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Volume 708: debated on Monday 23 February 2009


My honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today placing in the House Library two reports, published on Monday 16 February 2009, which form an important part of our overall approach to removing unnecessary bureaucracy in policing. These are Reducing the Data Burden on Police Forces in England and Wales by Sir David Normington, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, and the interim report by Jan Berry, the new independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate, entitled Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing.

On the same day, the Home Secretary announced the next step in common-sense policing by scrapping a police timesheet, freeing up an estimated 260,000 police hours to focus on cutting crime and driving up public confidence. Police officers will no longer have to complete an annual analysis form accounting for their activity—a step which alone frees up approximately 150 extra officers and staff.

Both these documents form part of our overall approach to reducing the burdens placed on police forces and reforming processes to free up officers to deal with the issues that matter to people. The Government have rightly committed themselves to freeing up police time to work with communities to tackle the issues that matter to local people. This involves cutting red tape and dramatically reducing administrative tasks which can take up so much time, including the collection of data by the Home Office and others. This agenda was at the heart of the policing Green Paper, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, published in July last year.

The Green Paper set out a clear commitment to reduce the data collection burden placed on police forces in England and Wales and Sir David Normington’s review sets out how the Green Paper’s commitment to reduce by up to 50 per cent the amount of data collected by the Home Office is to be achieved.

His review contains a number of important proposals, most of which can be implemented in the short term, for:

cutting out altogether or significantly reducing 36 data streams;

ending activity based costing, which alone will free up an estimated 260,000 police hours;

a reduction in ad hoc data requests from the Home Office;

a two-year moratorium on requests for new data collection; and

a “gateway” process to limit requests which fall outside the annual data requirement.

A new data hub will further reduce the burden on police forces, dispensing with 40 per cent of data requests from the Home Office. Taken together these measures will significantly reduce the central data burden imposed by the Home Office and its agencies.

The Home Office is also streamlining the performance management arrangements for police forces by removing police targets and replacing them with a new single top-down target on confidence. We are also continuing to invest in technology to allow officers to spend more time on patrol. We have now committed £80 million to delivering an ambitious target to put in place 30,000 mobile data devices by March 2010, and the second round of funding awards were announced on 29 December 2008. The delivery of these mobile devices to the front line will save an individual police officer up to 30 minutes per shift.

We also used last year’s Green Paper to respond to the recommendations made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in his hugely important Review of Policing. It is now almost one year on from the publication of Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s recommendations and we have made considerable progress in implementing them. Nineteen of his 59 recommendations have already been implemented and the remaining are well on track to be delivered.

One of the most significant changes we have made is allowing forces to scrap the stop and account form, which if implemented by all forces could save the service up to 690,000 hours each year.

To build on the progress we have made, we have now appointed Jan Berry as the new independent Reducing Bureaucracy Advocate to provide a national lead across all the work under way to reduce bureaucracy.

In her report, Jan Berry recognises the amount of work being undertaken across government and the police service to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and the benefits that are already being delivered. Examples include the streamlined processes project in the four force pilot areas (Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Surrey and the West Midlands), the digital recording of interviews in Lancashire and the use of electronic file building in the West Midlands.

Jan Berry’s full report will be published later in the year but her initial findings and recommendations are now being considered by the Government and include:

support for scrapping time-sheets for police officers;

reviewing working practices within forces to simplify processes;

making more use of technology to free up officer time and maximising the use of existing airwave equipment; and

reviewing charging practices to reduce unnecessary burdens on officers and help them to use their discretion more.

Supported by a practitioner group made up of police officers and staff, Jan Berry is also looking in detail at the bureaucracy involved in 10 time-consuming policing processes in order to identify where further savings can be made.

There is more to be done, within both the police service and the Home Office, and we all must actively encourage police forces to share good practice and work collaboratively to adopt measures to reduce bureaucracy.

The Home Office will continue to play its part to drive this important reform and I am encouraged by the progress that we have made since the publication of the Green Paper last July.