We all like a pat on the back from time to time and a few days ago I received a heart-warming letter from someone heavily involved with one of the projects my office supports.
I won’t embarrass her by naming her, or her organisation, but she wanted to express her gratitude at the role played by the Commissioner’s Fund not only in getting them up and running, but also enabling them to grow a strong enough financial base to plan for the future.
Although the note was addressed to me, it is the hard-working team in my office who administer the fund that deserve the credit. That’s because although it’s called the ‘Commissioner’s Fund’, it’s not made up of my money but money we all pay through our council tax.
For those who may not know, each year I take 1% from the police budget to support schemes put forward by local people to make their communities safer. Grants can cover a range of costs such as practical work, feasibility studies, group or partnership development, awareness raising, training, equipment, marketing and promotion. Some originate from the police but the vast majority of projects are led by the public through the local voluntary sector and all must tie in with my police and crime plan. Funding may be spread beyond my four year term in office in order to give the successful projects a period of security in which to plan ahead and gives them an opportunity to become self-sustaining.
No other PCC makes this commitment but there is evidence it is providing good value for money.
However, the pressures on public sector finances are well-documented so my commissioning team has to scrutinise all the bids carefully to ensure that grants are allocated only to projects that will produce the best results in a manner that is cost effective.
Some will make a strong enough case to receive all of the funding they’ve applied for; others might receive a percentage; the unlucky ones will get nothing. That is the nature of a competitive process. It all adds up to joy and, no doubt, considerable relief for those that succeed; disappointment for those who fail.
It can be very difficult measuring one set of proposals against another when both have been submitted by groups of volunteers desperate to resolve a local problem and make their neighbourhood a better place. Even Solomon with all his wisdom would find it a challenge - especially this year when we had a record number 167 applications and only enough to fund 78.
Satisfying all the requests for the next twelve months alone would have cost £3,405,396 or more than three times the budget available. Covering the four years under review amounted to an impossible £10,718,952.
The real added value that the role of PCC can bring is the ability to think outside the box and beyond the constraints of national policing objectives. I’m proud of the work done through my Commissioner’s Fund to invest in local initiatives – and of all those who are working to make their community, and Gloucestershire, a better, safer place.