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Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported today that Home Office grants of £927 million to Police Basic Command Units, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships in England and Community Safety Partnerships in Wales to fund crime reduction work have contributed in part to a 22 per cent reduction in the number of crimes since 1999, as measured by the British Crime Survey. Many of the crime reduction projects funded by the Home Office have been diverse in nature, innovative and successful in reducing crime. The Home Office is to be congratulated on the range and diversity of the projects and initiatives it has supported.

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The Home Office could achieve even greater reductions in crime by reducing the administrative burden on local partnerships to release more money for crime prevention initiatives instead. While partnerships might have required resources to develop their administrative structure when they were first set up, resources have been tied up dealing with the different grant conditions imposed by the Home Office and other departments. The Home Office has already reduced the number of different types of grants it provides from 14 to three, and the introduction of the Safer Stronger Communities grant should bring all funds provided by the Home Office and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister into one source from 2005-06. The Home Office expect the Local Area Agreements being piloted in 21 areas in 2005-06 to simplify funding arrangements further still.

Half of the projects examined by the NAO were delayed by up to a year. This was partly a result of late notification and distribution of funding from the Home Office. Uncertainty in the past over how much money Partnerships might receive from the Home Office meant that they had to wait before they could finalise project plans and recruit any staff required. Projects were also delayed because of difficulties in recruiting and retaining sufficient skilled staff.

Partnerships have been innovative in finding new ways to tackle crime but the NAO found that there is scope for greater review of projects in order to understand which are most effective. The NAO found that successful projects target underlying causes of crime through a strong analysis of local data and by drawing on lessons learned. But only 44 of the 72 projects examined had specific, measurable and realistic targets. There is also scope for the greater sharing of experience by Partnerships to avoid repeating mistakes made elsewhere and to spread the benefits of successful projects.

The report recommends that the Home Office Regional Directors work more closely with Partnerships to improve project management and the dissemination of good practice, and the merger of small neighbouring Partnerships to reduce administrative costs. As a major contributor to the Safer Stronger Communities grant scheme for 2005-06, the Home Office should work closely with other central government departments and agencies to finalise grant conditions and funding arrangements well in advance of the start of the financial year.

"The Home Office is funding a diverse array of crime reduction projects, many of which are innovative and contributing towards reductions in reported levels of crime. This is welcome. There is scope, however, for increased review of projects so that more is known about why the successful ones work and why the unsuccessful ones do not.

"Resources could also be used more effectively and more significant reductions in crime achieved if the burden upon Partnerships of having to administer complex funding grant conditions were minimised."

Sir John


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