Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)



  Q40  Ms Buck: What would be the characteristics of those areas? Does that tell you anything about demographics or location?

  Sir David Normington: There is the nature of those areas, but often it is very effective working between the police and other agencies. It is people getting in there early and nipping things in the bud; listening very hard to what local people are saying and reacting to that and really dealing with their concerns. It is having community support. When local people stand up alongside the law enforcement and other agencies then you can stop it.

  Q41  Gwyn Prosser: Sir David, in his interim report on policing, Sir Ronnie Flanagan says there was a perception that officers needed "to engage in bureaucracy at an unnecessary level". He singled out what he described as "the marked increase in performance management requirements from central government". Do you think that police officers have been engaging in bureaucracy at an unnecessary level?

  Sir David Normington: I think we believe that there is a need to cut and tackle this issue of police bureaucracy. This is a very interesting report. We have already responded to some of it. We have decided to reduce the number of national targets which impact on a local level. We are also doing some very practical things about case management with the CPS which will have a real early impact on the police. I think there really is a need to tackle this issue. What is very interesting about his report, and I am familiar with this from my previous job in education, is what sometimes happens in public services is that everybody adds a layer of requirements at every level in their operation; and they do it partly because of their anxieties about what if they step out of line, what if they do something wrong. You often get not only a national framework but you get things added to that national framework. Ronnie Flanagan is talking a bit about that in his report, about the sort of culture that develops where everybody is anxious about stepping out of line if they do not record this and they do not record that. Getting at that I think is the real key to making a very big step forward on this; which of course by definition is much more difficult than sorting out a particular issue. We are on both of those agendas and it is really important to me.

  Q42  Gwyn Prosser: A lot of figures are bandied about, about the percentage of time that a police officer has to devote to bureaucracy or administration. Are you in position to estimate how that might be reduced by the introduction of the new PSAs?

  Sir David Normington: I cannot relate at this moment the new PSAs to that. I think it is the case that the latest figures show about 64% of a police officer's time is spent on frontline duties and that is up by a small amount, by just over 2%, over the last four years. I think it will not just be by the way we change the national targets. I think there are some very detailed things Sir Ronnie Flanagan has discovered which I think we can fix as well. If we put them altogether I hope we will see some significant saving in hours, not on frontline duties. I would not like to make a prediction as to what that will be.

  Q43  Martin Salter: Sir David, I want to ask you a couple of questions about the National Offender Management Service, which I know has moved across to the Ministry of Justice but this is on the Home Office Annual Report so I do not think you can escape, and the whole issue of youth re-offending. Like a number of people in this Place I was highly critical of the NOMS legislation—the National Offender Management Service bill in particular. I am reading in various press reports, and hearing rumours, that NOMS may be about to be dismantled. Is this true?

  Sir David Normington: Because I am not responsible for it, I think I need to be a bit careful about what I say about it.

  Q44  Martin Salter: Just expand on it.

  Sir David Normington: I am afraid I do not know precisely what the Ministry of Justice's plans are for NOMS. I do not think they are moving away from the principles in the NOMS bill.

  Q45  Martin Salter: Have you been involved in discussions with the Ministry of Justice on the future of NOMS?

  Sir David Normington: Not on this issue, no.

  Q46  Martin Salter: What do you think NOMS has actually achieved so far?

  Sir David Normington: I am sorry I have to remember about NOMS, which I have not dealt with for a few months. I think it had begun to set out a means of getting much better end-to-end provision for offenders; in other words, actually managing them through the whole system, rather than there being dislocations as they pass between different agencies and so on. I personally think most of what was promised had not yet been delivered. Most of it was lying in the future. The bill had just been got through, as you will remember it was very controversial; and we have not yet implemented most of the things that were promised in the bill.

  Q47  Martin Salter: If it has a future, and it was going to deliver more joined-up management of offenders, what possible reason could there be for dismantling it, other than to give justification to the Prison Governors' Association comments that this was no more than a wasteful additional tier of bureaucracy? It is either one or the other, is it not?

