1. The introduction of police and crime
commissioners (PCCs) marked a major change to the governance of
policing in England and Wales. During this Parliament, the Committee
has taken an active interest both in the development of the Government's
proposals, and aspects of the work of PCCs since their election.This
Report examines the work of the commissioners during their first
18 months in office. It considers their effectiveness to date
in, for example, engaging the public and developing collaborative
ways of working. It also looks at the relationships they have
developed with their chief constables, including commissioners'
power to hire and fire, which has attracted significant controversy.
In addition, we make recommendations to strengthen the role of
police and crime panels so that they are better able to scrutinise
the work of PCCs.
PCCs and the public
2. One of the main aims of the PCC reforms
was to introduce democratic accountability to the determination
of local policing prioritiesas the Home Office told us:
"We have put policing back in the hands of the public".
A number of our witnesses emphasised the benefit of vesting in
an individual, or "go-to person" as the Chief Constable
for Thames Valley put it, the power to set those priorities, and
in so doing, providing a clarity of leadership that was not present
under the former police authorities.
For example, the Lincolnshire PCC told us: "I can promote
local policing priorities because, unlike police authorities,
I know what they are".
Elsewhere, the Sussex PCC said: "ultimately you want somebody
who can make a decision. If the public don't like the decisions
] they can make their voice heard at the ballot box".
3. The turn-out for the PCC elections
in November 2012 was exceptionally low. It ranged from just 11.6
per cent in Staffordshire, to 19.5 per cent in Northamptonshire,
and averaged 15.1 per cent across England and Wales. Several factors
contributed to the low turn-out, including the darker evenings
and bad weather associated with the time of year, the lack of
a freepost mailing for candidates, and the timing outside of the
normal electoral cycle.
Furthermore, a large proportion of the electorate did not understand
what they were voting for. As the Cambridgeshire PCC put it: "I
spent all of my time not asking people to vote for me, but telling
people what the job was all about".
The PCC for Bedfordshire summed up the turn-out for the elections
as "little short of calamitous".
Not only has it raised a legitimate concern as to whether the
commissioners have a sufficient mandate on which to set policing
priorities for their areas, it also fails to reflect the extent
to which the general public is interested in policing issues.
4. Since the elections, however, public
awareness of police and crime commissioners has increased greatly.
In their evidence a number of witnesses quoted the results of
a poll carried out by ComRes for the BBC, which found that 62
per cent of people were aware that they had a PCC for their area.
They contrasted this with previous research showing that only
seven per cent of the general public were aware of the old police
commissioners attributed the greater level of awareness in part
to the work they have undertaken to engage with the public since
taking office. We heard a number of examples in this respect.
The West Yorkshire PCC told us he had met hundreds of people and
a large number of community groups in the course of his work,
and ran a monthly public perception survey, which received 15,000
responses in its first year.
The Thames Valley PCC said: "I have a huge number of meetings,
I go to all the councils, and I have public meetings in every
area", while the Staffordshire PCC claimed to have engaged
face-to-face with over 12,000 people in the county since January
5. Some commissioners highlighted the
level of correspondence they receivedas an example of the extent
to which public awareness of PCCs has increased. For instance,
the Kent PCC told us she had received almost 9,000 pieces of correspondence
since taking office, compared to a handful a week when she was
chair of the Kent Police Authority.
The Avon and Somerset PCC told us she received 20 times more correspondence
than the defunct authority had in its last year of existence.
Greater public awareness of the work of commissioners has been
demonstrated in other ways. The Sussex PCC reported regular viewing
figures of 500 for the live webcast of her accountability meetings
with the chief constable, whilst the West Midlands PCC told us
more than 700 people had watched the streaming of a recent road
6. Unfortunately, public awareness of
commissioners has stemmed not only from conscious engagement work,
but also from a number of adverse media stories concerning their
activities. These have included the controversial removal of chief
constables, the hiring of deputy commissioners, and the resignation
of police and crime panel members. We consider each of these issues
in this Report. Whatever the cause of the public's awareness of
PCCs, this, combined with the timing of the next elections to
coincide with the local elections, should ensure a greater turn-out
in 2016. Indeed, as Lord Wasserman, the architect of the PCC model,
told us: "it could hardly get any smaller".
7. Yet between now and the next elections,
there is still more for commissioners to do. Whilst there is greater
awareness of their existence, one survey found that only 18 per
cent of respondents had a good understanding of the role of PCCs,
whilst only 10 per cent believed that commissioners gave them
a greater say over how their local area was policed.
PCCs have also still to win over the forces for which they set
overall strategic direction. Lord Stevens told us just five per
cent of police officers and two per cent of police staff considered
the appointment of PCCs to be a good idea.
8. A lack of understanding about the
role of commissioners is perhaps unsurprising so soon after their
election. When we asked the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice
and Victims whether the concept of PCCs was still on probation,
he told us: "No, I just think it is new. With every quarter
that passes, people across the country find them both more visible
and see the benefits [
But it is clear that many commissioners themselves view their
role as being on probation, particularly following the publication
of the report of the Stevens Commission in November 2013, which
recommended their abolition.
For example, the PCC for Kent told us: "It is a new role,
It needs time to bed in. There are 41 of us. We are all trying
to do different things in different ways", whilst the PCC
for Cambridgeshire said: "we are on probation, and the next
election will be the judgement day".
