The necessity of successful collaborations in policing


By Alison Dewhirst, CIPFA Police and Fire Network Advisor

With the economic fallout of COVID-19, the impending spending review and the large percentage of policing costs related to people, generating efficiencies and getting the most out of our collaborative services are essential.

CIPFA recently published new guidance on Effective Governance of Collaboration in Policing. The guidance was in response to suggestions from subgroups of the Police and Fire Panel and forms part of our offer to members of the Achieving Finance Excellence in Policing (AFEP) programme. Development was overseen by the Police People Development subgroup, and I would like to thank them for their support. We consulted with a range of people from the police sector and the Home Office and, as we did so, a couple of aspects really stood out. 

Firstly, and unsurprisingly, the extent to which collaborations rely on the personalities and relationships of those involved. Time and again we found that when the top leadership got along and could see what the partnership was intended to deliver, things worked well. However, once senior leaders, especially police officers, moved on, it was sometimes difficult for their successors to buy into existing arrangements. 

A successful collaboration relies on the relationships between the individuals involved, but should not rely solely upon those relationships. More formal arrangements, such as a collaboration board that meets regularly to provide oversight of the arrangement and resolve issues, can provide very useful continuity when a senior leader moves on. It can establish operating plans for the collaboration, define and quantify benefits and ensure everyone understands what it is seeking to achieve. Strengthening the governance arrangements in this way can really help to keep a collaboration on track and work out where to go next, regardless of whether there are changes in leadership.

Secondly, a project mindset for the collaboration, with pre-planned review dates, could allow all of those involved to take stock of the arrangement on a regular basis to ensure it is still meeting everyone’s needs. It could act as a conduit for evaluation of the collaboration against its objectives and assess the strength and depth of the partnership. It could also assist any new senior leader involved in the collaboration to quickly identify what the partnership has achieved so far and provide all of those involved with an opportunity to make improvements, signal they aren’t happy with the arrangements or perhaps take it in a different direction to respond to new challenges.

Collaboration will be key to making the most out of the services that we provide as a sector. If we are able to establish relationships that clearly set out what our goals are, strengthen governance arrangements and monitor our progress – we will be able to create efficiencies that ensure our communities have the resources they need to thrive.

The Police and Fire Network is holding a webinar on 30 September on the Effective Governance of Police Collaboration, including the detailed findings and top tips for success and pitfalls to avoid. Guest speakers include Iain McCulloch, Kelvin Menon and Pete Gillett from the Surrey and Sussex Police/PCC strategic alliance and John Bloomer from the Staffordshire PFCC.

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