Preventing Crime, Not Picking Up The Pieces: An Interview with Simon Hayes

Ahead of Thursday’s election, Sarah Cheverton talks exclusively to Simon Hayes about his three and a half years in the new role of Police & Crime Commissioner for Hampshire & Isle of Wight, and why he’s so keen to be re-elected.

Can you tell me a little bit about the role of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)?

Parliament passed the Police & Social Responsibility Act 2011 to allow a single individual to be the voice of the public for influencing policing strategy in the area. My interpretation of the role is twofold. There’s a governance role: holding the Chief Constable to account, setting the budget,   providing the workforce – police officers – with the right kit, the buildings and so on.

The other part is what I call the ‘social change agenda’, which for me is the most important part, how we can change society and lives for better. So that’s around preventing crime in the first place. In the first three and a half years, that’s been about preventing young people committing crime, preventing high levels of re-offending in society. Supporting victims and witnesses is important as well. We must reduce crime so we have fewer victims, there’s less demand on the constabulary in a time of low resources and people’s lives are better

Do you think the role is well understood by the public?

No, not yet. I think people just think we are quasi chief constables. We’re not. We have no operational responsibility, I’m not a police officer. The operational aspects of policing lie with the Chief constable. I can’t command or control police officers, that’s critically important.

What a PCC can do is to bring together in partnership other statutory bodies to work with local charities and local authorities to improve the services we provide to enable social change…The role of PCC gives the opportunity to make those things happen…I think that’s important.

Why is it important for people to vote in this election for OPCC?

It’s important because of the contribution that the PCC can make to improve communities and society that people live in. The office is the only elected individual who has the responsibility to work right across Hampshire and the IOW, that is my constituency. If you’re an MP or council leader, you are only responsible for your constituency, a much smaller area.

What a PCC can do is to bring together in partnership other statutory bodies to work with local charities and local authorities to improve the services we provide to enable social change. My agenda is preventing crime and re-offending and working with victims to see fewer crimes in society, to look at some of the causes of why people’s lives have gone that way and see what we can do to change it. The role of PCC gives the opportunity to make those things happen; it’s been in for 3 ½ years, and things are starting to change. I think that’s important.

How important is neighbourhood policing to you?

Very important. So long as I’m PCC, we’re going to keep neighbourhood policing, I have a direct influence on that. Neighbourhood policing is at the heart of British policing model. In fact, I’ve wanted to enhance the concept of local communities working in partnership with the police so we can work together on a community approach to tackling crime. I believe that policing our community is not just the responsibility of the police constabulary; local authorities have a role and individuals have a role.

It costs £28 million a year to deliver neighbourhood policing across Hampshire end the Isle of Wight and the largest chunk of that – just over £4 million – goes to the cost of neighbourhood policing for the city of Portsmouth. We could have produced all the savings instantly that the government have required by doing away with neighbourhood policing. Essex for example, have done away with it altogether. It is not my view that society can deal with social problems by simply putting people in prison or punishing them. We need to have a more modern approach to understanding why people offend and trying to prevent that happening in the first place. Clearly, prison is right for some offenders who are dangerous to society.

I think the ultimate effect of austerity is on the public…But of course the origin of the cuts is the ideology of the government: that the state should shrink. I think that what the public are starting to see is that there is a cost. You can only go so far and I think we’ve gone far enough.

What impact has austerity had on the role?

In times of austerity, it’s particularly important that we make up and mitigate as far as we can the government cuts. So in the last 5 years, we’ve lost £12 million each year from our budget. To make some of this up we try to be more efficient in what we do. The Estates Strategy is the single most visible action that I took to try to stop wasting money on expensive-to-run buildings and to put that back into neighbourhood policing. So we’re saving £3 million a year on that and we’ve saved the run-off costs of nearly £6 million for back office maintenance for the buildings.

