We will soon be asked to vote for a Policing & Crime Commissioner (PCC) for each of the police constabulary areas in England and Wales, to replace local police authorities.
The responsibilities of the commissioners will be little different from that of the outgoing police authorities, who have overseen a drop in crime (British Crime Survey indicates it is at its lowest level for 30 years) and 30% efficiency saving over the past 10 years.
The main political parties have selected their representatives, which mainly consist of retired or waning party hacks and local party members. Fortunately for them, the number of independent candidates is dwindling as they rightly feel disadvantaged by not having the organisational apparatus and finance the political party candidates have available.
Besides the estimated start up costs of over £100m, a completely new bureaucratic layer is being created. The present local police authority is not only being replaced by a commissioner, but also a Police Scrutiny Panel to hold him/her to account!
The commissioner will be paid £100,000pa (plus expenses and staff), so the cost of monitoring police decisions is going to substantially increase. The whole process has grown by another layer and it is deceitful to imply the taxpayer is saving money.
The police service has always been independent of direct political control. It is disingenuous to suggest a commissioner, having been elected on a party ticket, is not going to toe the party line. Ask yourself, are the political parties going to expend all these resources not to get something out of it in the long run? We are being asked to hand over a vital public service to the same political class that have let us down so badly in the past.
Our only hope of resisting this political steam-rolling is if the turnout is under 15%. This would force the Government to re-think this unnecessary and expensive change as it would show there is no democratic mandate for the system to operate.
Save the unnecessary initial and ongoing costs by retaining the Local Police Authorities. It would be easy to make them more transparent and responsive to local concerns, if they are not already. They presently have the power to discipline and sack chief police officers and this would be much more effective than allowing corrosive party politics to take over.
Recently, Sir Ian Blair, the ex-Metropolitan commissioner called for people to boycott the PCC elections by saying “Not voting is the only way to stop this”.
Take this rare opportunity for you to really make a difference. Don’t join in!