Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Police and Crime Commissioners

I must apologise for the lack of recent activity. My analysis of who really runs the world evidently ruffled a few feathers – or should I say 'antennae' – and I had to spend the whole of February avoiding several large and threatening prawns. Fortunately for me, Mrs QO's countering tactics involving a wok and some hoi-sin sauce seemed to deter them, and I think I can safely put my head above the parapet to discuss the question of who will, after 25 November, really run your local police force.

If you haven't really noticed that in November you will be offered the chance to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner, you aren't alone – some three-quarters of the electorate haven't twigged either. Your PCC will have the power to hire and fire the Chief Constable, set the police precept (a lovely word, isn't it? Much nicer than 'tax') and generally throw his or her weight around, setting policing priorities for the area. And receive between £60,000 and £100,000 a year, depending on the size of the local police force. And have a nice office, staff and an expense account.

Now, you may think this is A Good Thing. Popular accountability, my chance to influence policing in my patch, the democratic Dibble at last... well, that's certainly the Conservative line. They were hoping that some splendid candidates would spring forward, giants of community leadership, famous faces, big beasts of entrepreneurship, "... those who have built and led large organisations" as Nick Herbert MP said. And the cost of this bright new policing world is surely a snip at a mere £75 million.

Well, now. The Conservatives and Labour are intending to field party candidates in most if not all areas. So they'll be 'acceptable' politically, i.e., won't have an original thought in their head, will be great at kissing babies and doing the rubber chicken circuit, and won't have a proper big job to do anywhere else. The vast majority of candidates so far are local councillors, the lads and lasses with dodgy dress style who've been on the old-fashioned police authorities all these years, salivating at the thought of a much bigger payoff. Genuinely able independents are either busy running their large organisations, or appalled at the thought of having to kiss babies and do the rubber chicken circuit rather than get the job on merit, and are probably earning a sight more than is on offer. You can see who's up for it here, if you're interested. But I'm guessing mostly you're not.

But perhaps you should be. Policing in the UK is in something of a crisis. Morale is low among rank and file officers, resources are being significantly cut (except among Diversity Managers and PR departments), there's still a huge target culture despite what Kitten Heels says, and to this already toxic mix the Government is introducing political control and increased privatisation. Does that sound promising to you?

It may help if I summarise your options:
1. You get what you've already got, only it'll cost more.
2. You get something radically different which will probably be worse.

In either event, as far as the Guvmint is concerned, it will be your fault. You voted for the twat.

So have a think about your options come November, and have a look at your candidates. The good people of Humberside, by the way, have as one of their candidates one of the very few big names to have emerged so far, and I show him below discussing local affairs with a member of the public. Yeah, it's a cheap shot, I know, but it just seems emblematic of how this bright idea is likely to pan out.


  1. Police and Crime Commissioners will at least have less pay and allowances than the Police Authorities they replace, and will give local people an input to local criminal justice that has otherwise left them and their views behind.
    For more on candidates, including their personal statements see http://www.TopOfTheCops.com

  2. Welcome, Sam. Thanks for the comment. I know in theory the new structure should cost less, but I have my doubts. By the time the PCC has appointed his chief executive, chief finance officer, deputy, admin staff etc etc, plus the expenses of the Police and Crime Panels as well, it's not going to be cheap. That said, for sure police authorities had lost their way and were well overdue for reform. I'm just not convinced this is the way to do it.