9. One of the main aims of police and
crime commissioners was to make the strategic direction of policing
in England and Wales subject to democratic accountability. It
is disappointing, therefore, that the turn-out for the elections
in November 2012 was so low, leading some to question whether
PCCs have a sufficient electoral mandate. Since their introduction,
however, public awareness of commissioners has increased significantly,
albeit not always for the right reasons. This, combined with the
move of the next PCC elections to be in line with the May electoral
cycle should ensure a greater turn-out and level of public engagement
at the next elections in 2016. Until then, and whilst the nascent
work of PCCs is still to have its full effect on the public's
perception of local policing, it is inevitable that many will
consider the concept of police and crime commissioners to be on
Training and transition
10. The role of commissioner is a complex
one requiring an understanding of local government finance, legal
issues, and crime statistics, among many others. It is also a
role that is still being defined by its first incumbents. As the
Police Foundation noted, "incoming PCCs had no blueprint
to work from as there was no equivalent post elsewhere in the
world or in any other public service in the UK".
Lord Wasserman contrasted the high level of advice and guidance
provided by civil servants for new Ministers upon taking office,
to the relatively low level of support available to incoming commissioners
whose small secretariats may themselves change at election time.
He recommended allowing a gap of up to six weeks between the election
of new commissioners and their taking office. This would allow
time for a period of intensive training for PCCs. It would also
provide for an orderly transition between administrations, giving
an opportunity for incoming commissioners to make changes to their
teams and for any pre-appointment hearings to take place, although
the Minister expressed some reservations about the practicality
of a transition period, and argued that incoming commissioners
in 2016 would have a better idea of the requirements of the job.
11. This Report and the Committee's
previous reports on PCCs have shown that many of the difficulties
that commissioners have faced could have been avoided given greater
opportunity to find their feet before starting the job. For the
next elections, we recommend a transition period for new commissioners
of one month between election and taking office. This would allow
time for the Association of PCCs, College of Policing, Local Government
Association, and others to provide intensive training for newly
elected commissioners, and a period of transition for post-holders
and their teams.
Register of PCCs' disclosable
12. In our first Report of the 2013-14
Session, we recommended HM Inspectorate of Constabulary draw together
a national register of PCCs' disclosable interests to promote
transparency, andto aid the general public in holding their commissioners
to account. As an interim measure, we produced our own version
of a register. The
Home Office rejected this proposal, stating that whilst it expected
high standards of transparency by commissioners, it was not the
role of central Government to establish and maintain such a register.
It also said HMIC did not have a role in inspecting PCCs. During
this inquiry the Association of PCCs told us a national register
had not been created, "in part because of the bureaucracy
and complexity involved, but also because most PCCs feel this
is a matter of local accountability".
However, both the Local Government Association, the Centre for
Public Scrutiny, and the Committee on Standards in Public Life
told us they supported the introduction of a national register.
13. We continue to believe that there
should be a national register of commissioners' disclosable interests,
and reject the suggestion that such an exercise is complex and
bureaucratic. It has been a perfectly straightforward exercise
to produce it for this Report. In the continued absence of any
such initiative by HMIC, the Home Office or the Association of
PCCs, we produce the latest version of the register as an Annex
to this Report. For the first time, we also include the disclosable
interests of deputy commissioners.
1 Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session
2010-12, Policing: Police and Crime Commissioners, HC 511; First
Report of Session 2012-13, Police and Crime Commissioners: Register of Interests,
HC 69; and Sixth Report of Session 2012-13, Police and Crime Commissioners: power to remove Chief Constables,
HC 487 Back
(Home Office), para 1 Back
Qq 82 (Sir Hugh Orde, Association of Chief Police Officers), 232
(Chief Constable for Thames Valley), 363 (Policy Exchange), 447
(Local Government Association), and 541 (Chair of the Surrey Police
and Crime Panel) Back
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire), para 6.1 Back
Q 226 (Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex) Back
Qq 46 (Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire), and
462 (Local Government Association) Back
7 Ibid. Back
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire), para 10 Back
For example, PCC0002 (Mark Ryan); Qq 376 (Police Foundation) and
622 (Police Federation) Back
(Home Office), para 7, PCC0008 (Police and Crime Commissioner
for Surrey), para 6.2, PCC0023 (Committee on Standards in Public
Life), para 6, and PCC0034 (Association of Police and Crime Commissioners),
para 8.1 Back
(Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire), para 2.0 Back
146 (Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley); PCC0037
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire), para 8.2 Back
Q 634 (Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent) Back
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset), para 1.1 Back
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex); Q 429 (Police and
Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands) Back
Q 397 (Lord Wasserman) Back
(Police Foundation), para 17 and 23 Back
Q 290 (Lord Stevens) Back
Q 690 (Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims) Back
for a better Britain, November
Qq 31 (Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire) and 662
(Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent) Back
(Police Foundation), para 25 Back
Qq 393 and 403 (Lord Wasserman) Back
Q 403 (Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims) Back
Home Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2013-14, Police
and Crime Commissioners: Register of Interests, HC 69 Back
26 Government Responseto
Home Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2013-14, Police and Crime Commissioners: Register of Interests,
Cm 8692 Back
(Association of Police and Crime Commissioners), para 10.2 Back
(Committee on Standards in Public Life); Qq 470 (Local Government
Association) and 471 (Centre for Public Scrutiny) Back