accepting a new type of accountability through a directly elected individual was the price of ditching targets.

She said the new administration wanted police to answer to the people they served, not bureaucrats in Whitehall.

The Home Secretary said the independence of police to make operational decisions would not be compromised.

Mrs May said detailed proposals on how the new system would work would be unveiled "later this summer" and new legislation introduced.

She said senior politicians did not want to waste time as they created a "totally redrawn national policing landscape".

And that although "times might be tough" there was no reason for politicians to "check our ambition".

She added: "Some of you will no doubt argue that this timetable is too ambitious.

"Some have suggested that what we should do is set up a Royal Commission to think about these matters for a couple of years.

"Frankly, these issues are too important to be put on the back burner.

"In this age of spending cuts and policing on a budget, our programme of police reform becomes more urgent, not less. So we will get on with the job."