Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Exmouth Town Council (PR 111)

Exmouth Town Council wishes to make its views known on provision of the Bill relating to the changes to Police Governance as follows:-

(1) The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary is an exemplar in delivering Policing at Community Level. In Devon community partnership working has developed over time to the point where the Police actually lead the way in bringing together professionals and community representatives to work together to solve problems at local level. The success has been so great that in our Exmouth Action Group area crime has continued to decrease consistently year on year. This has been possible by great communications with our local police representatives and effective use of community policing. Also our East/Mid Devon Community Safety Officers have been extremely successful in using Anti-Social Behaviour legislation to deal with low level behavioural issues. This area is not without reason one of the lowest crime area in the country.

(2) With so much progress having been made and so much experience of community policing having been achieved it is concerning that such drastic changes are now being contemplated.

(3) The Devon and Cornwall Police Authority has worked in a completely transparent way with broad representation including elected representatives from Principal Councils and nine independent local people following a rigorous selection process. The Authority is now, having to deal with an unprecedented funding settlement which means a reduction of £50m over four years. This requires focused and concentrated action and to change the structure to one of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner with the cost of elections added to the equation is difficult to comprehend. An election cost of £1.93m in May 2012 when all resources should be focused on service delivery is a real concern.

(4) The current Authority has representation from across our area (the largest Police Authority in England) allowing for good geographical representation. One elected commissioner is going to need a significant administration to support him or her and to be in touch across the area.

(5) Potentially bringing politics into policing is a worrying prospect and the checks and Balances upon which our police authorities have been built will be at risk. It is a big step and an experiment which this Council does not wish to be party too.

(6) The commissioner will be too powerful and without the opportunity for measured discussion and decision making through a skilled and experienced Police Authority. The proposal is a step too far and the dangers should be too great for the Government. The speed of change to effect budget cuts is creating enormous stress at community level and the Government would be well advised to step back from taking such a drastic step to change to elected Commissioners at this difficult time for the nation.

February 2011