It has been a busy summer for all of us and as we move into autumn I wanted to update you on some key initiatives my team have been working on, notwithstanding COVID and other continuing priorities.
This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week, and whilst hate crime is a concern throughout the year, we rightly use this week to challenge the misconceptions around hate crime and shine a light on the support that is available to victims and witnesses. My team have been working closely with community partners and Hampshire Constabulary colleagues to make information about hate crime more accessible to all communities across our policing area, in particular those that may be experiencing hate crime because of the colour of their skin, language, or nationality. The hate crime pages on my website have been completely revamped and can now be easily translated into different languages using a dedicated button on the bottom of each page (using Chrome and mobile browsers), and work is underway with learning disability organisations to make the information accessible to them.
I continue to support community organisations in becoming Third Party Reporting Centres with my team undertaking an audit of existing centres and working with partners to re-establish some of the centres that may have struggled to maintain their availability during the pandemic. While the Constabulary is an important partner in tackling hate crime in our communities, I am keen to ensure that every victim of hate crime has the option to report their experience independently and receive advice and support specific to their needs.
The pandemic has brought new challenges for all of us, including charities and community organisations, many of which have come under financial pressure and seen changes in demand for their services and had to bring about changes to the way they deliver those services.
I am pleased to have two funding opportunities open in the month of October:
If you are aware of any community organisations that are delivering projects that will help keep our communities safer, and meet the priorities set out in my Police and Crime Plan, please encourage them to visit my website www.hampshire-pcc.gov.uk/funding.
I am delighted that an initiative to focus on connecting with our business communities, led by my Assistant PCC Enzo Riglia, is gaining traction and has caught the eye of the Minister for Crime and Policing Kit Malthouse MP. We have shared with the Minister our Business Crime Guide (Hate Crime), which we developed together with Enterprise Ltd and Safer North Hampshire and which the Home Office subsequently circulated to a national audience as an example of good practice.
With large parts of our area being rural, I am mindful of the need for continuous engagement with our rural communities. I have recently received welcome confirmation that the dedicated Country Watch team is delivering standing support, and that the online renewal system for firearms licenses is meeting community needs and attracting very positive feedback.
I am delighted to be able to confirm that the recruitment of officers as part of the uplift is continuing at scale despite the pandemic. Just a few weeks ago the Chief Constable welcomed 91 new constables at the new training facilities at Southwick Park. This has been the largest intake in a very long time but was by no means the first or the last.
We are on target to deliver the waves of Uplift and have already fulfilled the promises related to council tax increases over the last two years.
As Police and Crime Commissioner I have always been clear about the importance of funding policing appropriately and the need to create the right funding for our area. Those challenges have been present for many years and created complex pressures on the budget available for policing year on year. But I need to be clear that in my view there will be other funding challenges in the near future and for the longer term. The financial pressures on local government, on the care system, on education, on supporting the economy must not be underestimated.
At this time of the year the Chief Constable and I are increasing our joint discussions and briefings with our respective finance officers to understand the range of scenarios we may face and in turn the range of options available to us. The most likely scenarios will put pressure on the budget I set and therefore on resources, capacity, and the ability to modernise and change.
My priority will remain the focus on our prime responsibility of keeping our communities safer. Public consultation and engagement, which occurs throughout the year, always informs these scenario setting briefings and planning sessions. As I become clearer on the options available to me for this year’s budget I will consult again with the public for their specific views in the same way as I do every year.
My Youth Commission has been active throughout the pandemic using virtual engagement methods and reaching out to young people at a time many of them have found extremely challenging. It is now seeking new members aged 14-25 who welcome the opportunity to have an independent and strong voice on societal issues that affect them. The Youth Commission works so well because it is about young people talking to, and hearing the voices of, other young people. It is important to me that we listen and take on board their views because it is very much about their future, and I would encourage you to share this opportunity with any interested groups or individuals in your area. Applicants should visit my website www.hampshire-pcc.gov.uk/join before 30th October to find out more and apply to join.
I hope this latest update has been useful. If you have any questions for me or questions you would like me to put to the Chief Constable on your behalf during my next COMPASS meeting, please contact my office.