Just when you thought Police and Crime Commissioners couldn’t get worse

Police helmet

As a Party we have never been fans. Some even suggested (mistakenly in my view) that the concept was so bad that we should boycott the elections in 2012.

The idea that one person (usually a white man) should have such a significant say on such a sensitive area as policing – and often over an area covering several counties – was clearly absurd. It still is.

The Government is already thinking of giving PCCs the control of fire authorities on the time-honoured principle of ‘if it’s not broke, then fix it anyway’.

But yesterday’s speech by Theresa May beggars belief. The Home Secretary has apparently been working with the Justice Secretary to look at the criminal justice system, and will bring forward proposals for PCCs to have a role in youth justice, probation and court services. The exact form of these has yet to be decided, but the Home Secretary argued that there are real efficiencies to be made through joining up and sharing services in these areas.

May also outlined proposals to bring together the two Conservative innovations (they would call them ‘reforms’) of PCCs and free schools with the idea of creating free schools for troubled children, with the objective of diverting youngsters from a life of crime.

In fact this is already happening, with the PCC for Northamptonshire (Conservative, of course) planning to open a 1200 pupil free school later in the year.

So a half-baked idea, which has certainly had its downs as well as questionable ups, is to be vastly expanded to take on roles that should either never have been taken away from local authorities or should have been handed over to them in the first place.

The prospects for councillors, diversity and local government continue under this Government to be chilling. What next will be handed over to PCCs? Ambulances? Social care?

* Chris White is a member of the Liberal Democrat Voice Editorial Team, a Liberal Democrat Councillor from St Albans and Deputy Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group.

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  • “usually a white man”

    And the introduction of Identity politics adds to this discussion how?

    Is it less of a problem if concentrated power is centralised on an individual who is a different ethnicity, so in Africa or Asia? Is there a history of it being hugely successful there? Or perhaps when it is a Woman, so I take it the LibDems were happy with Thatcher centralising power… oh, no? Hmmm.

    Perhaps we should leave the identity politics out of this and stick to the liberal belief that concentrations of power are risky and should be viewed with suspicion. There is no need to bring other people’s bad methods of analysis in to discussing this. It sounds like there is enough bad thinking on the other side you don’t need to try and even the score.

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Feb '16 - 11:43am

    Rather than boycott the elections why not stand candidates seeking a mandate to abolish the post?

  • That happened with Mayoral elections. Dorothy Thornhill was elected saying she would try to abolish the position (having nearly defeated the referendum to set one up) Shes no midway through her fourth term of office….

  • Alex Macfie 5th Feb '16 - 12:27pm

    Abolishing the post is not within the power of the post holder. It is a matter for the national government to decide. The most sensible thing to do is to stand candidates with the aim of running the office consistently with our liberal principles.

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Feb '16 - 12:30pm

    On the subject of arbitrarily expanding powers of police and crime commissioners is there anything stopping a liberal minded candidate from seeking a mandate to legalise, regulate and licence the sale of cannabis as a crime reduction measure?

  • Sorry this is ridiculous ! Abolishing elections to parliament makes as much sense because we dislike our appalling electoral system! Chris , not convinced the subject of racial stereotying helps at all , are you saying David Lammy would not get elected as a pcc ?! What is our party s problem with elections for individuals having power ?! The same people opposed to pcc and mayor elected roles, often are the same people who want a republic , with a politicsed , elected president ! And I love that Dorothy Thornhill, an excellent example of how one can embrace change , came to the role wanting to abolish it , is in her 4th term AND the House of Lords , itself unelected ! In America they elect nearly every role , a lot of nonsense is talked about the USA , that big money dominates national politics there , is obvious . But not local politics . A mayor or police commisioner there is an established figure , as is a local sherriff is some communities . And that is the point . Community is not necessarily better served by government by committee . Or are we now so in love with Corbyn that we are to embrace Party Committee soviet style ! Are we complacent about criminal justice ? Do you really think what we have works ?Some of us have been wanting accountability , ages, it is an outrage that there is none !If criminals are sentenced by juries and judges , fine , but judges alone , and magistrates are unnaccountable , and who are the probation services accountable to when deciding to release early ? We are not even scratching the surface with pcc and mayor roles , but both are better than no accountbiility and complacency .Whoever said they have to turn into autocrats , actually many good people stand for these roles.

