Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by New Forest District Council (PR 99)

1. Introduction

1.1 New Forest District Council serves a large and very diverse geographical area. The Forest is characterised by its small settlements and beautiful landscapes, as contained within the New Forest National Park, but also contains major industries, including one of the largest oil refineries in Europe. Tourism is a significant industry in this area.

2. Summary

The Council express concerns on the following points:

Police and Crime Commissioners

· The geographical area to be covered by each commissioner is too large to allow the Commissioner to be identifiable and accountable to a widespread and divers population.

· Commissioners will need to be suitably qualified and experienced in the criminal justice system in order to effective

· The cost of required consultations on such large areas

· The cost of electing the Commissioner should not fall on the local authorities required to carry out the election process.

Licensing Matters

· Allowing anyone to make representations on representations on premises licenses is too indiscriminate and may lead to significantly increased numbers of hearings, with consequent increases in costs

· The burden of advertising applications should rest on the applicant and not on the local authority

· The opportunity has not been taken to improve control over sale of alcohol

3 Chapter 1 – Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables

3.1 The Council accept that the abolition of Police Authorities and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners is a fait accompli and has confined its comments to operational matters. The Council has a number of concerns, specifically:

3.2 While the Council can see that a Commissioner can provide an easily identifiable, accountable, presence in a confined urban area, the geographical areas to be covered by the Commissioner are too large. Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is geographically a very large area, which consequently has a mixture of very diverse needs. A single commissioner for that area would be too remote. The local electorate would also have great practical difficulties in evaluating the qualities of the candidates, who may have no previous association, and therefore no demonstrable track record, in large parts of the area which they will be seeking to represent;

3.3 Section 14 – Arrangements for obtaining the views of local communities on policing. The size of the geographical areas to be covered by the Commissioner creates logistical problems in meeting the proposed requirement to consult with local communities and potentially makes such process very expensive. Robust consultation mechanisms will therefore be needed and these should include well developed processes for Councillors to feed community concerns on to the Commissioner;

4 Chapter 6 – Police and Crime Commissioners: elections and vacancies.

4.1 The success of the role is very dependent on the qualities of the individual commissioner. The Council consider that it is essential for candidates to be suitably qualified and have a sound understanding of the Police and Criminal Justice systems. More information on the criteria to be applied to eligibility to stand for election to this role would be welcomed;

4.2 The costs of the election of the Commissioner should not fall on the local authorities undertaking the process but should be met in full by central government funding.

5. Clause 105 – Premises Licences – who may make relevant representations

5.1 This Council is extremely concerned at the provisions in this clause, which would remove the principle that only "interested parties", elected members of the Licensing Authority and responsible authorities may make representations in regard to premises licences and club premises certificates.

5.2 While the extension of the right to object to applications to a wider pool of citizens could be welcomed in some circumstances, the Council’s view is that extending the right to the world at large is a step too far. The Council considers that it is reasonable to expect that only those with some interest in the site or who may be affected by activities at the site should be entitled to make representations. The clause as currently drafted could open the floodgates to representations from people who would not be affected by the applications.

5.3 The Council’s view is that it should be a prerequisite that any person making a representation will in some way be affected by the application, and considers that the current "vicinity" principle is appropriate.

5.4 The proposal could mean a significant increase in the number of applications in respect of which representations are made and consequently in the numbers of hearings of the Licensing Sub-Committee, which would have substantial resources implications for the licensing authority.

6. Clause 105 – requirements to advertise an application

6.1 The Council is also concerned at the proposal to regulate to require a licensing authority to advertise applications "in a way that ensures that it comes to the attention of all persons who it may affect". There is no indication of the medium to be used for such advertising, but the Council fears that this too could have significant resource implications for the licensing authority.

6.2 The Council sees no reason why this burden should be placed on licensing authorities and considers that any responsibility to bring an application to the attention of anyone who might be affected should rest with the applicant

7. Additional comment – Control over sale of alcohol within licensed premises

7.1 The Council is disappointed that the Bill does not make provision for improved control over the sale of alcohol in licensed premises. The Council believes that what it considers to be insufficient control over the sale of alcohol contributes to crime and disorder issues in the vicinity of some premises. The Council considers that only persons who have been adequately trained and have been certificated in some way should be permitted to sell alcohol in licensed premises.

January 2011