Police and Crime Commissioners: Why these Elections are Important

I will stand up for communities against the Tories’ 20 per cent cuts to policing and the loss of 141 police officers in Avon and Somerset.

· Keep police on the beat with neighbourhood policing, not hand it over to private companies or leave it only to PCSOs.

· Back a strong and swift response to antisocial behaviour. Victims should get a response within 24 hours.

· Be tough on crime and tough on prevention. We will work in partnership with police, local people and councils to tackle and prevent crime.

· Protect the police from political interference. I have signed a contract to respect the independence of the Chief Constable.

The first elections for the new posts of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) take place on the 15th November this year. There will be a PCC in every police force area in England and Wales. As current Mayor of London with responsibility for policing  Boris Johnson is also in effect the first elected PCC.

The introduction of PCCs has been controversial. The fear is that policing may become even more politicised than at present or that the election of a “maverick” with the powers and budgets held by a PCC may exert undue influence or find themselves in a gridlock with local members over setting of precepts etc. There is also concern that the elections, which will be held using a new supplementary Vote (SV) model in November with the government refusing to allow the usual candidate free mail shots, will lead to an uninformed electorate and a low turnout at the polls. Similar arguments are propounded over the introduction of elected Mayors.

The posts are indeed influential. PCCs will replace existing Police authorities and be responsible for:

  • Appointing the Chief Constable and holding them to account for the running of the police force;
  • Setting out a 5 year Police and Crime Plan determining local policing policies, setting the annual precept and annual force budget;
  • Holding  Home Office Budgets currently ring-fenced for community safety, substance misuse, victims and witnesses services and crime prevention services provided  through Youth Offending Teams (YOTs).

The elections of Commissioners are now going ahead and it is critical that they attract experienced  candidates and an informed and interested electorate. The election of PCCs can and should open an effective dialogue between all members of society regardless of gender, race, age, faith or income about not just the shape and direction of policing but also that of crime prevention, the role and responsibilities towards victims and indeed the very societal relationship with the police and policing. The elections and the campaign leading up to them provide a unique opportunity to bring this debate to the fore and for political parties and independent candidates to take the lead in this. If the government are serious about their wish to see these elections as the foundation of the introduction of  localism then they must also look at what more they can do to improve central communications.

Bob Ashford