Leaving aside all the hype and propaganda there is in my opinion not very much difference between the existing and new arrangements for managing the police.
I have compared below the existing Police Authority arrangements with the soon to be introduced Police and crime Commissioner arrangements.
The one key difference is that the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) will be elected by the public within the police area for which the PCC will be responsible. There is also a shift in powers from the existing police authority a collective group of people to the PCC one individual as set out below. However the PCC’s work will be scrutinised by the Crime and Police panel and are in effect exercising a similar role to that of the Police Authority?
I have taken the information reproduced below from the information available for the West Midlands police area specifically http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/wmpcp & http://www.west-midlands-pa.gov.uk/index.asp
The existing Police Authority has the following responsibilities and duties:
“While the overriding statutory duty is to secure an efficient and effective police force for its area, the Authority has a number of other duties:
Setting local objectives, reflecting national objectives set by the Home Secretary and approving the Policing Plan
Ensuring that Best Value is achieved in every area of force activity
Paying regard to the need to reduce crime and disorder and appoint representatives to each Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in our area; there are seven in the West Midlands, one for each of the unitary authorities that constitute the West Midlands
Setting the budget requirement each year and setting a precept as an element of the Council Tax to fund local policing and monitor expenditure and income against budget
Ensuring that arrangements exist for consulting the public on matters concerning the policing of the area and for obtaining public co-operation with the police in crime prevention
Appointing Chief Officers
Making arrangements for one or more of its members to attend local council meetings to take questions from local authority members on the discharge of the functions of the Authority
Publishing its plans and accounts
Operating a custody visiting scheme for the area”
The current West Midlands Police Authority consists of seventeen members eight of whom are Councillors & nine independent members three of whom are Justices of the Peace and one other of the independent members is the current Chair of the Police authority
Looking at the new arrangements the PCC will:
“Set the police budget and the policing precept (the “policing precept” is the part of local council tax that goes to the police)
Consult the public, including victims of crime, on policing and community safety
Write and implement policing and crime plans that include strategic objectives and targets
Work with partners on community safety and policing
Monitor police performance and hold the Chief Constable to account
Monitor how the police deal with complaints
Appoint a Deputy PCC if desired
The existing police authority will be replaced by the Police and Crime Panel whose responsibilities will be to hold the Commissioner to account and scrutinise their work.
The PCP will act as a critical friend to the Commissioner – assisting them through independent challenge.
The Panel has a number of powers and responsibilities, including:
- Reviewing the draft Police and Crime Plan to ensure local priorities have been considered
- Scrutinising the Commissioner’s Annual Report
- Scrutinising the decisions and actions of the Commissioner
- Reviewing, and potentially vetoing, the Commissioner’s proposed policing precept*
- Holding confirmation hearings for the proposed appointment of a Chief Constable and senior support staff
*the money collected from Council Tax for policing
The West Midlands Police and Crime Panel will be made up of twelve local councillors from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and two co-opted independent members. The Panel will be appointing two local people as independent members through an open recruitment process.”
In summary the Police and Crime Panel has more councillors, less independents, no JP’s and totals 16 individuals – If we add the PCC we arrive at the same number of members that make up the existing Police Authority
We have a shift in the balance of power from the collective Police Authority to the individual elected Police and Crime Commissioner, no change in numbers although the Police and Crime panel will have less independent members, more councillors and the added cost of the elections at some £75 million.
You will be pleased to note that “The government has said that the total running costs for PCCs will be no greater than the total cost of the police authorities they replace”.
I appreciate that the arrangements are not the same and that a directly elected official is being added to the mix but is it really going to make that much of a difference when the actual duties remain more or less the same?
There has to be the possibility that the new arrangements may actually result in a less democratic process as the number of councillors increase and the independents decrease creating a stronger political party presence within the Crime and Police panel, and who may be able to influence or be influenced by the PCC.