Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Surrey County Council (PR 117)

Introduction

Surrey County Council is an upper-tier authority responsible for services to 1.2 million people. There are 11 second-tier boroughs and districts. The County Council area is coterminous with the Police Service and other county-wide services. The Council has a Portfolio Holder responsible for Community Safety and has always taken an active interest in Policing and crime reduction. The Council has a team responsible for coordinating community safety arrangements in Surrey. The Council responded to the consultation document ‘Policing in the 21st Century’ and are now making a written submission in relation to the Bill.

Summary

Our main concern about the new Policing and Crime Commissioner role is that as an elected person he/she will not be aligned sufficiently with other political processes in a county. We therefore suggest changes to strengthen the role of the Policing & Crime Panel. We also make suggestions about who is best placed to stand as Commissioner, his/her role in relation to Community Safety Partnerships and how he/she should be supported to be effective within complex local structures.

1. Linkage with other democratic arrangements

1.1 We remain concerned about the linkage with other democratic arrangements for representation of the people of Surrey in decisions that affect them. We consider that the powers of the Panel should go further than the scrutiny role conferred on them by the legislation as currently drafted. We consider that-

· S 5.6.c should be strengthened to require the Commissioner to agree any Policing Plan with the Police & Crime Panel.

· The Commissioner should be required to agree the expenditure of the Policing budget with the panel

· He/she should involve the panel in arrangements for the appointment (and removal) of the Chief Constable and the most senior staff.

· He/she should agree a communications plan with the Panel.

2. Who should sit on the Panel?

2.1 We are anxious that membership of the panel should represent the views of the whole county and that members should be in a position to adopt a countywide strategic view of policing and crime arrangements. We believe that the elected representatives on the Panel should consist solely of members of the County Council. We do not consider it realistic to incorporate a representative of all 11 districts and boroughs,as this would make the Panel unwieldy. At present there are 9 County Councilors on the Surrey Police Authority, but consider that 6 would be sufficient on the Panel. We do consider it important that there is political proportionality in the make up of the Panel (i.e. that they should reflect the political make up of the County Council) These arrangements will, in our view, provide the Panel with a strategic county-wide overview along with appropriate democratic oversight and accountability to local communities.

2.2 Under Schedule 6, we believe that it should be optional to co-opt members of the Panel. We also believe it should be decided by the full panel whether or not they should be voting members

3. Consultation with local people

3.1 We consider Section 14 could be strengthened if the Commissioner was required to work with local authorities and other public bodies in obtaining the views of local people. For example in Surrey we currently have a ‘Joint Neighbourhood Survey’ funded by the Police and County Council and also hold regular ‘Have Your Say’ events with local people. The Commissioner would be welcome to use these events for his/her consultation purposes.

4. Who should stand as Commissioner?

4.1 We wish to re-iterate our earlier view that people with political experience will make the good candidates for the Commissioner role. So people with experience of sitting in Parliament or on the County Council would be ideal. We would not wish this to be a pre-condition of standing, but believe that it should be a requirement for candidates to state publicly their level of political experience and their understanding of Policing and Crime Reduction arrangements in the local area as part of their candidature.

5. The role of the Commissioner in relation to local Community Safety Partnerships

5.1 We are currently undertaking a review of community safety arrangements in our county as we consider that having 11 local partnerships may not be sustainable following the Comprehensive Spending Review. It is our view that the shape of community safety arrangements in an area should be for local determination. Consequently, we believe that once the Commissioner is appointed, arrangements should be a matter for him/her to determine in discussion with local authorities and other responsible authorities within the community safety partnership.

5.2 Furthermore, we understand that it is likely that Government funding for community safety is likely to be handed to Policing & Crime Commissioners once they are appointed. We consider that there is a danger that under these proposals, community safety will increasing become the province of the Police. Our experience is that community safety arrangements need to be much broader than this if they are to be effective in preventing crime and finding long term solutions. We are also concerned that some Commissioners may be tempted to spend local resources on a limited set of issues rather than on dealing with the totality of crime in the area. We believe that one of the following models should be adopted with regard to Government funding of CSPs-

· That local authorities should retain some or all of the funding OR

· The Commissioner should be required to agree a plan for community safety expenditure with local authorities in the area.

6. Support for the Commissioner in his/her role

6.1 We are concerned that the Commissioner will find it difficult in a large, complex county such as Surrey to consult widely and have his/her views expressed in all the important fora in the county. We therefore believe that he/she should have the power to appoint political advisers who can represent his/her views at local and countywide events as necessary.

7. Conclusion

7.1 As we said in our earlier submission following the Policing in the 21st Century paper, we welcome these proposals to make the Police more democratically accountable, but we consider as currently framed, they stand too far outside current democratic arrangements in a county such as ours; however with modest adjustment, we consider the proposals can be rearranged to ‘go with the grain’ of local democratic arrangements.

February 2011