Blog: Safer Together: Policing, Public Services and Austerity - RSA

Blog: Safer Together - Policing, Public Services and Austerity


  • Picture of Martin Davis FRSA
    Martin Davis FRSA
  • Cities
  • Communities
  • Criminal justice
  • Institutional reform
  • Public services

Demands on the Met police are growing. London’s population is rapidly increasing; serious violent crime is rapidly rising and counter terrorism is a ravenous maw that will swallow as much cash as you throw at it. The recipe looks volatile and the outcomes uncertain.

Additionally, unlike in many countries, the public are not alienated from their police and do not want skeleton services but expect the full-monty. They demand a well resourced and visible police service that works in the communities it serves.

But, the blunt force of government austerity is not sensitive to community needs. It is going to bite a huge chunk out of London’s policing budget (up to one third or more over the next four years), which screams major cuts in police staff, officers and police stations and a sharp reduction in public safety services of all kinds.

So can this situation be mitigated? Can we still have services which succeed in further reducing crime and improving crime diversion and control within a much reduced budget?

Managing Outcomes

Responding to this potential law and order apocalypse, the Met Police have been developing an agenda for change, which seeks a radical shift in their way of working. An agenda which will require London’s public services to work closer and share resources with the police.

The result of deliberations started by the Met in 2014 is Safer Together: Policing a global city, the consultation report produced by the Royal Society of Arts on behalf of the Met. Safer Together focuses on how to deliver efficient and effective policing in this new era. It does so within a model of an integrated public service hub, extending far beyond traditional working practices. 

Two of the report’s challenging proposals are highlighted in the executive summary and illustrate this challenging combination of services:

  • The creation of a Community Safety Index for London – identifying ‘needs’ by area to encompass the needs and problems of each area (social, housing, welfare, etc), the community safety needs of an area (night time violence, domestic violence, etc) and ‘A person-oriented approach which focuses on the needs and challenges of high risk individuals’. 
  • Collaborative approaches for collective impact – proposing co-location of the police, other emergency services and local authority services. Combined with the devolution of budgets and control and criminal justice services; such as the courts and Crown Prosecution Services, prisons and probation service.

Risks and Rewards

This is a chunky report looking at big social policy issues from the perspective of the continued delivery of quality policing services. It is proposing an integrated public service to the communities of London, which is very much in sympathy with the RSA’s public service delivery approach.

That’s both the strength and weakness of the report. It is a reasonably presented agenda for change, written from a corporatist perspective, in which efficient and effective policing is the goal but which has significant implications for the wider issue of the state’s intervention in the lives of its citizens.

The Met is now entering the next stage of the process, holding a mature conversation with a broad range of stakeholders to move this vision forward. There will need to be a significant input from elected representatives and London’s communities, as well as other stakeholders, if the final proposals are to be universally implemented,  sustainable and not a threat to civil liberties. 

Martin Davis FRSA

Chair and Trustee – London Communities Policing Partnership (LCP2) and Managing Editor

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