Police and Crime Commissioners: Register of Interests - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.  In areas such as Greater Manchester, police and crime commissioners will represent the interests of millions of people. With so much power concentrated in the hands of a single individual, it is vital that there is clear and objective scrutiny and an effective system of checks to ensure that the role is performed to the highest standards of integrity and competence. The Government has created a system that relies on local scrutiny and the main check is at the ballot box. In this Report, we show that regular, national comparisons are important for public confidence and draw together the first register of PCCs interests. (Paragraph 4)

Scrutiny of PCCs

2.  Where a police and crime commissioner exercises his power to suspend a chief constable, it is the PCC's responsibility under Schedule 8 to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to inform the Police and Crime Panel. In the Lincolnshire case, however, the public was left in the dark about the reasons for the suspension and the Police and Crime Panel took no action to avert or even review an intervention that was ultimately thrown out of court. The Police and Crime Panel seemed totally incapacitated by erroneous legal advice that it was unable to investigate the Commissioner's course of action, so that the PCC did not even appear before the Panel for over 2 months. (Paragraph 9)

3.  We recommend that where a PCC proposes to exercise his power to suspend a chief constable under section 38 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, there must be immediate review of the action by the Police and Crime Panel. In addition, the Police and Crime Commissioner must give the Panel and the chief constable a written explanation of the reasons for the suspension. (Paragraph 10)

4.  In between elections, the Police and Crime Panel is, in all but the most extreme circumstance, the only check on a PCC's power over local policing. All three of the PCP chairs we heard from believed that their Panels did not have strong powers to hold a PCC to account. Parliament has defined the power of PCPs and it is the responsibility of the PCPs to exercise their powers. We are concerned that incompetent legal advisers appear to have sought to prevent PCPs from even meeting to scrutinise key and highly questionable decisions by PCCs, for instance the suspension of the chief constable in Lincolnshire and the fiasco concerning the appointment of a "Youth Commissioner" in Kent. It is in such circumstances that a PCP chair needs to ensure that the PCP meets urgently. If they fail to do so, on the basis of wholly inappropriate legal advice or otherwise, the process of local scrutiny of the PCP role falls into disrepute. (Paragraph 11)

5.  Local scrutiny relies on the engagement of the public in the force area. With this in mind, we note the comments of Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, in its report on the PCC elections, that "the extremely low turnout - at just 15.1%- must be a concern for anyone who cares about democracy". We have not yet taken evidence on this issue, but will return to the matter in our forthcoming inquiry later this year. (Paragraph 12)

6.  a number of PCCs have so far failed to publish the required financial information, or disclose the details of their own interests and allowances. The Home Office must monitor compliance with legal responsibilities to publish information and publish a list of non-compliant PCCs. (Paragraph 14)

7.  We are disappointed to note that not all Police and Crime Commissioners are meeting the standards of openness that we would expect. We conducted a survey of Police and Crime Commissioners' websites to investigate whether the necessary information was being published clearly. On 19 April 2013, we found that 10 PCCs had met their statutory obligations and published the full financial data required. Those were Avon and Somerset (Sue Mountstevens), Bedfordshire (Olly Martins), Cambridgeshire (Sir Graham Bright), Cheshire (John Dwyer), Hampshire (Simon Hayes), Merseyside (Jane Kennedy), Surrey (Kevin Hurley), Warwickshire (Ron Ball), West Mercia (Bill Longmore) and West Yorkshire (Mark Burns-Williamson). (Paragraph 18)

8.  Our search suggested that 12 PCCs have yet to publish their annual budget data online: Cleveland (Barry Coppinger), Cumbria (Richard Rhodes), Derbyshire (Alan Charles), Devon and Cornwall (Tony Hogg), Essex (Nick Alston), Hertfordshire (David Lloyd), Humberside (Matthew Grove), Leicestershire (Sir Clive Loader), Norfolk (Stephen Bett), South Yorkshire (Shaun Wright), Suffolk (Tim Passmore) and North Wales (Winston Roddick). (Paragraph 19)

9.  Following our evidence session with the Home Secretary on 18 April 2013, we understand that PCCs were contacted to encourage them to publish this data. However, on 3 May 2013, five PCCs still had not published annual budget data online—Humberside (Matthew Grove), Leicestershire (Sir Clive Loader), Norfolk (Stephen Bett), North Wales (Winston Roddick CB QC) and Suffolk (Tim Passmore). (Paragraph 20)

10.  Where Police and Crime Commissioners are considered to have exceeded their powers or otherwise behaved inappropriately, it is unacceptable that those who expose the matter should be at risk of losing their jobs, or face other reprisals. (Paragraph 21)

11.  We do not accept that a national register of PCCs' interests is not necessary. There was unanimous agreement among the Police and Crime Commissioners we called for evidence that such a register would be a fair and helpful way to hold PCCs to account. If a national register is being compiled for chief constables, it makes clear sense to do the same for their elected counterparts. (Paragraph 22)

12.  While it should be for the local electorate to determine a PCC's suitability for the role, an informed choice would be facilitated by a reliable central register which would provide a ready comparison and a reliable source. The lack of such information centrally will inevitably encourage rumours, media speculation and suspicion, which may well be totally unfounded. We strongly recommend that an independent national body such as Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary compile and publish a central register of police and crime commissioners' financial interests, pay and perks packages, gifts and hospitality, outside interests including second jobs on an annual basis. In the absence of such a register, we will attempt to do so, but it would be far preferably for an independent national body to undertake this essential function. Until this happens, we will undertake this task. (Paragraph 23)

Salaries and offices

13.  Several Police and Crime Commissioners indicated to us that they would not be seeking re-election to other offices, such as local councils. The three PCCs who gave evidence to us attested to the severe demands on their time and believed that juggling the office of PCC with other jobs would be impossible. On the other hand, other Police and Crime Commissioners are retaining second jobs such as directorships of large companies, which may not easily be compatible with a full time and demanding office. (Paragraph 32)

Costs to the public

14.  In order to ensure that PCCs allocate their budgets effectively and fairly and that OPCC budgets continue to be comparable across the country, we recommend that the Government publishes a list of the costs of each OPCC compared with previous years. (Paragraph 34)

PCCs' profile

15.  High barriers to entry—the requirement for 100 signatures and a £5,000 deposit—are intended to uphold the integrity of the office of Police and Crime Commissioner and to discourage frivolous candidacies. Although this may well be appropriate, it might also have an effect on competition and diversity in the PCC elections. Therefore, it is our intention to return to this question later this year, in our inquiry on PCCs. While we recognise that PCCs must be of the highest integrity, we also believe that the rules barring anyone from standing who has a criminal conviction for an imprisonable offence, even as a juvenile, are excessive and should be brought into line with the rules for other public offices. (Paragraph 41)

Further security

16.  Police and crime commissioners are a lynchpin in the new landscape of policing. The next PCC elections in three years (2016) will be an appropriate time for an overall assessment of what has actually been achieved by the Commissioners, and whether the change which has occurred could be considered a successful alternative to the previous arrangements. In the meantime, we will return to this issue in a major Report a year on from their appointment: we will be looking at the effectiveness of the current commissioners and how their work is contributing to crime reduction and cost efficiency. (Paragraph 42)

17.   In order to hold the Commissioners to account, this Report sets out the first register of PCCs' interests. It is clear that this kind of national picture will be valuable to the electorate and to the commissioners themselves. In future, we expect an independent national body such as HMIC to take on the responsibility for compiling a complete register. This will complement and strengthen the system of local accountability that is already in place. (Paragraph 43)

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 23 May 2013