Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY HERTFORDSHIRE POLICE AUTHORITY (PR 34)

Hertfordshire Police Authority was one of only four Police Authorities to be awarded a good grade in the HMIC/Audit Commission inspections for both setting strategic direction and achieving value for money. The Authority recognises the Government’s commitment to the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and thus the focus of this submission is to ensure that the new structure works as effectively as possible.

The Authority has three main comments on the bill.

1. Chief Officer appointments. The Authority believes that the Commissioner should have the power to appoint the whole Chief Officer team including the deputy and assistant chief constables. This power is currently exercised by police authorities and provides an essential role in creating a strong strategic chief officer team. The turnover rate of Chief Officers is alarmingly high, partly as a result of the pension arrangements, and it is important to have external controls on this process. It appears perverse that the new Bill should seek to reduce Commissioners’ powers compared to their predecessor, police authorities.

2. Political balance of the Policing and Crime Panel. The Police Authority does not believe that it is necessary to ensure political balance on the Policing and Crime Panel by any other means than each council nominating their representative/s. In Hertfordshire, the Panel will comprise 13 members, one from Hertfordshire County Council, one each from the ten district/borough councils and two co-opted members. The schedule provisions require that a formula is produced to ensure some county-wide political balance on the Panel. However, our view is that the councillors are in effect representatives of their own councils. The requirements to construct political balance will mean that, in some cases, councils will be restricted from sending their preferred choice to the Panel because of having to meet a wider political balance. A form of political balance will be achieved by each council deciding its own representative.

The Authority recognises that this may preclude some minority parties being represented on the Panel but believes that this is preferable to forcing a council to be represented by a minority councillor, who would not then have the political mandate to represent the people in his/her area.

3. Veto proposals for the Policing and Crime Panel on precepts. The Authority warmly welcomes the Policing and Crime Panels power of veto for the precept. The Authority believes that there must be reasonable "checks and balances" in place to ensure that levels of council tax are reasonable and properly reflect the wishes of the electorate. Whilst it is correct that the Commissioner should retain the power to set the precept, it is important that a veto is in place for any proposal that would be opposed by a large majority of the electorate as represented by councillors.

12 January 2011