Home News “Police and Crime Commissioners are here to stay” urges Home Affairs Committee report

“Police and Crime Commissioners are here to stay” urges Home Affairs Committee report

by Brian Sims
Keith Vaz MP: Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee

Keith Vaz MP: Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee

The Home Affairs Committee believes that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are here to stay, but warns of a lack of competition for chief constable vacancies and the need for more transparency across the police service.

As the first four-year term of PCCs draws to a close, the Home Affairs Select Committee states in its latest report that the PCCs who will be elected in May must prioritise consolidating the work of their predecessors before considering further expansions of their role and powers.

The Committee concludes the following:

*”It is deeply concerning that there have been so few applicants for recent chief constable vacancies. Many of these roles have been awarded to the incumbent deputy chief constables, who often share a close relationship with the relevant PCC”

*”Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) must be better equipped to hold PCCs to account – they are the only mechanism for accountability of PCCs outside of elections every four years – and PCCs should meet with their PCPs a minimum of once every two months”

*”There should be better transparency and accountability of PCCs. This should include a central register of PCCs’ interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs”

*”PCCs should consolidate their profile in the communities they represent. Turnout at the next elections will be one measure of success in engagement”

*”Any expansion of the PCC role needs to be incremental and carefully judged. The additional responsibilities for PCCs detailed in the Policing and Crime Bill in relation to fire and rescue, and in terms of police complaints provide sufficient additional challenges for now. PCCs should concentrate on the issues raised in this report, wider public engagement and their core role before broader expansion of their role is considered”

*”Progress on the new Police Funding Formula must be brought forward as damaging delays are making it impossible for PCCs to fulfil their role of setting force budgets. PCCs’ hands are tied by the stalled review which must be restarted urgently, with the establishment of the independent panel the Home Affairs Select Committee called for in its December report”

Consolidation of role and effectiveness

Chairman of the Committee, Keith Vaz MP, said: “PCCs are here to stay. A series of measures would consolidate their role and effectiveness in local communities. This must begin with a central register of PCCs’ interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs such that they can be better scrutinised by their electorate.”

Vaz continued: “We didn’t anticipate that the creation of PCCs would have such a dramatic effect on the appointment of chief constables. The pool of talent in policing is in danger of drying up, with so few applications for the most senior jobs. PCCs must ensure applicants for chief constable roles have served at least two years in another police force at a senior rank, and not allow close working relationships with their deputy chief constables to deter external applicants.”

In addition, Vaz said: “We should take care not to burden newly-elected office holders in May with too many additional responsibilities. They’re already due to be given more powers for Fire and Rescue Services and police complaints. An even broader remit on top of this may prove overwhelming. These proposals should be paused.”

New Board set up to oversee further police reform

Bringing police leaders together, the Police Reform and Transformation Board will support the service in making changes aiming to transform policing by 2020. The changes are needed to tackle new threats and improve the service for the public.

The Board will oversee five priorities for reform:

*local policing
*specialist capabilities like armed policing and organised crime investigation
*digital policing
*building a workforce with the right skills for the future
*improving collaboration in business support services

Winston Roddick QC, chairman of the Police Reform and Transformation Board and Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, said: “The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act introduced some very fundamental changes in the governance of the police service and probably the most radical since Robert Peel created the police service as we know it. What’s clear is that further reforms are necessary. The principal role of this Board will be to oversee and influence those changes.”

Sara Thornton

Sara Thornton

National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chair Sara Thornton explained: “Since 2010, there has been considerable reform within policing encompassing the establishment of the College of Policing and the National Crime Agency, directly elected local Police and Crime Commissioners and an operationally focused National Police Chiefs’ Council. However, there’s more work to be done.”

Thornton went on to state: “Changing crime and an evolving terrorist threat necessitate different responses and new methods of investigation as well as a more co-ordinated policing landscape than we currently have in place. We also need to do more to ensure that our staff are equipped to deal with the changing demand, modernise how we communicate with the public and make greater savings on ICT and procurement. Leaders from across the policing landscape have come together to drive this wide-ranging and ambitious reform agenda.”

Mike Penning MP

Mike Penning MP

Mike Penning, the Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, commented: “Police reform is working. Policing is more accountable, transparent and efficient under this Government, but there are still huge opportunities for police forces to work together to improve their capabilities, make greater use of technology, collaborate with other Emergency Services and drive better joint working across the criminal justice system.”

He also said: “As the Home Secretary told chief constables and Police and Crime Commissioners last year, there’s no excuse whatsoever not to deliver the next stage of reform. Police leaders must work together to drive collaboration and better alignment of capabilities for the good of policing as a whole. I’m pleased to see that policing is grasping this challenge and thinking not just about incremental reform, but fundamental transformation. I hope this Board, led by operational leaders and Police and Crime Commissioners, can help to deliver that.”

Benefit of the public

The Board met for the first time on 23 February and is an unincorporated, voluntary association of its members who will work collaboratively to reform policing for the benefit of the public. Its purpose is to oversee and support the change to ensure it’s coherent and provides the best service to the public, working with the NPCC co-ordination committees, the APCC standing groups, Home Office forces and the National Crime Agency.

Sir Tom Winsor

Sir Tom Winsor

The Board is chaired by PCC Winston Roddick, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and boasts the following constituent members:

*Sara Thornton (Chairman, NPCC)
*North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan, Northumbria PCC Vera Baird and Gloucestershire PCC Martin Surl
*Simon Cole (Chief Constable, Leicestershire), Stephen Kavanagh (Chief Constable, Essex) and David Thompson (Chief Constable, West Midlands)
*Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey (Metropolitan Police Service representative)
*Simon Duckworth (Member of the City of London’s Police Committee)
*Alex Marshall (Chief Executive, College of Policing)
*Lynne Owens (Director General, National Crime Agency)
*Mary Calam (Director General, Crime & Policing Group, Home Office)
*Sir Tom Winsor (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary) (Observer)

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