To do that, we’ve had to move the traditional police stations into new environments across the two counties. We’re sharing neighbourhood policing with local council offices, with the fire service, enabling fire stations to stay open as a public service; otherwise the fire service would have to have closed more stations. For example, we’re moving the neighbourhood team into Southsea Fire Station and we’re refurbishing the whole building. We opened the first joint headquarters with the fire service in Eastleigh in October last year. We sold our expensive tower block in West Hill in Winchester and redeveloped the fire headquarters in Eastleigh. It’s saving £1.5-2 million each year. This means we can reinvest those savings into policing.

How do you think austerity is affecting frontline services that affect crime and policing?

I think the ultimate effect of austerity is on the public. It’s also had an effect on the people who provide the services; officers get frustrated at not being able to do what they would like to do, having to restrict what is on offer for some people. There’s that emotional effect that the financial cuts have on people. But of course the origin of the cuts is the ideology of the government: that the state should shrink. I think that what the public are starting to see is that there is a cost. You can only go so far and I think we’ve gone far enough.

The challenge for the Police and Crime Commissioner is not to say how awful it is. The PCC’s responsibility is to act and deliver the services in these challenging times. You can’t just stick your head in the sand, you’ve got to get on with it and deliver the services to the public. That’s why the emphasis for me is on prevention. If you can prevent crime from happening, you don’t have to spend so much money on picking up the pieces. We follow an evidence-based approach and we try new things and see if they work, and if they do we develop them.

I got a letter from Luke Stubbs asking the police to do more patrols in Commercial Road because of the homelessness: it was putting people off doing business and the shopkeepers weren’t happy. I can understand the shopkeepers are unhappy, but dealing with homelessness is the responsibility of the local authority because being homeless is not a crime.

When we’ve heard, as we have in the last few budget meetings in Portsmouth, local councillors stating ‘The police can afford to pick this up’, what’s your response to that?

I’ve got quite annoyed in the past. Councillor Stubbs talked about the PCC being ‘cash-rich’ and I think even the Leader of the council has said similar. This is not the case.

In October last year, in the budget statement, the Chancellor said he didn’t want to reduce the money to policing, so he wasn’t going to cut any further and we’ve broadly got the same money we had last year. What this means is the level of policing is not going to reduce. It doesn’t mean we’re getting more money to do more things to compensate for the cuts that local authorities have implemented.

Homelessness is one of the most recent issues in Portsmouth. I got a letter from Luke Stubbs asking the police to do more patrols in Commercial Road because of the homelessness: it was putting people off doing business and the shopkeepers weren’t happy. I can understand the shopkeepers are unhappy, but dealing with homelessness is the responsibility of the local authority because being homeless is not a crime. What do we do? Arrest someone who’s homeless, fine them for being homeless? Generally, you don’t make yourself homeless unless you don’t have an alternative. It’s their responsibility to support homeless people, not the Police’s to criminalise them.  The Council must stand up and do something because you can’t keep pushing that responsibility back to the police.

Portsmouth City Council is not without funds; indeed, through my Estates Strategy we are investing money into the establishment of a new police station in the Civic Centre for neighbourhood policing teams. We’re going to be paying rent to the local authority for that, it’s an income they didn’t used to have. So we are contributing and investing into the City Council, probably £40 million in the new build, which brings council tax with it, bringing money into the council coffers. What are they going to do with that? I’d invite them to use it to deliver services for the homeless, for victims of hate crime, for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Politics and politicians should be about is making things happen – that’s why people put their trust in us.  Sometimes it’s fair weather, sometimes it’s foul weather, but you’ve got to make things happen to make society a better place.

How important has it been to you to improve partnership working across Hampshire and IOW?

Very. I set up a forum for the leaders and chief executives of the top tier councils (Hampshire, IOW county councils, Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils). I can’t direct them of course, they’re totally autonomous, but I can give them options. From that has come joint purchasing of some services and by pooling our money together, we can provide the services that will have better long term outcomes for people.

