Home Secretary Theresa May has moved to spell out the achievements of “the pioneering first generation” of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to date, and also discuss how this specialist role could be further developed in the future.
The Home Secretary told an audience of police leaders how PCCs have used their personal mandate to drive positive change not just in policing and crime, but also in the fields of criminal justice, mental health and the wider Emergency Services while promoting collaboration and joint working.
Theresa May spoke of how the relationship between directly-elected PCCs and police chief constables has, by and large, been one of “healthy tension and respect for one another’s positions” despite critics’ predictions that they would frequently clash.
The Home Secretary confirmed that PCCs “are here to stay”, saying she looks forward to seeing what the next generation of PCCs will do.
May went on to highlight examples of how PCCs have engaged with the public, commissioned reviews in specific areas of concern to local people, worked to protect vulnerable individuals and delivered value for money for the taxpayer. Examples include:
*In Sussex, pioneering webcasts and public accountability meetings have involved the public in the practice of holding the chief constable to account
*In Devon and Cornwall, a review of call handling was commissioned following complaints about the service from members of the public
*In Greater Manchester, the decision to commission the Coffey Report into child abuse demonstrated firm action on this difficult and sensitive issue
*In Northumbria, a range of initiatives have been introduced to tackle violence against women and girls, among them encouraging door staff to adopt a Duty of Care towards all those in the night-time economy and partnering outreach workers with police officers on all domestic violence call-outs
*In Dyfed-Powys, the police precept element of council tax has been frozen year-on-year to keep taxes down
Range of initiatives
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The range of initiatives is broad, the ideas fresh and innovative and the benefits to the police and the public tremendous. In summation, PCCs are doing things that police authorities could never have imagined, and could never have hoped to achieve.”
The Home Secretary spoke about how the Government is committed to helping PCCs tackle ongoing challenges after the elections in May. This includes legislation allowing chief constables to use specialist volunteers in the fight against complex fraud and cyber crime, the overall protection of police force budgets over the course of this Parliament and measures designed to enable PCCs to take on responsibilities for Fire and Rescue Services locally where a case is made for doing so.
In addition, the Home Secretary stressed how she would like to see the role of PCCs expanded further still as we move into the future.
“Together with the Justice Secretary Michael Gove,” explained May, “I’ve been exploring what role PCCs could play in the wider criminal justice system. This is something that I have long believed in, and which a number of PCCs have shown an interest in. As they say, there’s a reason that we included the words ‘and Crime’ in PCCs’ titles.”
May continued: “After the May elections, the Government will set out further proposals for Police and Crime Commissioners. As a number of PCCs have argued, youth justice, probation and court services can have a significant impact on crime in their areas, and there are real efficiencies to be had from better integration and information sharing on these issues.”
The Home Secretary went on to state: “We are yet to decide the full extent of these proposals and the form they will take, but I’m absolutely clear that there’s a significant opportunity here for PCCs to lead the same type of reform they’ve delivered in the realm of the Emergency Services in the wider criminal justice system.”
May also explained: “There are other opportunities, too. I believe the next set of PCCs should bring together the two great reforms of the last Parliament – namely police reform and school reform – and possibly set up alternative provision for schools to support troubled children and, ultimately, prevent them from falling into a life of crime.”
In conclusion, May said: “We can be pleased with what has been achieved to date, and with the role that PCCs are playing in making policing more accountable and effective.”