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Community safety partnerships review and anti- social behaviour powers consultation: LGA response, May 2023

LGA's response to the Community safety partnerships review and anti- social behaviour powers consultation.

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1. About the Local Government Association

1.1  The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We work with councils to support, promote and improve local government.

1.2  We are a politically-led, cross party organisation which works on behalf of councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government. We aim to influence and set the political agenda on the issues that matter to councils so they are able to deliver local solutions to national problems. The LGA covers every part of England and Wales, supporting local government as the most efficient and accountable part of the public sector.

2. Key messages

2.1  The LGA welcomed the 2022 announcement of a review of community safety partnerships (CSPs). Our members share our view that more than twenty years since they were established and with an increasingly complex community safety landscape, there is a need for a strategic review of CSPs, their objectives, funding, and relationship with other partners and bodies.

2.2  We are however disappointed with the narrow focus of phase one of the review, which only considers information sharing and accountability between CSPs and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), and anti-social behaviour. While we understand that a later, phase two of the review is planned to consider the issues outlined above, including CSP funding and capacity, there is a clear risk that the outcome of this consultation will pre-empt the findings of a later, more strategic review of the role of CSPs.

2.3  The LGA believes that a preferable approach would have been to start with a review focusing on the fundamental role and operation of CSPs; the legislative framework, guidance and funding that directs and supports them; and linked to that, how they work with PCCs, violence reduction units (VRUs) where they exist, and other partners and structures. The outcome of that review could then have informed any necessary measures around accountability, information sharing or anything else.

2.4  There is significant concern among the LGA’s member councils that proposals to make CSPs accountable to PCCs (for example by requiring CSPs’ strategic assessments to demonstrate the CSP is delivering against the PCC’s police and crime plan) will create a top down relationship between PCCs and CSPs and undermine the partnership basis on which CSPs were established.

2.5  There are good reasons why the work of CSPs and PCCs may partially diverge in some places, given their differing footprints and the different community safety challenges within large areas (for example, urban/rural). Our key objectives should be for CSPs and PCCs to work together effectively in a way that makes sense for their areas, and for each to be appropriately resourced to do so, for example in terms of developing strategic assessments.

2.6  We believe that many of the proposals in the consultation and the overall spirit of them may already be achievable under existing legislation, again suggesting that what is required in the first instance may be a review of current requirements and clear updated guidance on it, rather than new duties.

2.7  Notwithstanding our concerns, if the Home Office moves forward with the measures outlined in the consultation ahead of its strategic review, it will be important that it provides guidance on how the proposed new duties are expected to work in practice (for example, how CSPs can evidence that they have taken PCCs recommendations into account, and the process for when recommendations are not accepted by the CSP) as well as what additional actions are expected from CSPs and PCCs beyond the current arrangements.  Consideration should also be given to ensuring all the proposals are reciprocal.

2.8  Any new burdens associated with any new requirements must be adequately funded. In particular, local government officers have highlighted the need for effective data analysis support and wider capacity to help conduct strategic assessments and implement local strategies effectively. 

3. Background information

3.1  Part two of PCC review in 2022 found that CSPs are not being used as effectively as they could be and recommended a full review of CSPs across England and Wales to improve transparency, accountability and effectiveness

3.2  In anticipation of such a review, last year the LGA held two workshops with local government officers to gather feedback and views from the community safety sector. Overwhelmingly, local government officers welcomed the Government’s proposal for a review and were keen to feed-into a future consultation. Funding was continuously raised as a challenge for CSPs, following the withdrawal of core Government funding and moves towards one-off, short-term grants. Officers also called for better guidance on effective working relationships between CSPs, PCCs and the Violence Reduction Units in place in 20 police force areas.

3.3  There were also requests for the CSP review to consider the myriad of new statutory duties placed on local authorities and CSPs to collaborate, with new requirements for needs assessments or single-issue strategies, which don’t seem to co-ordinate across the community safety landscape. Many areas highlighted the importance of strong partnership-working and data-sharing but felt challenged by the lack of resource and capacity, particularly to analyse data effectively. Officers called for the Government to clearly articulate the current ambition for Community Safety Partnerships, outlining what they should look to achieve, and how they would be adequately funded to deliver.

3.4  Given the anticipation of a strategic review of CSPs, there is disappointment that phase one of the review does not provide this, instead focusing primarily on a specific set of questions about CSP accountability to Police and Crime Commissioners. Whilst accountability is an important part of what we would have expected to be covered in a fuller review, the current questions do not lend themselves to a full and comprehensive consultation on the wider community safety landscape, expectations for CSPs and how they should be effectively resourced.  The LGA is concerned that in considering the narrower proposals before the suggested strategic review in a second phase of the review, the Government is pre-empting the outcomes of those bigger questions.

