Having held briefings with the partners involved in the development of the new Community Safety Strategy, the Committee is asked to provide its own comments which will be fed into the final strategy when it is considered later in the year.
The Committee considered a report which presented the principles under consideration for the new Community Safety Strategy. The new strategy needed to be finalised and agreed by Cabinet by the end of the year, when the existing strategy expired.
At the start of this item, the Chair thanked the officers and partners involved in the development of the new Community Safety Strategy for their engagement with the Committee in the lead up to the meeting, which had helped to ensure Members were familiar with the rationale for the strategy. In the lead up to the meeting, the Committee had held briefings with the following partners to discuss their role in the creation of the Strategy: -
· Selene Grandison – Head of Probation Delivery Unit (HM Prison & Probation Service)
· Lewis Kelly – Performance & Intelligence Manager (Croydon Council)
· Alison Kennedy – Operation Manager for the Family Justice Centre (Croydon Council)
· Chief Inspector Craig Knight – Metropolitan Police
· Haydar Muntadhar – Prevent Manager (Croydon Council)
· Steve Phaure – Chief Executive – Croydon Voluntary Action
· Christopher Rowney – Head of the Violence Reduction Unit (Croydon Council)
The Strategy was introduced by the Cabinet Member for Communities, Safety & Business Recovery, Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed. During the introduction it was highlighted that the previous Community Safety Strategy was due to expire on 31 December 2021, having previously been extended by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The themes being proposed for the new strategy had been informed by the Strategic Assessment and other community safety focussed reviews. A draft of the new strategy was in development, with a final version due to be considered by Cabinet in November.
Following the introduction, the Committee was given the opportunity to comment upon and ask questions about the new strategy. The first comment highlighted that the delivery of many of the targets in the previous strategy had been outside the control of the Council which resulted in them being missed. It was accepted that with an area reliant on a large amount of partnership working such as community safety, it would not be possible to have control over the delivery of every target, but the targets did need to be specific and measurable wherever possible. It was confirmed that a performance framework would be developed for the new strategy using the Strategic Assessment. The new Programme Board overseeing the delivery of the strategy would have detailed indicators that would be closely monitored.
It was noted from the briefings with the partners in the lead up to the meeting, that partnership work was often identified as a strength. As such, it was questioned what the strategy could do to enhance the effectiveness of the partnership. It was advised that by basing the strategy on the Strategic Assessment, it would ensure the development of a stronger performance framework, allowing partners to challenge performance where appropriate.
In response to a question about whether the Children Service needed to improve its performance on reporting domestic violence, it was highlighted that everyone could have a better understanding of domestic violence. Underreporting of domestic violence was a national issue, along with other issues such as victim blaming. The Domestic Abuse Service did provide training for both internal and external partners, but further consideration was needed on how this could be extended through the strategy. The Committee agreed that if Croydon wanted to take the lead on tackling domestic violence it would require all partners to step up, with referral levels suggested as a means of monitoring performance.
The Committee discussed the new legal responsibility to provide safe accommodation for those fleeing domestic abuse. It was clarified that that this was not just the Council’s responsibility, with it applying to accredited housing associations as well. The team was in conversation with local housing associations to ensure they were aware of their new responsibilities. It was highlighted that the new legislation also had implications for Children Services, with children now recognised as victims of domestic violence in their own right, which would require additional support to be provided.
The Committee welcomed the increased use of data to prioritise the delivery of the strategy. The fear of crime could often be an influence when setting Community Safety Strategies, but through using a data led approach, it would ensure that a proper assessment was carried out to ensure work was targeted to where it was most needed. The Committee was also supportive of the use of the Cambridge Crime Harm Index as a means of targeting activity towards those crimes that cause the most harm to local people.
The continued use of the public health approach to violence reduction was also welcomed, but it was acknowledged that part of this approach required measurable targets. Given the need for measurable targets, concern was raised about how success would be measured under themes such as reducing domestic violence. It was agreed that being able to identify the right targets was of key importance to the development of the new strategy.
In response to a question about why neither the fear of crime or knife crime appeared as themes in the strategy, it was confirmed that they were both included within the main themes. Fear of crime would be included under ‘building resilience and confidence in the community’, while the prevention of knife crime would come under a range of heading including anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse. It was agreed that within the final version of the strategy care needed to be taken to ensure that the descriptions used were clear for both partners and the public.
The decision to have objectives structured around overlapping strands was welcomed and the strategy needed to be focussed upon what the partners wanted to achieve, rather than broad targets. The strategy also needed to be addressing the root causes of crime with clear outcomes.
It was confirmed that hate crime would be addressed under the fourth theme, which focussed on resilience, trauma and trust. Work in this area would be targeted towards informing the community on what hate crime was and how to report it. Tackling the disproportionality in the criminal justice system would be one of the key themes in the new strategy, which would require a wider ranging response to address as disproportionality could be experienced early in life in the education system.
Concern was raised about the private rented sector, where many of the residents tended to be younger and more transient. It was requested that thought be given to those living in the private rented sector, as well as those in social housing. It was agreed that this area needed to be explored in greater detail to establish whether there was any significant issues, as at present there was an intelligence gap in this area.
It was questioned whether the Council would have its own action plan to ensure operational effectiveness in delivering the Strategy. It was confirmed there would be a multi-agency action plan that also took account of work the Council was delivering internally. Care would also be taken to ensure the strategy tied into other policies, strategies and partnerships. It was also confirmed that as the strategy cut across Cabinet portfolios, delivery would be taken on board as a shared responsibility.
At the conclusion of this item the Chair thanked the Cabinet Member, officers and those in the Community Safety Partnership who had given their time to ensure the Committee was able to effectively scrutinise the Community Safety Strategy.
At the end of its discussion of this item, the Scrutiny & Overview Committee reached the following conclusions:-
1. The Committee was strongly supportive of the broad themes identified for the new strategy, agreeing that these were the correct ones for Croydon.
2. However, it was acknowledged that it would be a challenge to translate the strategy to an operational level that made a difference to the public in Croydon.
3. The Committee was satisfied that there was evidence to indicate there was strong partnership working amongst the partners in the Community Safety Partnership.
4. The Committee was encouraged that there was an acknowledgment of the importance to the delivery of the strategy of having both measurable and achievable targets.
5. It was agreed that the Committee would look to review the Community Safety Strategy after twelve months to ensure that it was having the intended impact, that the targets were effective in managing delivery.