Portsmouth City Council felt that they had [domestic violence] services that were sufficient to meet the requirements for people in the city…What we now know is that the City Council cannot continue to fund their service and they’ve announced a cut to the budget of £180k, which in my view and the view of others will decimate the service available to victims across the city…I approached Portsmouth City Council and we sent them a template of what would be our offer. I’m hopeful the city will decide they now want to become part of the delivery of that service, which in my view offers a far better support service to victims.

Has Portsmouth been active in that joint commissioning process?

Well about 2 years ago, I realised that the service to victims of domestic abuse was patchy across Hampshire and the IOW. You got a different service, or in some places no service at all, depending on the area. I decided that we would approach Hampshire, IOW county councils, and Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils to see whether we could produce a model of working. It was a difficult time for the IOW, they were going through a lot of change and were probably not quite ready yet to move into this new environment and I understood that. They are going to come on board I would hope in the next 12 months. Hampshire County Council were very keen; Southampton City Council were very keen. Portsmouth City Council felt that they had services that were sufficient to meet the requirements for people in the city and at that time I imagine they felt they could continue to afford to deliver the services.

So we went into partnership with Southampton City and Hampshire country councils to deliver joint commissioning. Portsmouth didn’t want to join. What we now know is that the City Council cannot continue to fund their service and they’ve announced a cut to the budget of £180k, which in my view and the view of others will decimate the service available to victims across the city; and although they’ve extended the imposition of that cut for another financial year, there’s going to be an immediate effect on the service delivery for people in the city.

There was a big kerfuffle a few months ago over all this. It made the headlines and I think quite rightly so, because it’s not something that can be pushed under the carpet. I approached Portsmouth City Council and we sent them a template of what would be our offer. I’m hopeful the city will decide they now want to become part of the delivery of that service, which in my view offers a far better support service to victims.

How challenging have you found it as a candidate to get adequate media coverage of the elections and of the role?

It’s been very challenging, particularly because I’m an independent candidate, with no Party political support. I stood three and a half years ago as an independent candidate because I believed that party politics shouldn’t influence policing, and am standing again for the same reason. I was a Conservative councillor in the New Forest and a county councillor up to 2005. I do know the pressure parties put on their candidates. They don’t fund your campaign, put leaflets through letterboxes and support you for nothing. The payback time is after you’re elected.  As far as policing is concerned, I think it’s important the public know that the decision being taken by their police and crime commissioner is being taken because the PCC thinks it’s the right decision, not because of pressure from Party masters in Westminster. I will always defend that. It’s not the pressure coming down on me from the Home Secretary or the Policing Minister because it fits in with them.

It’s difficult to get the message across at election time, but I did it in 2012 and I hope I can do it again.

If you accept that there needs to be some governing of policing because we don’t live in a police state, there is going to be a cost to that. The previous body doing that role, the Police Authority – cost the same as my office does now. I think there’s greater value for money, greater accountability and greater efficiency in what we’re doing now

Concerns were raised early on about the costs of the OPCC. What do you think about that?

I think there are two things here: one is the cost of the office and the other is the salary you get as an individual. This is a big role with huge responsibilities; it’s more than a 9-5 role. I’m not complaining about the hours but I think people should take a look and see what they get: it’s an £85,000 salary. Where I’ve saved money, I’ve more than covered the costs of the salary and I can give you two examples here. One is the estates management I mentioned earlier, we’re now saving £3 million a year as an ongoing saving – that more than covers my salary. The cost of running the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is just shy of £1.5 million, but it’s producing all the outcomes we’ve discussed – the services, outcomes for victims, preventing crime and reoffending – it’s saving the criminal justice system money as well.

If you accept that there needs to be some governing of policing because we don’t live in a police state, there is going to be a cost to that. The previous body doing that role, the Police Authority – cost the same as my office does now. I think there’s greater value for money, greater accountability and greater efficiency in what we’re doing now.

