Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Hampshire Police Authority

(PR 96)

1 Summary of Authority Thoughts:

1.1 Hampshire Police Authority strongly opposes the abolition of Police Authorities and the creation of a single elected Police and Crime Commissioner. The result is a fundamental change in the balance of power with respect to governance that has not yet been the subject of a Royal Commission and will result in the vesting of substantial functions of a public nature in a single individual; this is unprecedented in British constitutional arrangements. The Authority feels this is a great disservice to both our residents and our Constabulary.

1.2 The Authority opposes the proposed model based upon our raison d'être (i.e. to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force for its area). By considering whether the proposals would result in improved efficiency, effectiveness and value for money, Members identified the following concerns:

· The absence of effective governance and a democratic deficit

· Significant increased cost implications through the creation of a two-tier governance structure

· Disproportional service provision, leading to a reduction in community confidence, inequality and fairness

· Instability in policing and parochialism


· The public of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton do not support the proposal of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner.

1.3 Reduction in effective governance and a democratic deficit

1.3.1 Currently, 17 Members work extremely hard, as a team through public debate and dialogue to ensure that governance of policing is effective and the best outcomes for local people are achieved. One of the greatest strengths of the Police Authority model is that the balance of political knowledge (represented by the 9 locally elected councillors reflecting the political proportionality across the area) coupled with business and diverse community knowledge, brought by our independent members, who are appointed following a rigorous competency based selection process, founded on the Nolan Principles.

1.3.2 The proposal that a single elected Police and Crime Commissioner can adequately represent the area covered by Hampshire Constabulary (with its 1.9 Million residents and covering 1,600 Miles2), is difficult to comprehend when at a national level that area is covered by 20 Members of Parliament and at a local level by 701 councillors.

1.3.3 We support the government’s wishes to see candidates from a wide range of backgrounds stand for election as a Police and Crime Commissioner; however, without the support of a mainstream political party this would be extremely challenging for independent candidates. The dangers of special interest and minority party candidates using the elections for their own purposes are real, and could be potentially damaging to community relations.

1.3.4 The Government’s view that a Police and Crime Commissioner is accountable by the ballot is tokenism at best. The paper states that a Commissioner would serve for four years with a maximum of two terms. This means the Commissioner is only accountable once, at the end of their first term, and only if they sought to stand for a second term.

1.3.5 The role and responsibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner as defined in the paper proposes less power than that already exercisable through current police authority functions. Powers in the proposal appear to be have been reduced by the removal of the authority to appoint all chief officers and the opportunity to receive complaints made against them.

1.3.6 The model fails to meet the 6 principles of good governance; this is further compounded by the introduction of a secondary governance mechanism the Police and Crime Panel. The paper suggests the Panel has no direct stake in appropriate and successful policing. Therefore, the only opportunity for the Panel to challenge is to go public in respect of the Commissioner. Ultimately this could play out as a perpetual state of adversarial conflict and be very damaging to partnerships and community confidence.

1.4 Significant increased cost implications in the creation of a two-tier governance structure

1.4.1 The Authority appreciates that no cost can be placed upon democratic participation, but election processes are very expensive and this one, planned at a time of significant public sector spending cuts. Based upon the costs of the general election, to run the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections across the Hampshire Constabulary area it has been estimated to be in the region of £2m; this is significantly more than the annual running costs of Hampshire Police Authority.

1.4.2 The duties prescribed within the document places a significant burden and responsibility upon the Police and Crime Commissioner, which could work if the Police and Crime Commissioner had a robust office support structure. The cost of running Hampshire Police Authority for a year (with its 17 Members and small support staff) is £1.6m; it is the Authority’s view that the costs of providing a suitable support structure for a Police and Crime Commissioner’s office would be considerably more.

1.4.3 The paper proposes the introduction of a Police and Crime Panel to act as a check and balance against the decisions made by the Police and Crime Commissioner. For the Police and Crime Panel to act as a check and balance in the way government proposes would result in the creation of a two-tier governance structure. For the panel to be effective, and for the sake of probity, it too would require an independent support structure. This would unnecessarily increase the governance costs to policing further.

1.4.4 The Police and Crime Panel, as the proposed check and balance on the work of the Commissioner has no powers of veto save for the ability to call a referendum on the precept. The savings to be achieved by a costly referendum are negligible unless a significant precept increase was proposed. For example a 1% increase in the Hampshire Police Authority precept raises approximately £1m; the cost of rebilling is almost £750,000. To this extent the Police and Crime Panel looks like a toothless tiger.

1.4.5 The ability to justify to the public that the Police and Crime Commissioner is effective in holding the Constabulary to account in an open and transparent way will be unachievable when there is merely a two way dialogue between the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner. This style of decision making is undemocratic and could be very argumentative or be perceived to proceed as a dictatorship. The current system has transparent discussions in supporting and challenging the Constabulary in public. The public nature of the debate significantly enhances the democratic style of decision making and reduces this mentioned risk.

