Increasing the effectiveness and impact of Community Safety Partnerships in two London boroughs: practitioners’ perspectives
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Community Safety Partnerships were introduced through the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 by the New Labour Government as a vehicle to address local crime and disorder issues. They have a statutory footing and the responsible authorities that make up their membership include the Police, Police Authority, Local Authority, Fire & Rescue Authority, Probation Trust and the Health Sector. Through identifying levels of crime and disorder Community Safety Partnerships are required to devise strategies to address these issues along with a range of interventions. Since their inception there have been many changes to these partnerships facilitated largely by the Home Office. Research has been conducted on Community Safety Partnerships however there is an absence in the literature and research on their impact within the community. Along with this gap in knowledge has been a changing political and economic environment. This presents an opportunity to review how community safety can be delivered now and in the future. The purpose of the research was to examine the impact of two Community Safety Partnerships in London and to also identify areas for improvement. The aims of the research were to determine practitioners’ views of the impact of these partnerships in dealing with crime and disorder at the local level and to examine practitioners’ wider perspectives on the utility of these partnerships now and the future. Finally, on the basis of the evidence generated by the research it makes recommendations for improvements in the work of Community Safety Partnerships. The research involved 18 semi-structured interviews with community safety practitioners across the two sites along with this a review of key documents, recorded crime figures and partnership records was undertaken. This then became the basis for identifying areas for improvement. The research established that both partnerships had no common agreement as to how to measure ‘effectiveness’. There was moreover an overreliance on using recorded crime data as the sole measure of partnership effectiveness. This appeared to be heavily influenced by central government and their comprehensive performance management regime. If effectiveness was to be measured solely on crime rates it was evident that both partnerships had some impact. The research also demonstrated that community safety partnerships were engaged with heavy workloads however a large proportion of work undertaken by Community Safety Partnerships was not evaluated. Evaluation was indeed minimal. This was an acknowledged weakness identified amongst most practitioners interviewed. The local authority played a crucial role in partnership business undertaking a disproportionate amount of work compared to the police and other responsible authorities. There was an overreliance on perceived benefits of partnership working by practitioners. Also potential benefits were to be highlighted rather than actually being achieved. Cost effectiveness and achieving value for money was also an area which both partnerships failed to progress. This was clear when reviewing governance structures, meetings, reports produced and time spent on these activities. All of these could have been streamlined and made more effective. Finally, it was evident that personalities played a key role in community safety partnerships. They could significantly influence the work Community Safety Partnerships undertook including their overall effectiveness. The disadvantage of this however was that good relationships amongst responsible authorities led to a lack of challenge in partnership business. Finally, in terms of continued government support, the future of these statutory partnerships is far from clear. Significant cuts in grant along with the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners raises questions about the future of Community Safety Partnerships. An important consideration will be a future focus on improvement and demonstrating value for money. In light of this, and in light of the research findings a number of recommendations are made. These include a view that a strong evaluation ethos is introduced to Community Safety Partnership work and also adopting a performance management framework which can be used to measure these partnerships more robustly. It recommended that the role played by the local authority requires to be rebalanced along with improving and enhancing community engagement. Lastly, the key areas identified by the research echo the findings of earlier work undertaken thus questions the degree of progress made by these partnerships, not necessarily due to factors within their control.
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