Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Andrew Govier (PR 05)

I am writing to express my concern about the proposal to introduce a directly elected police commissioner in the Avon and Somerset Police area. We have a very close working relationship with our local police from Chief Constable level down to the local neighbourhood teams. I am concerned that the proposal will divert vital funds away from frontline services and will not improve policing in this area. It has already been made clear that as a result of the Home Office and local government settlement our local station will be closed for a number of extra days; our number of PCSOs is to reduce and that the neighbourhood policing structure is under severe pressure. The Wellington area has an excellent team that has delivered huge reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour and we would like to retain the current structure. The community and police work together on issues and identify locally successful initiatives.

 I am also concerned that there is a real risk that, given the concentration of the population in the greater Bristol area, the appointee would not represent the rural areas of Somerset. I believe that the current structure with a police authority, made up of elected representatives and independent appointees, gives local people a clear line of communication with the police. In addition, recent improvement in the face-to-face communications through PACT meetings and beat surgeries has made raising issues with local police officers far easier and more effective.

In conclusion, I feel that the proposals are an experiment that is neither needed nor necessary. They will divert vital resources away from the frontline and could result in a less accountable police force in the Avon and Somerset area. I am not against sensible reform of the way that policing is overseen but feel that this proposal has the ability to do more harm than good.

December 2010