PCCs – and the new battle ground for local government

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Over at Public-i, we’re interested in the developments leading up to the arrival of Police and Crime Commissioners later in the year.

I thought it might be worth doing the occassional post on this – that offers a little commentary on the PCCs. This is because, as the debate between prospective PCC candidates grows, we’re coming across some really interesting developments that seem worth sharing (with more than a tweet). These aren’t all directly pertinent to Public-i, but they are what people are talking about – which is why I’m publishing them on my own blog rather than at Public-i.

Anyway, today I came across this post from Richard Hibbs – which he has posted on Sam Chapman’s Top Of The Cops blog, dedicated to all things PCC.

Richard’s post is a number of things – with some well-aimed digs at the Local Government Association’s attempts to become the professional association for PCCs and a swipe at Association of Chief Police Officers’ attitude to the new office, too.

What stands out to me is the point he makes about the power of the PCC’s voice. Here he’s making a point about the LGA’s proposed creation of a Police Executive board – which he says aims, among other things, to give PCCs a strong voice.

“… PCCs will be at least 100 times as important as local councillors in constitutional terms (due to the size of the constituencies and their democratic mandate) and will therefore have a pretty loud voice which will carry all the way to Westminster anyway without amplification. Plus they’ll be able to say no to the Home Office if, in consultation with the Chief Constable, they don’t wish to “have regard to” aspects of the Strategic Policing Requirement they simply don’t believe in (whatever ACPO thinks!).”

Richard is, of course, right. PCCs will be heard by central government without any help – there will be just 41 of them across England and Wales and the power they will have to influence national and local politics (quite aside from their statutory powers) will be of huge interest to a government, not least because of the damage they could do to its reputation on law and order with the public.

And, in turn, that’s going to have an impact on what local government looks like, which I think is only slowly dawning on us…

Two things occur to me about this:-

  1. The ruptures that are caused by the development of the PCCs for local government will take a long time to be resolved. And the influence the PCCs wield will have profound effects on how we see the rest of local government.
  2. PCCs – with their big mandates – are likely to be agressive players. The creation of a directly elected official of this kind is new to England and Wales (mayors aren’t an equivalent) and Richard’s assertions might hint at future battles between councillors and PCCs – with its arena, obviously, the Police and Crime Panels where some will sit to scrutinise PCCs.

That might not sound like a big deal (cue headline: new politicians make life difficult for other politicians) but Richard’s bullishness, which may be justified, is an indication of a battleground opening up in local politics.

The government has a lot invested in PCCs and – as I think has been suggested elsewhere – may wish to extend powers to them if they are a success. This can only be made more likely, I guess, by the general rejection of city mayors earlier this month.