  • Glenn Andrews 5th Feb '16 - 12:59pm

    @Lorenzo; The abolishing comment was more about offering the electorate an option to register dissatisfaction with the concept of police commissioners, obviously you wouldn’t be in a position to abolish the post….. however, I was serious about the cannabis proposal.

  • I’m curious: would a PPC candidate be permitted to discharge their responsibilities by convening a “cabinet” of local councillors and police officers as an advisory committee? It seems like a Lib Dem sort-of approach which might address some of the more egregious facets of the office.

    I agree though, that it’s an election – and therefore there should be a Lib Dem standing, even if it were on a platform of disobedience. I’d rather have a Lib Dem PPC listening to evidence and their local communities than a Conservative one happily toeing Theresa May’s line.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '16 - 8:07pm

    Kent has an independent PCC who was previously on the police authority. She has had some negative publicity, not being a politician.
    I understand from a former MP that the MPs tried to stop the PCC scheme, but were only able to delay it.
    Theresa May has reportedly had doubts about it, although she ‘knows her own mind”.
    Giving new powers to the PCCs after the May 2016 elections might be undemocratic; the voters should know what they are electing.

  • Alex , well said , nobody above dealt with any of the points I raised, I think not standing a candidate means people think we do not matter on a very important matter , crime . The attitude stinks quite frankly , it is student union protest no , thats an insult to good radicals, students , that is ! If we do not want politicisation of policing , fine , why favour policing committees of local party political councillors , which those negative about standing for pcc elections do favour ?! When I saw a photo of Torbay party members with there axes in their hands and their “axe the mayor ” slogan , I did not know whether to laugh , cry or scream ! Crime matters .It seems in some areas the party do not .

  • As Glenn said, we should stand candidates, but the description on the ballot paper should be: “Liberal Democrat – Abolish Police Commissioners”.

  • Peter Watson 6th Feb '16 - 9:30am

    @tonyhill ‘the description on the ballot paper should be: “Liberal Democrat – Abolish Police Commissioners”’
    Could be a dangerous tactic requiring a very careful approach. Lib Dems have already been criticised for flip-flopping on PCCs (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/11088228/Lib-Dems-u-turn-on-Police-and-Crime-Commissioners.html) and if a Lib Dem candidate were successful on a platform of abolishing the position, every day they remained in the job would reinforce the negative narrative about Lib Dem trustworthiness.

  • Richard Boyd OBE DL 6th Feb '16 - 5:59pm

    As a former chair of Essex Police Authority, and having served with Employment Tribunals for 15 years, as well as 10 as a tribunal member for Standards in Local Government, I feel confident that my view that PCC’s are a waste of money and create superficial “brokers men” for Government and that we should loudly and actively boycott this mess, will be ignored by those for whom elections are not a means to the end, but the reason they are activists.

  • Richard Church 7th Feb '16 - 6:36pm

    I’m standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Dyfed Powys Police Commissioner, and I am standing because I want them abolished.

    A police service that treats people fairly, engages with local communities and recognises that proper accountability starts at the grass roots, in the relationship between a local policing team and the community they serve is key to a Liberal society. If we don’t stand we miss the opportunity to sell that message, and to deliver it when we win.

    Being against the EU doesn’t stop UKIP and Tories standing for the European parliament and being in favour of Scottish independence doesn’t stop the SNP stand for Westminster.

  • Lorenzo – I do support abolition of elected mayors and PCCs. I also favour – ultimately, when people get over the royal family – a republic. However, unlike the situation you postulate, I would favour a ceremonial, president, not a head both of state and government, as they have in Germany, or Ireland, or many other countries. It is remarkable how so many people think that the Executive, US, or French style president is the only type. Whereupon they trot out all the President Blair, President Thatcher etc stereotypes….

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