  Sir David Normington: I do not know. Forgive me, I do not know that it is going to be dismantled, I really do not. Please do not put those words in my mouth. It really must be asked of the Ministry of Justice. On the issue of, can we manage offenders better through the courts, into community sentences, or into custodial sentences and then into community sentences, I do not think that issue has gone away. Improving the effectiveness of all the things we do in probation and prisons continues to be the objective. You can argue about the way of achieving that. I still think (which is one of the important things in the NOMS bill) that we will have a mixed economy in those things. I do not know whether NOMS itself will survive, I really do not. I do not think the principles underlying it are being withdrawn from.

  Q48  Martin Salter: One can only hope that the £2.6 billion spent on NOMS will actually pass scrutiny in the final analysis.

  Sir David Normington: So much of that is on Probation Services and Prison Services.

  Q49  Martin Salter: I understand that. Sir David, the Home Office Annual Report makes reference to the NOMS standard on the issue of the reconviction rate and re-offending for young offenders, and that has now reduced to a slippage status; in other words, we are going backwards. We have a situation in our prisons, and our young offenders' institutions in particular, where re-offending rates amongst young offenders, 16-18 year-olds, are now over 70%. What are you trying to do to address this situation, because whatever we are doing it is not working?

  Sir David Normington: I think it is one of the most intractable problems I deal with in the Home Office. I think the work that was going on, not in NOMS as such but to provide much better support for young people going through the Criminal Justice System and better and more-up-to-date interventions and so on, was aimed at reducing re-offending; trying to improve the work of the youth offending teams; trying to improve the Probation Service. There is some improvement but it is very small against the scale of the problem, and it is certainly not meeting the target. I think it remains one of the most intractable issues we have in the Criminal Justice System.

  Q50  Martin Salter: Sir David, did you ever give any consideration to the argument that short sentences for first-time young offenders are a complete and utter waste of time, given that many of these young offenders can barely read or write, have no prospect of gaining gainful employment outside the prison; and, unless the prison estate has them for a considerable period of time, there is no chance of getting them on proper rehabilitation programmes, proper literacy programmes or preparing them for the world of work, which seems to be the one thing which actually cuts re-offending rates?

  Sir David Normington: It depends what they have done really as to whether they need a custodial sentence. What I do agree with is that the things which prevent people coming off crime are often to do with family support; they are often to do with drugs treatment; they are often to do with whether they have somewhere to live that provides a stable environment; it is particularly to do with whether they can get into training and get a job. Those things are the most important things you can do to reduce re-offending. Some of those things are done in custody, but most of them have to be done after people come out or during them being on probation or in a community sentence. The more effort that can go into those things the more we will reduce re-offending.

  Q51  David Davies: Sir David, how many people have officially left the employ of the Home Office as a result of the decision to move prisons into the Justice Department? How many people have transferred over?

  Sir David Normington: It is just over 51,000. Most of those are in the Prison Service itself.

  Q52  David Davies: Actually I was talking about Home Office Headquarters?

  Sir David Normington: It is between 1,500 and 2,000 from recollection.

  Q53  David Davies: Between now and 2010 you are committed to a 10% reduction in costs and you have talked about reducing staff members by 2,700. Can you give us an assurance that the 1,500-2,000 people who have already left as a result of prisons coming under the Justice Department are not going to be counted in this figure in any way whatsoever?

  Sir David Normington: I can give you an assurance—there is no fiddle going on here, I can assure you of that.

  Q54  David Davies: I am sorry, we would never have thought so at all!

  Sir David Normington: Just to be completely clear, by the end of this financial year we have to reduce our original target by 2,700. Just about 400 of that target transfers to the Ministry of Justice, with the transfer of those 50,000 staff. The target I have to hit this year is just over 2,300 and we are within 70 posts of that.

  Q55  David Davies: The rise in what I suspect are consultancy fees, professional fees, is 359%. Is that because of the reduction in staff at all? Are they simply being replaced by more expensive consultants?

