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Forces should continue to work collaboratively with local partners (including through crime and disorder reduction partnerships and community safety partnerships and local criminal justice boards) to meet shared local objectives. In England this includes those objectives that are agreed through local strategic partnerships within local area agreements.
Serious and organised crime is a constantly evolving problem. I believe there is a continuous line stretching from the local to the regional and on to the national which needs a continuum of effective policing in response. The Home Office/Cabinet Office strategy for tackling serious organised crime which was published in July recognises the importance of close working and effective collaboration and co-ordination between partners; and that means forces and authorities working outside and across individual force boundaries where necessary.
My expectation is that forces and authorities will continue to work in the interests of regions and the country and build on existing collaboration to achieve improvements. Collaboration takes various forms, from tackling serious and cross-border crime to the development of the national counterterrorism network in bringing together intelligence, investigative and operational activity against the terrorist threat. This relies heavily on confidence in policing. The success of a key component of our counterterrorism strategy-PREVENT-depends, in part, in the confidence local communities have in their police service.
The priority must be how building confidence in the service leads to a more effective police service at all levels. There is little benefit in increasing public confidence through local policing and ignoring protective services. These may be services with less of a public face and more uncertain demand, but they have the potential to impact heavily on public confidence if they fall short. Greater collaboration across the police service is essential to mitigate this risk and to realise the necessary improvements in protective services. The same emphasis should apply for specialist crimes.
The police service shares the public service duty to maximise value for money. Locally, it is the responsibility of police authorities to set ambitious targets for the
2 Dec 2009 : Column WS135
The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (Lord Mandelson): The Post Office is one of the most trusted institutions in the country. It stands at the heart of communities up and down the country, offering face to face access to essential services through its network of 11,500 branches. The Government are committed to a secure and sustainable future for the Post Office network, and have committed up to £1.7 billion of funding to support the Post Office network to 2011.
The Post Office is already a successful provider of financial services. It provides a wide range of savings, loans (including mortgages), and insurance products. It is also the UK's leading foreign exchange provider. But we want it to do more and to build on this successful platform. It is for this reason that the Prime Minister announced on 29 September that he wanted the Post Office to play a much bigger role, bringing banking services back to the heart of people's communities.
To take this forward, the Government are today launching a 12-week national consultation on Post Office banking. The consultation will set out clearly what the Post Office already offers in terms of financial services; it will draw comparisons with Post Banks around the world; and it will set out the Government's vision for Post Office banking and the values that should underpin it. These values are that Post Office banking should be universal, trusted, accessible and sustainable.
In addition, the consultation invites views on a number of proposals for new financial products that the Post Office could offer. These include: a Post Office current account, a children's savings account to encourage saving at the Post Office from an early age, new services for small businesses including a Post Office business account, and a weekly budgeting account to allow those on low incomes to take advantage of direct debits and reduced bills.
We will be asking people whether they agree that these are the right areas to focus on and which banking services they would like to see at their local post office. This consultation sets the scene for an expansion in banking in Post Offices. It could result in important new business for our Post Offices and important new services for the public.
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