Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill


Executive Summary

· Dorset Police Authority is incorporated as a Police Authority under existing legislation. It is affected by the proposals contained within the Bill but it also has experience of policing governance both of which make it well placed to comment on the Bill’s proposals relating to policing governance for the benefit of the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Public Bill Committee.

· The Authority is aware of detailed submissions to this Committee by the Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives (APACE). We are supportive of many of the issues and concerns raised in those submissions with regard to the Bill, but the purpose of our own submission to the Committee is to highlight some key issues only that we believe are fundamental to the achievement of the Bill’s objectives and the long-term effectiveness of the new policing governance arrangements.

· In summary the key points contained within our submission are as follows:

(a) Force police staff personnel should be transferred from police authorities to Commissioners, not Chief Constables.

(b) Commissioners should be responsible for appointing full Chief Officer Teams.

(c) The Bill requires greater clarity about how Commissioners will represent the public given the size of the electorates/geographical areas involved, including the requirement to hold regular ‘Surgeries’.

(d) The need for an appropriate basis and level of remuneration for Commissioners to be specified in the Bill, we suggest based upon MPs’ salary.

(e) The composition of Police and Crime Panels should provide for a more significant ‘independent’ element, we suggest one third.

1. Introduction

1.1 Our response considers the Bill under a number of headings detailed below which we hope the Committee will find helpful.

2. Transfer of Force Police Staff

2.1 We welcome the intention for Police Authority assets to be transferred to the Commissioner. However, we have serious concerns about the proposal to transfer police support staff to Chief Constables which we believe will undermine the ability of Commissioners to access necessary expertise to carry out their functions effectively. In our view, it is essential for Commissioners upon appointment to have access to a range of police staffing expertise to support his/her key functions, including for example experts in consultation, communications and finance.

3. Appointment of Chief Officer Teams

3.1 Police Authorities have been effective in the task of appointing police Chief Officer Teams and we are particularly concerned that under the Bill’s proposals, the Commissioner’s direct role in respect of such appointments would be restricted to Chief Constables only. We view this as an important flaw in the new arrangements that would weaken the Commissioner’s power and credibility vis-à-vis Chief Constables. In our view it is essential for the Commissioner to have the statutory responsibility for the appointment of the complete Chief Officer Team (including ACPO rank police staff members of that team), but we fully support the inclusion of the provision for the PCC to consult with the Chief Constable and HMIC in such appointments.

4. Representation of the Public by Commissioners

4.1 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.

5. Remuneration of Commissioner

5.1 The role of Commissioner is an important one for which an appropriate basis and level of remuneration should apply. We do not accept however that an amount in the region of £120,000 per annum, as quoted in the media, represents such an appropriate level of remuneration which we regard as excessive and unlikely to be acceptable to the public. In our view, parity with the salary payable to Members of Parliament represents a sensible starting point for consideration of this important issue, and we believe that the basis and level of remuneration for Commissioners needs to be specified in the Bill.

6. Composition of Police and Crime Panels (PCPs)

6.1 We have serious doubts about the proposal for PCPs to be established to hold the Commissioner to account which seems to us to conflict with the Government’s primary motivation for change which is to replace administrative accountability with democratic accountability and we state that position very clearly. But, anticipating that this element of the proposals will proceed, we would take the opportunity to raise significant concerns about the intended composition of PCPs which we suggest is currently flawed. In particular, we caution strongly that a more significant ‘independent’ element is required if these Panels are to operate effectively. Based upon the experience of police authorities gained over some 15 years, independent members have made an extremely important contribution as well as achieving a more reflective diversity balance and it would be very regrettable if their enthusiasm and experience were to dissipate virtually altogether when the new policing governance structures are established in 2012. We strongly urge the provision in the Bill of a greater ‘independent’ presence on PCPs, we suggest to comprise of one third of PCP members.

January 2011