Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Lincolnshire Police Authority to the Public Bill Committee (PR 131)

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill 2010-2011

1.1 The Authority welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Committee. We are not re-stating the issues that have been raised by the Association of Police Authorities (APA), the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives (APACE) and the Police Authority Treasurers’ Society (PATS). We seek to highlight some of the concerns that Members of the Lincolnshire Police Authority have with regard to the geographic challenge that the Bill poses in its proposed form.

1.2 Lincolnshire is one of the most rural counties in England . It is a large and diverse area comprising 2,687 square miles. The population of Lincolnshire is 697,900, with a relatively high proportion of 20% of the population over 65 . The County is largely rural with Lincoln (80,000) its largest urban centre. There are only three other urban centres with populations of over 20,000. The vast majority of residents in the county of Lincolnshire (72.2% [1] ) live in rural areas. There are over 500 villages and settlements that are connected with often poor local transport networks and some 5,393 miles of roads. This rural geography presents particular challenges of isolation and coherence to policing and to police governance. The county local government structure comprises 8 local authorities, including 1 county council, 6 district councils and 1 city council.

1.3 The White Paper stated that:

"We will empower the public: introducing directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners who will give the public a voice and strengthen the bond between the public and the police through greater accountability and transparency so that people have more confidence in the police to fight crime and ASB" [2] .

1.4 Given the size, rurality and often isolated nature of Lincolnshire , we have conc erns that a single individual will be able to effectively act as PCC in a proportionate and balanced way, representing all communities of Lincolnshire .

1.5 Under the current proposals, i t will be the responsibility of the PCC to both collect and represent the views of all those people living within the Force area. We have no assurance that this can be achieved by one individual. We are not convinced that rural and isolated voices would be heard.

1.6 Consulting with the public and hearing the diverse range of views and issues in a County with many small communities and poor transport networks has been challenging for the Authority with its seventeen geographical spread Members. We have been active implementers of new technology and social media to improve communication but the use of internet technology as a means to bridge this gap is also difficult. In Lincolnshire, there are a significantly high proportion of premises (both households and businesses) that are unable to access broadband internet in the county. Unsurprisingly, this issue is more acute in rural areas with 16% of premises having no access to broadband compared to only 2% in urban areas. This gap is set to widen as the roll out of next generation, high speed, broadband will invariably be delivered first in urban and more densely populated areas [3] .

1.7 In respect of the geographic challenge, we support the submissions made by the Police Authorities for Wales, Hampshire, Dorset, Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset and have attached extracts to this paper.


EXTRACTS

1. Police Authorities of Wales

"We would question the premise that any one individual can represent all the communities which make up each force area. When these comments are extended to Dyfed Powys the fallacy is even more evident, with its huge geographical expanse or South Wales with its major cities, and different communities, including urban, rural, affluent and deprived areas. One alternative maybe for the Commissioner to link into or collaborate with existing local bodies, particularly CSPs who concentrate on the local issues and produce strategic assessments."

2. Hampshire Police Authority

The public of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton do not support the proposal of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner. The public of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were surveyed for their opinion in respect of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner - with responsibility to represent the views of 1.9 million residents and ownership of the policing budget (in the region of £300 Million). Findings indicated that only 5% of the public supported this position. If the Police and Crime Commissioner was supported by a panel (similar to the London Mayoral model) support was 27.27%.

The public do not have an affinity with the Hampshire Constabulary area. The area is a blend of urban and rural and actually has an entire county situated off shore – the Isle of Wight. People could not understand how somebody perhaps from Basingstoke if elected could represent the views of people from Eastleigh, a distance of merely 25miles and of very similar demographic and geographic profile, let alone comprehend how someone from a very urban area like Southampton could be able to represent the view of the Island, which is predominately rural and with a very large transient population due to its tourist industry.

3. Dorset Police Authority

Police and Crime Commissioners will represent extremely large electorates and, in many cases, extremely large geographical areas both of which are unparalleled in any other elections to public office. The challenge of representing such large electorates/areas effectively is a significant one and we call upon the Bill to be more specific and prescriptive about how such representation should operate. We would certainly suggest that in addition to attendance by the Commissioner at relevant policing public forums and meetings, there is a clear requirement for PCCs to hold regular Surgeries across the area served to ensure that the PCC is well placed to hear first-hand about the public’s policing concerns and priorities as well as the individual concerns of citizens.

4. Cumbria Police Authority

In essence the Police Authority does not believe that the case for the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners has been made and the concerns that have been raised since the proposal was first suggested have not been addressed. No explanation has been provided of how one person can adequately represent the views of the 500,000 people living in Cumbria, England’s second largest geographic county and one of the largest policing areas in England and Wales. Nor has any explanation been offered as to how one person might be able to fulfill all the roles that are currently undertaken by 17 Members. The proposals as currently drafted will inevitably lead to conflict between the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable, Police and Crime Commissioner and Police and Crime Panel, Police and Crime Commissioner and the County Council all of which will be detrimental to policing and to public confidence in the police service. The Authority has real concerns that the proposals may prove to be unworkable in practice.

5. Devon and Cornwall Police Authority

Whilst - like all parts of the country - the South West presents specific issues to policing. It is the vast area that the Devon and Cornwall Force covers, spreading from the Isles of Scilly to the Dorset and Somerset borders that provides our biggest challenge. Devon and Cornwall Police covers the largest area of any Force in England and whilst its resident population is not large compared to some metropolitan forces, it is diverse, widely spread out and in many cases very isolated. It will be the responsibility of the PCC to both collect and represent the views of all those people living within the Force area. How can this possibly be done by one person? How can one person sitting in, for example Exeter , represent the views of a community in West Cornwall ? What confidence and trust would such communities have that their concerns would be heard? The Police Authority has real reservations that the task of consulting with the public and hearing the diverse range of views and issues from members of the public across an area the size of Devon, Cornwall and the Islands is simple too big an ask for one person to ever be able to do.

6. Avon & Somerset Police Authority

Given the size, complexity, and diverse nature of the Avon and Somerset area, we have concerns that a single individual will be able to sensibly act as PCC in a proportionate and balanced way, representing all communities of Avon and Somerset . Under the current model for police governance in the Police Authority, we have nine councillors and eight independent members with a range of geographical locations, contacts, and experiences which we feel are very important in ensuring a balanced, proportionate and effective governance approach to an area as complex as policing in a geographical area as diverse as Avon and Somerset .

Available at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/policereformandsocialresponsibility/committees/houseofcommonspublicbillcommitteeonthepolicereformandsocialresponsibilitybill201011.html

X:\Policing in the 21st Century\Rurality issue for Lincs Feb 2011.doc

February 2011


[1] Rural and Urban Area Classification, Office for National Statistics available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/about-statistics/geography/products/area-classifications/rural-urban-definition-and-la-classification/rural-urban-local-authority--la--classification/higher-geographies-dataset--county--fire--police--waste.xls

[2] Home Office (2010) Policing in the 21 st C entury – reconnecting the police and the people. P 8

[3] LRO Local Economic Assessment 2011 available at http://www.research-lincs.org.uk/UI/Documents/Local%20Economic%20Assessment.pdf p 15