As a great supporter of extending democracy, devolving power and giving people more choice in who represents them; to have elected Police Commissioners is a positive step in this direction.
Elected Police Commissioners were a key plank of the Conservative Party manifesto, the concept is enshrined in the Coalition agreement. I have spoken in support of this concept many times, including on the doorstep during the election campaign, at meetings and to the Police themselves.
Looking at how officials are elected in America, not perfect by any means but it brings in democracy and more importantly accountability to Policing. It leads to more people taking an interest and becoming involved – something we have seen very little of at many of our Police and Partners Community Forum meetings.
For me this is about devolving democracy, decision making and accountability to local people.
In fact I would like the concept of elected Police Commissioners extended – to include fire and health commissioners.
I do not believe overall neither the Police Authority nor the Fire Authority are efficient uses of public money. They have grown into overly large self-serving organisations that could, and should be more accountable and democratic.
Lessons can certainly be learnt from the past. If we look back to 1996 the Council’s previous Chief executive acted as Clerk to the Humberside Police Authority. The Director of Finance of North Lincolnshire Council acted as the Treasurer. Since then the growth in scope of the Police Authority has meant they have appointed their own chief exec and secretariat including staff to meet their requirements.
With Humberside Fire Authority, the Council’s Chief Exec was the Secretary and Solicitor to the organisation from 1996 until 2004, and we provided legal, committee management and property services. Hull City Council provided finance and audit services. Since then the Fire Authority has appointed its own solicitor/secretary and finance personnel. Although the council continues to provide property services to the Fire Authority.
It is hard to believe that since then the arrangements put in place by these relatively small public authorities/bodies represent value for money and are cost effective compared with the services available from the local authorities.
In this respect I would certainly welcome a new Police Commissioner learning from, and revisiting the financial benefits of this partnership working we saw previous to 1997.
There is far more scope for councils to share services between themselves and with other public bodies, if the major public service providers were more willing to bring officer functions together as we saw in the past, we would see less staff to deliver the same output - Achieving colossal savings without cutting front line staff. I cannot see this happening with the Police Authority as we see it – BUT I believe a Police Commissioner elected with a clear mandate to improve policing will be the catalyst for this to happen.
I welcome the plans to introduce Police and Crime Panels consisting of a minimum of 10 councillors to scrutinise the work of Commissioners. This will ensure elected members still have a key role and a say in how policing is delivered in the area.
I also welcome the proposal, and the Local Government Association (LGA) support for the Police and Crime Panels being able to veto a Commissioner’s proposed budget by a three quarters majority vote, and also to veto any candidate recommended by the Commissioner for Chief Constable.
Cost – the cost to run an election is not so high as to be prohibitive, especially if run in conjunction with local elections, which we will no doubt see in some parts of Humberside.
The culture of horizontal thinking and protectionism we see in parts of the public sector is unacceptable… We see Police and Fire looking to regionalise rather than work together… flying in the face of localism by moving decision making away from the area and from local people – and the election of Local Police Commissioners will go a long way in addressing this.
At the end of the debate the Conservative Councillors and the Independent Member on the Committee agreed with my proposal and it was resolved that:
The Committee support the concept of Elected Police Commissioners and:
- Welcome the plans to introduce Police and Crime Panels consisting of a minimum of 10 councillors to scrutinise the work of Commissioners. This will ensure elected members still have a key role and a say in how policing is delivered in the area.
- Welcome the proposal and the Local Government Association (LGA) support for the Police and Crime Panels being able to veto a Commissioner’s proposed budget by a three quarters majority vote, and also to veto any candidate recommended by the Commissioner for Chief Constable.