1.4.6 The Police and Crime Commissioner’s duty to hold the Chief Constable to account is further diminished if there is no equal requirement imposed upon the Chief to be held to account. Indeed, for many of the recommendations to be effective a dual duty will need to be established.

1.5 Disproportional service provision, leading to a reduction in community confidence, inequality and fairness

1.5.1 Experience has shown that the more affluent members of our communities are those most likely to vote and, as such, the current proposals as they stand tend to remove the focus of a Commissioner from more deprived areas. Governance in America has recently demonstrated that if left unchecked policing goes to where voting is most likely to occur, resulting in policing being all but removed from areas with the highest crime (these areas have a tendency to be populated by the most disadvantaged and poorest residents, which is reflected in the ethnic profile).

1.5.2 The Authority welcomes sensible reductions in bureaucracy, but notes that sometimes the guidance and forms protect not only our communities, (by improving confidence and helping to demonstrate effective response to policing priorities identified by them – such as monitoring of stop and search) but can also protect our officers.

1.5.3 The removal of the ability for a Police and Crime Commissioner to appoint the senior officers (save for the Chief Constable) will be severely disempowering. Hampshire Police Authority has had the opportunity, through its appointment process, to influence cultural change in Hampshire Constabulary and drive it in a direction that reflects the wishes of the public.

1.5.4 The inspection of police authorities highlighted leadership as a key function. The use of a panel for chief officer selection provides an effective mechanism to appoint the senior officer team on merit, to seek the competencies required to drive the Constabulary forward and to deliver diversity. Without this process Chief Constables may be tempted to appoint those of a like mind, or well known to them. The pool of potential candidates is limited. What checks and balances are proposed to reassure our communities that this is not the case?

1.6 Instability in policing and parochialism

1.6.1 The Authority is concerned that once every four years the police, and not just its governor, will be used as a political football. Rather than seeking to improve confidence in the delivery of service by the police, elections could actually damage the confidence of local people. As Commissioner Candidates vie for a popular mandate they could be tempted to utilise a message that the police are not performing and therefore they would be the best person for the job.

1.6.2 Chief Constables could also find themselves ousted from office by the determination of a Police and Crime Commissioner to further stamp their mark by demonstrating to the voting public that they are addressing local concerns by seeking a person who can deliver – whether that be the reality or not. There is also the potential for personality clashes. If a Chief Constable was to use ‘operational independence’ as a rationale to keep the Police and Crime Commissioner remote, the only option to the Police and Crime Commissioner is the dismissal option (already available to police authorities).

1.6.3 The bill does not set out the method of transition from the current system to the one proposed. It will take time and unless the Commissioner is able to quickly understand the complexity of policing, it will be highly ineffective. The Commissioner needs to balance local policing needs whilst also addressing more serious and cross boundary crime. Constabularies could find resources misdirected during this period.

1.6.4 It is proposed that the new model is introduced in May 2012, resulting in a brand new governance structure coming into effect, just prior to the Olympics, a time when stability in the provision of policing will be essential.

1.6.5 Effective collaboration is critical given the current financial situation. Police and Crime Commissioners are unlikely to invest in initiatives which might be perceived by the public as moving resources away from their locality or when the Constabulary are not a net beneficiary of the activity. Despite not being net gainers Hampshire Police Authority has good and effective collaboration projects running on the basis of improved efficiency and increased delivery. It would be unlikely that an incoming Commissioner would be able to see the holistic picture in such a short time frame.

1.7 The public of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton do not support the proposal of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner.

1.7.1 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%.

1.7.2 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.

1.8 Areas the Authority welcomes

1.8.1 The Authority is very supportive of the government’s desire to secure

· the ending of Whitehall interference in local policing

· the reduction in bureaucracy

· the reduction in onerous data provision

· real rebalancing of the tripartite relationship

1.9 Hampshire Police Authority’s Conclusions

1.9.1 In conclusion, Hampshire Police Authority is unable to comprehend how the introduction of a Police and Crime Commissioner will add value or improve outcomes for governance.

1.9.2 The proposed Police and Crime Commissioner model, as it currently stands, has no greater ability to direct chief police officers than the existing Police Authority. To this end a Police and Crime Commissioner will be no more successful in delivering the outcomes that local people want.

1.9.3 The model rather than promoting greater democratic accountability serves to reduce the transparency of current decision making and has significant cost implications. The Home Secretary stated the cost of a Police & Crime Commissioner would be no more than 1% of the policing budget; Hampshire Police Authority currently costs less than half of this amount at 0.5%.

1.9.4 It is the Authority’s firm belief that what matters is what powers and resources the local governors of policing have directly at their disposal, not how they are appointed. Enhanced police authorities could deliver the outcomes the Government seeks.

January 2011