I had the books audited completely independently by a company called Grant Thornton – they’re called GT now – and for the last financial year, the cost of my office is actually £150k less than the Police Authority cost. That also more than covers my salary.

So I think I can defend the argument that we’re expensive with what the public are getting for what they pay. I think the contribution the office makes is far greater than my salary, in my view.

In terms of the politics of the role, a quarter of the PCCs elected in 2012 were independent and the majority of the candidates this year are standing as representatives of a political party. Yet, PCCs are expected to carry out the role with political impartiality. What’s your view on the party politics of the role?

We need to work with local authorities in order to deliver social change and the type of joint commissioning I’ve talked about, and the fact that I have no political affiliation has helped me enormously to work with councils run by all three main parties, and on the IOW with independents. We’ve done some good work with politically-run councils and I think independence gives me that ability. I don’t think you get that when you’re working in a political environment. If you look at other parts of the country where there is political enmity between the PCC and the panel, it doesn’t deliver best outcomes for the public.

Politics is a passion, for some akin to football supporter – you support your team come hell or high water. I understand that, but in this role I think you need to have the skill to step back from that and do the job for the public:  for the people, the victims, the children who aren’t born yet who would be born into a family of violence or crime or deprivation. I think my motivation is right and I think I’ve got the experience to do it.

There are so many wasted lives, so many people who could be creative, who could do things, who could contribute to society. We lost two generations to world wars and now we’re losing a generation to this sort of thing. As a society I don’t think we should just ignore those people and criminalise them. So we have to go back and see what can be done to support people before they get to that stage of desperation and the PCC is in a position of authority and influence to do that.

On a personal level, what does motivate you in your role?

Speaking personally, I’m fortunate to have had support from my parents. I remember being about 10 or 11, we lived in London and we went to a puppet show in Islington. At the interval, a man behind us tapped my father on the shoulder and said, ‘Are you Tom?’ My father’s name was Peter, so I thought that was a bit strange, and my father said yes. The man told my father, ‘You used to mentor me when I came out of prison. I want to introduce you to my wife and child.’ I didn’t know at the time that my father had been a prison visitor and he had mentored people who had come out of prison in the late sixties. So to this person, my father was Tom because you don’t give your real name when working in a prison. I think I remember it for that reason and also because I realised how touched my father was that this was a life turned around by support and encouragement, not a life left to stagnate in the criminal justice system. This memory still has an effect on me.

A long term approach to the rehabilitation of offenders is what’s so important. What annoys and frustrates me is when I hear people say that others are in the situation they’re in because of their own actions, when so often it’s not the case. I was in business for 25 years and there were times when we struggled. In times of economic turn down, businesses close for many reasons; relationships fail and people can lose their homes – many do and find themselves on the streets. I worked as a volunteer – before being Commissioner – with people who had addiction to drugs and alcohol and they got that addiction when they were out on the street and it was cold and boring so they drank and they took drugs – there but for the grace of God. I visited a man in prison, a young man, aged 22 or 23, who was inside for life because he had killed his 18-month old daughter when he was high on drugs. He doesn’t remember it but, but accepts he did. He’s in there now because of an addiction to drugs, not because he is evil or anything mentally wrong with him. He took heroin, and he started off on cannabis at a party.

There are so many wasted lives, so many people who could be creative, who could do things, who could contribute to society. We lost two generations to world wars and now we’re losing a generation to this sort of thing. As a society I don’t think we should just ignore those people and criminalise them. So we have to go back and see what can be done to support people before they get to that stage of desperation and the PCC is in a position of authority and influence to do that.

Image courtesy of Hayes4PCC website.


Simon has been in office since the role of Police and Crime Commissioner since the post was introduced in 2012. S&C asked him about some of the areas he’s worked on in that time.

