Headlines: March 11th, 2009

A group of MPs and Peers are to look at justice in communities and how thinking locally can help cut crime and create confidence in justice. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Local Government inquiry will also consider what local councils can do to influence policies.

The inquiry, to be chaired by Clive Betts, the MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, has been set up as a response to the soaring cost of prison places and what the MPs see as the gap in local political accountability for crime and justice as well as the growing lack of confidence in communities that justice is on their side.

The group is being advised by the Local Government Information Unit and Amelia Cookson, the Unit’s head of centre for service transformation, said, “Crime is consistently near the top of local priorities, but unlike most other local public services, the criminal justice system seems to struggle to work collaboratively. We need to understand the reasons why and reverse this trend.”

She added that the aim of the inquiry was to make a real contribution to the debate by focusing on what communities could do themselves to take responsibility and stop crimes before they happened.

The All-Party Group has described its work as a ground-breaking opportunity to explore the potential for local leadership in reducing crime and re-building communities. The scoping document for the inquiry says it is well recognised that the levers for delivering change sit with local partnerships in the shape of housing, benefits, drug and alcohol services, mental health services and employment and skills, but it adds, “The strong partnership linkages to deliver help that would break the offending cycle are hard to find.”