Policing: Police and Crime Commissioners - Home Affairs Committee Contents

3  The election and identity of Police and Crime Commissioners

Q 2  The timing and cost of the elections

20. The Government proposes that elections for Police and Crime Commissioners will take place for the first time in May 2012 and that Commissioners will serve a maximum of two four-year terms.[35] May 2012 is just before the start of the Olympic Games in July 2012. The joint submission from Avon and Somerset Police Authority and Avon and Somerset Constabulary mentioned this as a possible concern, stating that there could be "potential tensions between localist campaign agendas and the responsibility of forces to deliver national policing requirements as we prepare for the 2012 Olympics".[36] However, neither Mr Hogan-Howe, the former Chief Constable of Merseyside, nor Councillor Kemp, the Vice-Chair of the Local Government Association, thought that the timing of the elections just before the Olympics was likely to prove problematic.[37] Councillor Kemp did express concern, though, that the timetable for producing the Bill was "too hurried".[38]

21. Asked in July 2010 about the cost of elections for Police and Crime Commissioners, the Minister replied: "When we have consulted about the electoral system and we therefore know more we will be able to set out what the costs of that will be".[39] On the salary of Police and Crime Commissioners, the consultation paper states: "The Government will make proposals for the pay of Police and Crime Commissioners later in the year. These will reflect our focus on value for money and transparency, and take account of variation in force size and responsibilities".[40] The Association of Police Authorities, which would cease to exist under the Government's proposals, has stated that advice it commissioned estimated that introducing a system of Police and Crime Commissioners would cost about £100 million more than the current system over the next five years.[41] This figure includes running costs, as well as the cost of the elections. A joint response by the Police Authorities of the North West stated: "it is understood that the cost of the elections alone will be in the region of £60 million".[42] The Minister did not recognize these figures and stated the Government would "set out the costs and business plan at the time we publish the Bill".[43]

Who will stand

22. There has been some speculation about who might stand for the Police and Crime Commissioner posts. Mr Muir, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, thought that there would be "a lot of independents standing" because individual posts such as these tended to attract independent figures. He cited directly elected mayors as a comparison.[44] However, others pointed out that independent candidates might have difficulty competing—from a financial and organisational point of view—with candidates from mainstream political parties. Surrey Police Authority stated: "Members of the public without a mainstream political alignment will struggle to compete against organisations built and funded expressly to win elections".[45] Thus the view of the majority of witnesses was that most, if not all, Police and Crime Commissioners were likely to come from party political backgrounds. Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, commented: "the reality is that these will be people with a party background because of the machine that will need to support it [the election campaign], quite frankly".[46] Mr Muir agreed with this assessment and saw it as a positive aspect of the Government's proposal, saying, "I think political parties, as I understand it, would be entitled to stand candidates. I think they should be encouraged to stand candidates—I think that would be a very good idea".[47] Indeed, we found no evidence that an independent candidate would be better than a party political candidate.

23. Concerns were expressed about particular groups of people who might stand for the Police and Crime Commissioner posts. Chief among these concerns was that single-issue candidates or candidates from extremist political parties might stand. Staffordshire Police Authority stated:

The widely-acknowledged low turnout for local elections is also acknowledged to carry the risk—sometimes realised—of single-issue and/or minority extremist candidates getting elected. The spectre has been raised in many quarters of the BNP [British National Party] or EDL [English Defence League] reaching the PCC role through the ballot box, which could be a total embarrassment for Forces given the task of policing their activities.[48]

24. Sir Hugh Orde said that he was "not too excited about whether we are going to get some sort of extreme end of the spectrum, whatever spectrum, right or left, or a single-issue sort of person" and that he thought Police and Crime Commissioners would be "people who are genuinely interested in making a difference".[49] The Minister commented that "the concern about extremists is really overdone".[50] He stated that Police and Crime Commissioners "will be in receipt of a very large number of votes to secure their election, they will have a mandate". When we asked whether this meant that the Government had a threshold in mind for the number of votes needed to secure a victory in the election, the Minister replied: "No, I am just observing the fact that because we have decided to hold these elections at the force level there are large populations even in the smallest forces and in the bigger forces very significant populations". The Minister stated that Police and Crime Commissioners would have "millions of people voting for them".[51] However, this would, of course, depend on the turnout.

25. Another issue that emerged during the course of the inquiry was whether former senior police officers should be allowed to stand for the posts. Mr Muir said that it would be a "welcome development" if former Chief Constables were to stand, because of their experience.[52] Former Police Authority Chairs might also be well qualified for the role on the grounds of their previous experience.[53] However, while some issues were raised about former Police Authority Chairs standing for the posts, some witnesses had concerns about former senior police officers standing. Mr Hogan-Howe, himself a former Chief Constable, suggested that there should be a "period of cooling off" if a former senior officer decided to stand.[54] This could be particularly relevant if the former officer were standing for the post in the same force area. Mr Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor of London, mentioned that one of the issues that had occurred to him was "whether a police officer who has just recently exited a force could then come back as the elected police chief of that force".[55]

