Police and crime panels are integral to the governance of blue light services.
The first police and crime commissioners were elected in 2012. So, more than 10 years since their introduction, what’s the verdict?
The LGA has consistently highlighted that, to a degree, the effectiveness of a police and crime commissioner’s (PCC) oversight of local policing depends on the individual.
The PCC model, beyond the core policing role, should be flexible, reflecting that what is right for one area may not be appropriate for others, depending on local circumstances and other governance structures.
At an inquiry on PCCs back in November, the LGA shared with the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee how more work is needed to raise awareness of the PCC role, give the public the tools to judge performance, and, by doing so, ensure genuine democratic accountability at the ballot box.
Good governance, robust scrutiny and strong supportive partnerships are essential for communities that rely on excellent police and fire and rescue services, a fair criminal justice system and effective blue light collaboration.
They are also important for a vibrant local democracy.
Police and crime panels (PCPs) – which provide support and scrutiny to PCCs – have an important role to play in these arrangements.
Any conversation about PCCs is incomplete without mentioning PCPs, and since 2012, panels have shown that they are able to play a constructive role in providing challenge and support to PCCs.
They are an intrinsic part of a network of relationships and processes, and integral to the governance arrangements for policing.
However, the key determinant of a panel’s influence with the PCC is often the nature of the relationship between the panel and the PCC, alongside the receptiveness of the PCC to the role of the panel.
The Home Office should consider how training and membership requirements could be used to help strengthen the work of panels, as well as ensuring that it consistently emphasises the importance of the role of panels, rather than downplaying it.
The LGA has also received comments on the lack of tools available to PCPs. Many panels have highlighted the limitations in their powers to require PCCs to respond to their concerns.
The panel’s power of veto is a clear illustration of this. Panels are able to veto the PCC’s first proposed council tax precept, or proposed appointment of a chief constable, but then powerless to require changes beyond this, even if, in the case of the precept, the PCC makes only minor changes.
Some panels have therefore suggested that the power of veto could be strengthened to include a second power of veto, or a requirement for majority panel support following an initial veto.
The idea of pre-scrutiny of major decisions by the PCC has also been proposed. Some panels have introduced innovative ways of questioning the PCC. Government support for sharing these innovations would be appreciated.
The LGA would welcome reform of the PCC model in a range of areas, including: funding of PCPs; raising public awareness of the role of PCCs; consideration of powers around veto; guidance on the complex complaints system; and consideration of a recall process for PCCs.
We will, as ever, continue to work with the Home Office to ensure that the sector has the support it needs, delivered in the most appropriate way.
Visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament to find out more about the LGA’s parliamentary work.