Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Federation of Small Businesses (PR 71)

The FSB is the UK’s leading business organisation. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed and all those who run their own business. The FSB is non-party political, and with 210,000 members, it is also the largest organisation representing small and medium sized businesses in the UK.

Crime and policing is an important issue for our membership particularly considering that 64% of businesses have been a victim of crime over the last twelve months and on average crime costs their business up to £2900 every year.

The FSB is keen to ensure that, with the development of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, there is strong link to the engagement of, and consultation with, the business community in order that their priorities are subsequently reflected in local issues. Crimes against business should be cited as a target for reduction in every local crime plan, underpinned by a local business crime strategy and a local business confidence indicator for each force to be held to account by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Small businesses make up 99.3 per cent of all businesses in the UK, and make a huge contribution to the UK economy. They contribute 51 per cent of the GDP and employ 58 per cent of the private sector workforce. Small businesses need support, including help to prevent crime, through the recovery in order that they can lead economic growth and create jobs for the future.

Introduction

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomes the opportunity to put in a submission to the Bill Committee on behalf of its 210,000 members across the UK.

The FSB is keen to underline the importance of the police connecting with the business community specifically, given that they are a group with separate interests and distinctive voice from the rest of the wider public. Given that one fifth of all recorded crime (according to police pilot surveys; and this is greater in some areas) is targeted against business, the FSB sees that there is an important opportunity to reduce crime overall through targeted strategies to reduce business crime. Some forces already have effective strategies in this area from which forces in other parts of England and Wales could learn. The FSB would like to see a more consistent approach across the country in terms of effectiveness to tackling these issues. Having references in the Bill to consultation with the business community, we believe would help achieve this consistency and help end the piecemeal approach.

The FSB voiced concerns around the proposed introduction of elected police commissioners across England and Wales which we set out in our response to the Home Office consultation. Members themselves made it clear in a survey in June 2010 that their preferred means of representation of their interests was via a specific representative on police authorities tasked with consulting the local business community (43%) rather than a directly elected individual (14%).

However, that point made, the FSB is keen to shape the role of elected police commissioners and the proposed crime panels at both a local and national level to ensure that they engage effectively with the business community, and work with this important section of the community to reflect their interests and concerns.

Suggested Bill amendments

The FSB makes the following suggested amendments to the Bill in order to take account of the distinctive voice of the business community and ensure that they are included in local consultations and their views are factored into the local crime plan to be developed.

Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 14: Arrangements for obtaining the views of the community on policing:

3) ...’arrangements for obtaining, before a police and crime plan is issued under Section 5 or 6 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, the views of the people [insert: businesses and voluntary groups] and the views of the victims of crime in that area, on that plan’

And similarly:

Part 1, Chapter 5 Chief Officers of police, Section 34: Engagement with local people

1) ‘A Chief Officer of police must make arrangements for obtaining the view of persons, [insert: businesses and voluntary groups] within each neighbourhood in the relevant police area about crime and disorder in that neighbourhood

Composition of crime panels

Schedule 6: Police and Crime panels

The FSB agrees that Police and Crime panels should be made up of around twelve individuals, reducing their size from the previous Police Authorities. However, we do not agree with the balance of membership. There should be more independent members (around seven) than locally elected councillors (around five). This should help the panel maintain a degree of independence from local councils and ensure that they reflect the interests and diversity of the local community. Police and crime panels should allocate one individual to lead on engagement and consultation with the local business community and business groups. This does not necessarily have to be a business owner but someone who would lead on consulting with them, obviously an individual sensitive to the needs of the business community would be useful. The panel should also track local crime data, including business crime in order to tackle crime locally. The process of recruitment should be a transparent one, particularly for independent members and all members should be granted the same length of office.

The councillors should be the Cabinet member for Community Safety (or equivalent) and their Shadow, as these have the required knowledge and influence. There would also be an opportunity to have two or three equivalent Cabinet members from District Councils within the force area. A suitable, fair and transparent system of selecting these representatives should be devised. At present, councillors are selected by unknown means and may not be key players within their Council or have any link to Community Safety. It would also be constructive if there was some movement within the Council representatives rather than some members retaining a role for fifteen years or more.

Suggested amendment:

Schedule 6: Police and Crime Panels

Membership England

2) 1) In the case of a single authority panel for a police area in England, the police and crime panel is to consist of:

a) Ten Up to five members appointed from among the members of the participating authority by that authority, and

b) Two Up to seven members co-opted by the panel.

These suggested amendments should apply to the other relevant sub sections here as appropriate.

Thank you for the opportunity to put forward our views and suggested amendments.

January 2011