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Home Office proposes changes to Police and Crime Commissioners complaints system

by Brian Sims

Proposals aimed at changing the way in which complaints against Police and Crime Commissioners are managed have just been published by the Home Office.

Views have been invited on potential changes to the system for non-serious complaints (ie non-criminal) which are handled by Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) through the ‘informal resolution’ process.

With PCCs now taking on a greater role in the handling of complaints made against their local police force and their overall responsibilities also increasing in tandem, the Conservative Government believes the time is right to amend the system for complaints made against a PCC.

The proposed changes include:

*clarifying – through non-statutory guidance – what constitutes a complaint, ensuring that PCPs take forward complaints about a PCC’s conduct rather than their policy decisions

*providing PCPs with greater investigatory powers to seek evidence about allegations made in a complaint

*clarifying – again through non-statutory guidance – the parameters of ‘informal resolution’ and setting out that, where agreement cannot be reached, it’s open to PCPs to make recommendations on the expected level of behaviour of a PCC, and that they have powers to require the PCC to respond

Mike Penning MP

Mike Penning MP

Mike Penning – the Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims – stated: “With PCCs’ responsibilities increasing, we need to ensure that the system governing complaints about their conduct is effective and easy for the public to navigate. These new proposals will improve the transparency of the complaints procedure, delivering more satisfactory outcomes for complainants while ensuring the fundamental principle of accountability of PCCs to the electorate is not undermined in any way.”

Serious complaints – ie those which could relate to criminality – will continue to be handled by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. This process will remain unchanged.

*The consultation closes on 10 March 2016. The full consultation document can be found here

Police Grant Report 2016-2017

The Home Office has also released the Police Grant Report for 2016-2017 indicating the provisional revenue allocations for police forces in the next financial year.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, explained: “Our initial response to the Police Grant Report is that the increases being offered are, in most cases, quite minimal. In line with the Chancellor’s statements, there has been no decrease in funds. However, the average cash increase for the police forces around the country is 0.5%, with one force having a zero budget increase.”

White said it’s important to note that all the figures in the report are reliant on the assumption that local Government authorities and the Welsh Government will agree to increase precepts (the amount people pay in council tax, part of which goes to fund public services including Police and Crime Commissioners’ budgets) by the maximum of 2%.

“The police forces of England and Wales are already working under extreme budgetary pressure, and the public can be assured that they will continue to do their very best to derive the most out of the resources they have at their disposal,” suggested White. “However, the way in which police forces are allocated funding remains confusing. Until a system is adopted that ensures all forces are properly funded then these inequalities will remain.”

Steve White: chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales

Steve White: chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales

White went on to state: “We welcome assurances from the Home Office that the budget will increase counter-terrorism police funding, and that this money will be used to continue the ongoing job of police reform. However, officers need to be properly resourced just to do their day jobs, and absolutely must have the right equipment available to them.”

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has detailed that there are further efficiencies needed within the police service. The Home Office hopes that Police and Crime Commissioners and chief officers will continue to drive these efficiencies, safeguard the quality of policing and reduce crime.

In conclusion, White commented: “We agree with the Minister’s statements that further reform of the police service needs to happen, but only if it improves service delivery. We will continue to work with Police and Crime Commissioners and chief constables to ensure that savings made still allow officers to do their jobs properly and that they continue to protect members of the public.”

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