  Sir David Normington: No. I think you are referring to what shows up in our resource accounts. I am really sorry to say this but these two figures year-on-year are not comparable figures. What happened was the consultancy fees used to be shown in different lines of the Home Office accounts; they have now all been moved into the professional fees line and that is why it is showing such a big increase. Because I think it is right and essential, we are bearing down on the use of consultancies. In the last financial year on a like-by-like basis we reduced our spending on consultants by £8 million; this year it is running at 14% of that sum, which will be around £20 million when it comes out at the end of the year. I believe we need to be much tighter on our use of consultants and, therefore, we are trying to bear down on that. We are doing that while we are also reducing our staff. We are not replacing one with the other.

  Q56  David Davies: Finally, there has been an under-spend in the Home Office Department. What do you say to police officers who want the pay rise that has been suggested by the independent board and are particularly aggrieved that they appear to be being offered a lower pay rise than civilian support staff, who I think are getting 3%?

  Sir David Normington: There is a small under-spend in the Home Office, but it is only a small one. It is partly the result of both some technical things but also on bearing down year-on-year on our admin costs, which means we are actually cutting admin costs. The aim of that is to transfer that money to the frontline. We will be announcing the settlement on police I hope this week. I hope that will show we really are trying to focus our resources on frontline policing. On police pay, I have to be a little careful because we have not responded yet to the arbitration panel's recommendations, and we will be doing that shortly. Can I just say, we have to remain within the Government's overall guidelines on pay.

  Q57  Patrick Mercer: Good morning, Sir David. You talk about your administrative budget, correct me if I am wrong, but it seems from these figures that the under-spend over the last three years respectively was 6%, 21% and 16%. It does not sound like a small under-spend to me. The 5% target over the CSR period—how challenging is this target, particularly in light of the under-spend administrative budget?

  Sir David Normington: I can, but I will not now, explain to you why those shortfalls are not as great as they seem; it is something to do with receipts; it is something to do with a draw-down from the Treasury which we then did not spend so it is not real. The thing about the 5% is that it falls particularly on what you might call the overheads in the Home Office's budget, in the things that are not about frontline spending; it is particularly about that. That is quite challenging because you have to focus that on a proportion of our expenditure. It is 3% overall but it is 5% on our admin budgets. I personally think most organisations ought to be able to find year-on-year reductions of that sort; but I do not think in an organisation which is properly run you can do that easily. I think there is the possibility of doing it through a variety of means. Some of it will be through better procurement; some of it will be through setting up a shared services centre; some of it will be through actually bearing down on efficiencies in each of our main areas. We have not got those plans in detail yet, because we have only just agreed that figure with the Treasury, or rather been given it.

  Patrick Mercer: Good luck!

  Q58  Mr Streeter: You have asked for an extra £52.2 million in the Winter Supplementary Estimate to help with your drugs-related PSA targets. How are you going to spend that money to help people get off drugs, and help reduce drug addition?

  Sir David Normington: Can I just be clear about the Winter Supplementaries, what we have done we have not got any extra money for drugs, we have allocated our budgets on drugs later and therefore we were not able to show them in the main estimates. What we are doing in the Winter Supplementaries is aligning the estimates and the budgets. Nobody out there, I am afraid, thinks they have got £52 million extra; it is actually money that is in the budget. That is going on some of the things we were talking about—improving the action locally to tackle drugs, giving more support to the police so there is drug treatment when they do drug testing and so on. The Drug Improvement Programme is a big programme which is all about the things we were talking about earlier.

  Q59  Patrick Mercer: Your Annual Report states that the audit of your efficiency savings were "broadly favourable and raised no significant concerns". Did you measure the impact of the efficiency savings on service quality? If so, how?

  Sir David Normington: It is built into our plans, as it must be, that value for money is about trying to deliver the existing level of service or even better if possible at less cost. Those two things go together. If you take the policing area, I think the NAO actually were a little bit critical of this and said, "Can we be sure that the police really saved this billion pounds that you claim?" What we do is, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary do inspect the quality of police service, and if the police are claiming a saving in any area, in an area where there has also been a decline in service, we do not allow them to count that to the billion pound saving. There is a measure which is trying to ensure there is a protection of service alongside a real saving in costs. We try to apply that in other areas through our audits and audits by the National Audit Office and so on. As an act of policy you can decide you want to deliver a lower quality of service if you want, but you cannot count that as a value-for-money saving.

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