Posts Tagged ‘police commissioners’

Begrudgingly, Labour must accept police and crime commissioners

20/11/2012, 07:00:52 AM

by David Talbot

The police must no longer be immune to radical reform. A mighty vested interest, which has historically seen off just about all attempts to reform it, they have grown into a monolithic empire that successive governments dare not touch. It has been a failure of political will to pursue reform; Blair balked from many of the more controversial reforms his bellicose former home secretaries, in the shape of Messrs Blunkett and Clarke, conjured up. For Labour’s leaders, being pro-police was a vital ingredient of being New Labour. But the myopic faith our political leaders, and the public, once had in the police has sadly waned in the light of recent events – and it is why Labour should welcome the newly-minted police and crime commissioners

The police have long claimed the irrelevance of their political masters when it comes to policing. They have operated an arrogant closed doors policy that has intimidated, and dissuaded, many from engaging in their work. These reactions demonstrate that our police are systemically intolerant of debate and virulently closed to new ideas.

The police need democratic oversight. They are one of the most closed, complex and costly of public services. It is can only be right that the police are brought closer to the very people they are sworn to protect. The apparent immunity of the police service to wider accountability has been a distressing aspect of the service ever since the committees of councillors, members of the public and magistrates took over in the 1960s from local watch committees, which had existed since the 1830s.


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Time to put away the needle and thread and stop stitching up selections

11/04/2012, 08:30:59 AM

by Peter Watt

If I was sat in Labour party HQ in Victoria Street right now, staring down the barrel of further financial strife, then I would be tempted to do everything I could to minimise unnecessary expenditure.  And I would be right to do so.  If the reports are true that the party overspent last year by £1.7 million then it is quite a big gun after all!

But if it really is financial strife that has apparently lead to a proposal to ban sitting MPs from standing for election to directly elected mayors or police and crime commissioners later this year, then that is a terrible error.

It is however an error that merely highlights a serious malaise at the heart of our politics, and to be fair, the politics of all of the major parties.

On the face of it, the argument for the decision to ban ambitious MP’s from standing is persuasive.  Each by-election will cost £70 – £100,000 or so.  We might lose to another (popular) candidate.  Why take the risk?

But these reasons are all predicated on an out-of-date thought process.

The assumption is that the only way to win is for the party to impose the “right” candidate. That the campaign must be run using the central party machine which imposes the will of the “experts” on the locals.  And finally that the campaign must then spend on staff, hotels, travel, campaign HQ and lots of flash literature.  All spending money that the party doesn’t actually have.

To be fair, for many years this model served the party pretty well.  As I know well because I have worked on, planned, set budgets for and managed selections (read into that what you will) for more by-elections than I care to remember.  But it is a model that is simply no longer fit for purpose.


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Police Commissioner deadline extended as candidates start to emerge

20/02/2012, 03:53:46 PM

Labour Uncut has learned that party officials have extended the deadline for applications for Labour candidates hoping to become Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

Originally, potential candidates had until 17 February (last Friday) to submit applications for the 40 new roles which cover existing force areas. Now, the party is saying that it will “accept applications from interested individuals until the end of February”.

The two-week deadline extension hints at a shortage of potential candidates. One possible reason is that candidates must actually live in the force area they wish to stand in. A panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee is expected to meet in early March to begin shortlisting in each area.

The most high-profile candidate to emerge so far remains John Prescott in Humberside. Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband came close to backing him, saying he was an  “unstoppable force and I’m sure he’d be a great police commissioner.” Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also praised the former deputy prime minister, saying he would do an “extraordinarily good job.”

Sitting MPs hoping to become police commissioners include current Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd, who is hoping to become Labour’s candidate in Greater Manchester and former Welsh First Minister, Alun Michael, who is hoping to stand in South Wales. By-elections for their Westminster seats will be triggered if either wins.

Perhaps the most closely fought contest will be in Merseyside where two former Labour ministers are set to go head-to-head. Jane Kennedy and Peter Kilfoyle, who both stood down at the last general election, will compete for the Labour nomination.