26. There was further discussion about whether the Government, to prevent extremist candidates from standing, should, for example, restrict candidates from extremist political parties or impose positive criteria, such as policing qualifications. In response to this suggestion, Mr Malthouse stated:

Every time the franchise has been extended the argument against it has been, 'You can't trust the voters.' We have managed pretty well, I think ... There have been one or two mistakes but that is the price of democracy. So, no, I don't think you can put restrictions.[56]

We do not rule out the possibility that extremist or single-issue candidates will stand for the Police and Crime Commissioner posts. However, in a democracy, the electorate should be free to choose the candidate they think will best represent their needs. We recommend that there should be no restrictions on who can stand for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner beyond the criteria that normally apply to standing for public office. However, we consider that there should be a cooling-off period of four years—one term for a Police and Crime Commissioner—if a former senior officer of the rank of Assistant Chief Constable or above decides to stand as a Police and Crime Commissioner in the same area in which he or she has served. This is because otherwise a former senior officer could be in the position of scrutinising the effects of decisions he or she had made while still in office.

Elected mayors

27. The Government proposes that Police and Crime Commissioners will be directly elected at the level of every area-based police force in England and Wales with the exception of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. The British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police would not have Police and Crime Commissioners. The Government also proposes that the Metropolitan Police Authority would be abolished and that its scrutiny role would be performed by the Greater London Authority. It is not envisaged that London will have a specifically elected Police and Crime Commissioner. The consultation paper states that the Government is discussing with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner what further changes might be needed in London to complement these reforms.[57] Mr Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor of London with responsibility for policing, was positive about the proposed new arrangements for London. He stated: "Having the police as part of the Greater London Authority family under the Mayor is actually an advantage, not a disadvantage." He noted the potential for "much more integrated working" and "fewer silos".[58]

28. The Metropolitan Police Authority suggested that, in London, the Mayor should actually be designated the Police and Crime Commissioner "with a power to designate a nominated person to discharge the functions of this role". It noted: "It is impracticable for the Mayor—with his or her many other responsibilities—personally to discharge all the responsibilities of the PCC. As the elected individual, responsibility and accountability should nonetheless remain ultimately with the Mayor."[59]

29. Greater Manchester Police Authority raised the issue of how Police and Crime Commissioners would interact with elected mayors in other cities:

The coalition government proposals for elected mayors in key cities, Manchester being one, has the potential to confuse the accountability landscape further especially if [...] it is supposed that the Mayor would automatically slot into the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner, as the individual has powers and responsibilities which extend beyond policing.[60]

Professor Rob Mawby, Visiting Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Gloucester, discussed the influence of elected mayors on policing in the United States of America and sounded a cautionary note. He stated:

the widespread conclusion has been that where 'strong' mayors exert their authority in holding the police to public account, the advantages of opening the police organisation to outside scrutiny may be countered by the partiality of the mayors and their vested interests.[61]

30. There is a need for clarity on how Police and Crime Commissioners will interact with elected mayors, especially where the police and local authority boundaries are coterminous, which generally they are not. We see merit in the suggestion that, rather than leaving London without a Police and Crime Commissioner, some mechanism should be found to make equivalent provision. It might be that the Commissioner should be directly elected, or the London Assembly might be given the power to elect one of its members to that role. It does not seem logical to allow the Mayor to take on that role, since it would be one role among many, nor that he or she should appoint someone who by definition would then not be a directly elected Commissioner. However, London is, in view of its size and the existence of devolved responsibilities, a special case and we suggest that it should be given further specific consideration. Outside London, we can see no reason why both city areas and non-city police areas should not come under the purview of an elected Police and Crime Commissioner. In time other arrangements could lead to a patchwork with directly elected Commissioners covering only the more rural parts of the country, and we cannot see that such an approach would fit with the Government's objectives. The most logical conclusion should be that a consistent pattern of Commissioners should be developed, irrespective of the electoral arrangements in any of the local government areas that come within the police boundary.

35   Home Office, Policing in the 21st Century, p 12 Back

36   Ev w23 Back

37   Qq 58 and 140 Back

38   Q 140 Back

39   Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July 2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 25 Back

40   Home Office, Policing in the 21st Century, p 17 Back

41   Q 87, and "Electing police chiefs 'could open door to extremists'", The Times, 21 September 2010, p 13. See also Ev 42 Back

42   Ev w18 Back

43   Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July 2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 25 Back

44   Q 27 Back

45   Ev w33 Back

46   Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July 2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 87 Back

47   Q 26 Back

48   Ev w65 Back

49   Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July 2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 87  Back

50   Ibid., Q 41 Back

51   Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 27 July 2010, Policing HC (2010-11) 362-i, Q 36 and 38 Back

52   Q 27 Back

53   Q 92 Back

54   Q 57 Back

55   Q 8 Back

56   Ibid. Back

57   Home Office, Policing in the 21st Century, p 14HomHom Back

58   Q 1 Back

59   Ev w5 Back

60   Ev w28 Back

61   Ev w59 Back

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Prepared 1 December 2010