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POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONERS PART2

25 Feb

It is certainly the case that since John Prescott through his hat into the ring the media coverage of PCCs has increased.

We now know that West Yorkshire’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner could receive a £100,000 salary – and still be cheaper than the 17-strong Police Authority. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/100_000_west_yorkshire_police_boss_would_be_good_value_1_4284665

Whether that is what the government intended I am not sure. The media don’t appear to think so with the Huffington Post reporting that

“Tory Police Commissioner Candidates A “Massive Disappointment For Number 10”

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/21/tory-police-commissioner-massive-disappointment-number-10_n_1291369.html

Is that why the Guardian have asserted that

“when elected police and crime commissioners flex their muscles, there may be real friction with Whitehall”

To be fair the article does look at the changes to the tripartite relationship with Chief Constables and the Home Office. http://www.guardian.co.uk/public-leaders-network/2012/feb/20/police-elections-friction-with-whitehall?newsfeed=true

But it does pose one very pertinent question. “What if commissioners insist on more spending in order to deliver more value and can muster local political will?” However it does not ask what if they want to spend more and cannot muster local political support. Can the police and crime panel force a referendum on the issue or does the Home Secretary have the right to impose their will?

Does this mean we may have a struggle between those who judge success of crime rates, those who base it on public satisfaction rates and those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing?

It is issues like this which show that whilst there is quite clearly a need to focus on the individual, we also need more public awareness (and that includes amongst those involved in policing) of exactly what the role and infrastructure is.

It is true that there is some good information available at sites like

http://topofthecops.com/ and http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/police-crime-commissioners/ and I am extremely grateful for the comments and feedback which I have received after the posting https://nypfjbb.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/police-crime-commissioners/

The questions posed there need to be part of a public wider debate through, traditional media, social media and proper public question and answer sessions taking place at a time whe they can get there.

According to a recent article in The Economist the answer to problems around crime and democracy lies in localism, and giving the silent majority control of police priorities. http://www.economist.com/node/21548209

If that is true then why are political parties seeking nominations from people to be Police and Crime Commissioners.

Surely it would be better if these candidates had no links to political parties, especially as their scrutiny body – the police and crime panel will comprise of a minimum of 12 county councilors who will equally no doubt be nominated by their parties.

This is about a lot more than ‘Bobbies on the Ballot’ the headline of the latest article in The Economist. http://www.economist.com/node/21548265 It is true that police officers their friends and families, along with police staff, their friends and families will carry a large number of votes in the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners.

It is equally true that now the restriction on the number of terms a Police and Crime Commissioner can serve has disappeared whoever is elected will need to work on their relationship with police officers and staff.

And as part of what the Economist heralds as “The most radical transformation of policing in decades” this will also mean that locally, nationally and regionally the Police Federation, Superintendent’s Association and CPOSA (not ACPO who are a private company and not a staff association) along with unions – need to ensure they have proper dialogue and timely consultation on matters with the PCCs. But at the same time they need to make it clear, as my own JBB has – that we will engage with anyone but cannot and will not endorse anyone.

Of those seeking nominations that have thus declared there are many current / ex police authority members. How do they justify their new position when the Association of Police Authorities is on record as welcoming the attempt by Peers to delete directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners from the Government’s Police Reform and Social Responsibility bill? http://www.apa.police.uk/news-releases/house-of-lords-rejects-police-and-crime-commissioners

Are those who have been police authority members of senior police officers coming to the table vicariously liable for what happened on their watch? If they take credit for the successes whilst in their former role will they also accept their share of the collective blame for the nadirs in same period?

Who will appoint the deputy PCCs? What are the answers to the questions on this role posed at https://nypfjbb.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/police-crime-commissioners/

Will Police and Crime Panels we a watered down version of the police authority?

Exactly what does the voting system for PCCs look like as I am led to believe it will not be just a straight first past the post voting system. Is what is coming a gimmick or a genuine attempt to re-engage voters with the democratic process.

If the government genuinely wants to give the silent majority the control of policing then there needs to be serious public debate about all the issues. That needs to get across to the wider public – whether that be through public meetings at a time when the public can attend, use of social media and the use of traditional media. To do anything else would not be democratic or value for money.

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3 Comments

Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

3 responses to “POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONERS PART2

  1. samchapman

    February 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for reminding folk about http://www.TopOfTheCops.com
    Now, where to start with the points you raise? There is so much to go on!

    Firstly, I would be surprised if the cost of PCCs themselves did not make for a considerable saving on police authorities. In my area the basic allowance for each of 17 members is £10,000, without considering the maze of expenses and special responsibility allowances, so even at £100,000, the saving is obvious. 1 person does not need the same support arrangements as 17 people, and there may be a case for further savings there, though it should be admitted that this is a tiny fraction of the spend on policing.

    On political parties, and as a member of one I should declare an interest, I don’t think they are always a bad thing. In an area the size of North Yorkshire, how many of the electorate know much, if anything, about the candidates. Who can convey relevant information to them? Who can provide basic vetting and some kind of application/interview process to weed out unsuitable people? Who can provide a little insight into candidate’s political philosophies? Political parties.

    Let’s be clear, parties can get it very wrong, and do not have the monopoly on good candidates, so there will be areas where the parties don’t add value, but on balance they probably help in most places.

     
  2. ianchisnall

    February 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I am with you on the issue of party politics, and sorry Sam not with you. That is not a rejection of the role of political parties for as long as they serve a value in other places. However in the case of PCCs the political parties are well and truly involved through the PCP. As it happens I don’t see a conflict between opposing aspects of the policy and yet standing as a candidate. The structure of these new arrangements is far from thought through and the reason why I oppose on principle the involvement of political parties, is that which you have touched on in your blog. In Sussex we have a PCP with 15 members plus two Independendents who will be chosen by the same political power base as chooses most of the other 15. If this (let us call it Conservative) group also gets to nominate the candidate which their electorate are expected to endorse through the polling, then we are looking at a very much worse situation than the position that Michael Howard was reforming in 1995.

    As an Independent PCC I will be keen to work with the PCP and indeed see their role as being far more important than simply what has been laid down in statute. They will be people who are connected to the electorate through a different route to me. However just as the Lords and Commons are at their best when they are providing a counterbalance to one another, this is where I think the strength of the PCP will emerge. If their counterbalance was limited to different shades of blue, then frankly we would be wasting the £30,000 budget from the outset.

    I also question if politicians who have spent their working lives arguing for local issues, can in any meaningful way change the lens as if they are a TV camera. Most Councillors at both District and County elections despise town and parish councillors because of their parochial outlook. This same failing will now be seen in the candidates for PCC. Possibly ok in a single County such as Kent (sans Medway) but out of the question in places such as Sussex (2 Counties and 1 Unitary) and Berkshire (6 Unitaries).

     

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