4. Part one: information sharing between CSPs and PCCs

4.1  Part one of the consultation considers whether:

  1. the strategic assessment should outline how CSPs have delivered their PCC’s police and crime plans
  2. the assessment should be sent to the PCC
  3. PCCs should demonstrate how they have had regard to the priorities of responsible authorities in their areas
  4. CSPs should publish their strategic assessment.

4.2  The LGA does not believe that the strategic assessment, which is usually an examination of local data and planning tool rather than a performance monitoring document, should be required to set out how CSPs are delivering the police and crime plan.

4.3  We believe that CSPs and PCCs should work together closely, including having a shared understanding of each others’ priorities. However, we believe that this ambition will be better served by maintaining a relationship of equal partners, rather than creating a top down relationship in which CSPs are essentially accountable to and seen as a delivery vehicle of the PCC. The Government could support this process by reviewing existing arrangements and developing updated guidance to set out its expectations of how the relationship should operate in the current landscape.

4.4  We agree that CSPs should send the strategic assessment to the PCC (and believe that many do already) and also that this should be made public, although we note that in some cases, it may be appropriate to publish the executive summary alone.

4.5  If the other proposals in this consultation are introduced, then there the Government should introduce a reciprocal requirement for PCCs to demonstrate how they have had regard to the priorities of the responsible authorities making up the CSPs in the police force area. However, as with other proposals in this consultation, we note that a similar requirement already appears to exist under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act (updated by the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act), in which section 10(1) states that PCCs are required to have regard to the priorities of the responsible authorities making up the CSPs in the police area.

5. Part two: accountability of CSPs

5.1  Part two of the consultation considers whether:

  1. PCCs should have a more active role in interacting with CSPs to drive their police and crime plan priorities
  2. PCCs should have a power to review the strategic assessment
  3. PCCs should have a power to make recommendations on the activity of CSPs to support the delivery of the police and crime plan objectives; and whether the CSP should be required to take these into account.

5.2  As set out above, we believe that CSPs and PCCs should work together closely, and that each partner should be cognisant of the others’ priorities and how they can support them (we note that under the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, CSPs already have an existing requirement to have regard to the police and crime objectives set out in the local policing body’s police and crime plan and to act in mutual cooperation with the local policing body), while equally recognising that some CSPs and PCCs may also have separate and distinct priorities.

5.3  To achieve this, we believe that CSPs should be engaged with the police and crime plan, and similarly that PCCs should be engaged with the CSP’s strategic assessment, including in the development and review of these documents, with equivalent powers for each partner. However, we do not believe that this collaborative approach should extend to either party receiving new duties to mandate the other to deliver aspects of their plans.  

5.4  We are also aware that it has been suggested that the proposal for PCCs to make recommendations on the activity of CSPs to support the delivery of the objectives set out in the Police and Crime Plan replicates existing legislation outlined in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act (updated by the 2011 Act) that enables the police and crime commissioner to review and make recommendations on the CSP’s delivery against the Police and Crime Plan priorities (Section 6(1A)).

5.5  Should the Government opt to implement these proposals, there would need to be clarity on what a power of review by the PCC actually entails, as well as on the expectations of CSPs in taking any subsequent recommendations into account, for example, whether a CSP could disregard a recommendation having demonstrated that it had given full consideration to the recommendation. As noted above, we believe any new duties of this nature should be fully reciprocal.

6. Part three: CSP and PCC relationship in tacking ASB

6.1  The LGA is unable to comment specifically on how individual CSPs work with local PCCs and therefore has not responded to the questions at section three.

7. Part four: anti-social behaviour powers

7.1  Part four of the consultation seeks views on extending the use of powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, in follow up to publication of the Government’s ASB action plan.  

7.2  Discussions during the development of the action plan indicated a broad view that councils have the powers that they need to tackle ASB, and mixed views on what additional tools/resources would be useful. However, we set out below where our member councils have indicated that the proposed measures would be helpful.

7.3  Councils have said that extending the length of time dispersal powers can be issued for from 48 to 72 hours would bring added benefit to an already useful tool. Similarly, extending the time that a closure order can be applied from 48 hours to 72 hours after service of a closure notice would also be beneficial and make the necessary coordination and synchronisation of agencies easier.

7.4  On police use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO), while it is felt that this could be a useful tool, enforcement capacity could reduce the usefulness of this unless enforcement routes are also reviewed. On Fixed Penalty Notices, although it was felt that it could be useful to increase maximum limits for breaching a community protection notice or PSPO from £100 to £500, fining people with very limited income is not a deterrent so this should only be applied to people with the means to pay. Councils have raised questions about whether it would be realistic to resource an extension of the power of arrest to all breaches of a civil injunction, given the current challenge in resourcing injunctions with power of arrest.

7.5  There is some support among councils for extending the accreditation of people under the community safety accreditation scheme to cover powers under the 2014 Act. Councils have however raised concerns about the length of time it can take for people to become accredited under the scheme.