Other former Labour ministers who have announced their candidacies include Paddy Tipping, a former deputy leader of the house (Nottinghamshire) and former DWP minister James Plaskitt (Warwickshire).

In South Yorkshire, former Chief Constable Med Hughes has announced he is standing for the Labour nomination – just four months after retiring from the force. He previously claimed politicians were not “of the right calibre” to be police commissioners.

Police and crime commissioners will set strategic priorities for their force, while chief constables will lead on operational matters. Elections will be held on Thursday 15 November, the same day earmarked for elections for any city that chooses to have a directly elected mayor in May’s referendum.

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Cameron must rethink police cuts

11/08/2011, 02:14:05 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

Two weeks ago, I highlighted the embarrassing gulf between David Cameron’s pre-election promise that cuts would not affect the front line, and the reality of the planned police cuts, as set out in the recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

There is undoubtedly scope for efficiency savings in the police, but as HMIC set out, with 81% of police funding going on staff costs, and another 10% going on areas like transport and premises, cuts of 20% were always going to cut deep into police numbers. HMIC’s report is the most systematic and rigorous attempt so far, to estimate not just the likely effect on total police numbers – a cut of 16,000 by 2015, ironically the exact number the Met have deployed on London’s streets in recent nights – but also the likely effect on the front line for different forces around the country.

This is relevant to Cameron’s defence of the policing cuts today, when he was confronted in the Commons by former Home Secretary Jack Straw. To justify his assertion that the cuts will not affect the front line, or visible patrolling, Cameron chose to discuss his own local force, Thames Valley. This choice was either ignorant, or disingenuous. A glance at the graph on page 22 of the HMIC report shows the difference in the scale of the challenge faced by Thames Valley Police, in trying to protect the front line from spending cuts, compared to those forces who have been dealing with the riots, including the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside. Thames Valley Police would have to reduce their non-front-line officers by just under 50%, in order to avoid cutting into the front line. That is challenging, but arguably possible. By contrast, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside forces would have to cut their non-front-line officers by 100%. Even those who hold the simplistic view that almost all ‘back office’ jobs are unnecessary would have to admit that to cut at this level without affecting front line police numbers is simply impossible.

As public concern about crime and policing soars, the government seems to be trapped in defending two increasingly indefensible claims: first, that the cuts won’t reduce front line police numbers, and second, that anyway police numbers don’t affect crime. This position was already starting to look naïve or complacent before the riots, especially with the signs that the long downward trend in crime may be on the turn. Now it looks reckless and hopelessly out of touch, as even Conservative MPs and ‘ministerial sources’ admit.

It has been amusing, if also a bit depressing, to watch Tory cheerleaders like Tim Montgomerie suggest that the way out of this problem is for Theresa May to introduce a new target for how much time police officers actually spend doing visible work. In fact, May inherited such a target from Labour. Admittedly, it was applied only to Neighbourhood Policing Teams, but she could have chosen to extend it; instead, in those heady days of last summer when ministers were falling over themselves to mock Labour’s ‘top-down targets’, she scrapped it.

Even more ridiculous is the spectacle of Conservative MPs and Conservative-leaning think-tankers trying to use the riots to back up the case for elected police commissioners – just like they did with the scandal over the Met’s links to News International – without realising that the Met is precisely the one police force which is already very close to the elected commissioner model.

These rather desperate moves are not surprising, since other than elected commissioners, and some useful development of Labour’s introduction of online crime maps, the government doesn’t really have any crime policies – and yet they need to talk about something other than police cuts. But these moves aren’t working. As John McTernan noted this morning, Cameron’s reluctance to break off his holiday to grip the riots ignored the “basic political law, that if you’re going to have to do something, you should do it of your own free will, rather than being forced to.” He needs to realise that rethinking the police cuts falls in the same category.

Matt Cavanagh was a special adviser on crime and justice under the last Labour government.

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