Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why I welcome the Government's new ‘Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill’

Today we have seen the new ‘Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill’ introduced in the Queens Speech. As someone who has been involved with local Policing for a number of years this as taken far too long to become reality.

There have been times when I’ve wondered if we still had a Police Force that my parents generation could recognise from when they were my age - or had it been replaced by a bureaucratic machine, the product of a centralist, target driven, tick box culture controlled by unelected, unaccountable chief constables and police authorities who didn’t have the weight to impart their will against the Socialist central control we’ve seen for the past 13 years.

With central control came empire building and the Police becoming more distant, small stations have closed and bigger and ‘more efficient’ massive offices appeared, meaning the local touch, and local knowledge is confined to often overstretched Local Policing Teams, who are then shackled with bureaucracy, red tape and Health and Safety.

Could we ever have imagined there would be so many targets; central targets, locally agreed (?) targets, satisfaction and confidence targets within the Policing Pledge, and not forgetting those shared National Indicators? If these targets are taken as a whole it contains so many contradictions to make the whole thing both ridiculous and untenable.

This is why this centralist agenda had to be stopped and why I welcome the Governments new ‘Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill’ which is detailed as follows:

The purpose of the Bill is to:

Make the police service more accountable to local people, create a dedicated Border Police Force and set out measures to tackle alcohol-related violence and disorder.

The main benefits of the Bill would be:
  • Increased police accountability through directly elected individuals.
  • Improved relationships between police and local residents.
  • Amended health and safety laws that do not stand in the way of ‘common sense’ policing.
  • Enhanced national security.
  • Improved immigration controls.
  • Stronger powers to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder.
The main elements of the Bill are:

  • Directly elected individuals to hold the police to account. They would ensure that local policing activities meet the needs of the local community, help build confidence in the system and bring communities and the police together.
  • Amended health and safety laws that do not stand in the way of ‘common sense’ policing.
  • Dedicated Border Police Force, as part of a refocused Serious Organised Crime Agency, to enhance national security, improve immigration controls, and crack down on the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs.
  • Strengthened relations to deal with serious crime and extended collaboration between forces to deliver better value for money.
  • Overhaul of the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licenses from, or refuse to grant licenses to, any premises that are causing problems. Banning the sale of alcohol below cost price. Also allowing local councils to charge more for late-night licenses to pay for additional policing, giving them powers to shut down shops or bars persistently selling to children and doubling the maximum fine for selling to children to £20,000.


Daniel Bond said...

My slight reservation is that directly elected police commissioners have been replaced by being accountable to local authorities, which just isn't the same at all. This whole localist agenda is excellent, don't get me wrong, but I can't help feeling the Lib Dem influence has been to make some excellent manifesto proposals somehow less satisfactory. What was once a manifesto copied almost verbatim from "The Plan" by Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan is now a set of proposals which miss the mark a bit in a lot of different ways.

Paul Robinson said...

Hi Daniel - I fully agree with you re. The 'watering down' of ideas in 'the plan' by our coalition partners... but what remains is still excellent if not perfect as far as delivering the localism agenda.

It is my understanding that there is still work to do here and that we will get the elected police commissioners. To have the police accountable to local authorities is maintaining the status quo, as presently the majority of the Police Authority members are in fact local authority councillors. This has to change… Paul

Paul Robinson said...

I've looked at the text from Home Secretary Teresa May's speech to the Police Federation Conference last week, where she vowed to give police greater professional discretion. However, in return for great autonomy from Whitehall, she suggested that the police must “accept a transfer of power over policing from Whitehall to communities by giving local people a real say over how their streets are policed.” She went on to announce a proposal of directly elected police commissioners.

This policy was first outlined in a 2002 paper, Direct Democracy: empowering people to make their lives better.

Anonymous said...

Amongst the casualties of past reform were the selliing off of the police station/courthouses in Howden and Brough. Yes we had newer (not better) stations built, but the social impact to Howden especially, where a centrally located business is occupying the central site without adequate provision for parking has caused devastation. The present station is poorly located to serve the town, we have no court and ERYCs planners should be sacked for their incompetence in allowing the development without adequate on site parking.

Daniel Bond said...

That is good news, was slightly concerned that some of the best proposals would likely be neutered.

Must read "Direct Democracy", have read "The Plan" which developed a lot of the ideas, but would be nice to see where it started.