Poster 1 croppedDomestic violence

We’ve done some work called Operation Cara, which is a random controlled trial where perpetrators of domestic violence went on a course by The Hampton Trust. They ran it as a pilot for just over 2 years. It’s been successful in reducing the offending rate by perpetrators, but what it has thrown up is something called No Further Actions – the number of cases where there is no further action the police can take. What that has taught us is that there are a number of people who are repeat victims and there are a number of people who are repeat perpetrators, that is individuals who have abused more than one person and are going unnoticed. We need to understand what that is and who’s doing it so we can do something about it. Operation Cara has run national awards. The Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service have agreed that we can roll out that approach to dealing with victims and perpetrators across Hampshire and the IOW.

So this is a new approach which is doing two things: one is supporting the victim in a way that wasn’t possible before and perpetrator programmes working with the offenders to try to prevent them reoffending. The victims are saying that often they don’t want the relationship to break up, they just want it to get better. Simply prosecuting someone doesn’t necessarily do that, so we’re giving victims a choice, which I think is the least we can do to make recompense for the situation they’re in. it’s a new approach and it’s working and we’ll continue to do that.

CORRECTION [3/5/2016] We stated above that Operation Cara had started in Portsmouth, however, Operation CARA started in Southampton as a pilot and was rolled out across Hampshire before Christmas 2015.

Cybercrime280316FrontPage_FromDeesideTwitter

Jointly with the University of Forensic Science, we’ve set up a special Cyber Crime police team. Joining that team are volunteers who work for multinational companies in that world, so they can come and support that investigation. We can’t wait for police officers to be trained, it would take years, so this is very innovative. You can be innovative once you’re in the role, but it’s getting there and staying there.

Youth offending

DSCF1097We’re developing a community court scheme and restorative justice approach to young people and anti-social behaviour. We started to pilot that in Fareham, Gosport and the Cosham area, north part of Portsmouth. That’s been successful. The reoffending rate for young people who have gone through that is 5%. We’ve been running it for 2 years now but only 5% have reoffended in the last 18 months. Now if you compare that to the more traditional ways of dealing with young people, the reoffending rate is 35%. Young people who go into young offender institutions, it goes up to over 70%.

We need to look at these alternative ways of doing things.

Three years ago I set up the Youth Commission which is a group of 28 young people aged 14-24 who tell me what it’s like to be a young person today. Young people need to have a voice. I need to understand how they’re suffering and what they’re benefitting from, how public service provision can improve for them. their responsibility is to go back into their communities and try to get information as to what it’s like and my responsibility is to translate that into the Police and Crime Strategy.

We’re talking about some of the challenges around bullying and sexual pressures. I first became wise 2 ½ years ago when we did a ‘Meet the Commissioner’ event at Solent University and met a group of young people there. They started to talk about the pressure girls are under to perform sexually for the blokes. They felt as articulate young people who had got to university that they couldn’t do anything about it. If they resisted it, they were called frigid or were not part of a social circle. They thought it was fine, this is how it is. But it’s not how it is, and it escalates into adult behaviour that is totally unacceptable.

So what we will find over the next few years is that we will work with education authorities to encourage them to change the way that they educate young people and the messages we’re sending out. This is difficult because schools also have the curriculum and things they’ve got to do, but I think there are ways of educating young people and getting young people’s attention. Young people are not stupid, they just need support and sometimes they don’t get that the family environment they’re in. That’s where groups like Pompey in the Community and Motiv8 come in, and lots of others, doing youth work. And that goes back to what local authorities have cut over the years. It’s not a statutory responsibility for the local authority to do youth work but I think that it’s wrong that young people don’t get that support and understanding.

Side images by Sarah Cheverton.

  • southseagreenhouse

    I’m very impressed with this Sarah, I hope PCC take on board his recommendations and I wish him well in the forthcoming election -he seems to have done a lot of good work across the county. What a pity Portsmouth have not yet bought into it… lets hope they think again more expansively and begin treating people in need like humans and stop cutting essential services!!