I was pleased to see many of theses PCCs at City Hall yesterday at a gathering hosted by Stephen Greenhalgh, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London.
The meeting offered them a useful chance to share ideas – most pressingly on ways to achieve better value for money.
While the chief constables are held to account – which can be a source of friction – most of them would prefer the current system remains rather than going back to toothless, time wasting Police Authorities.
Why might chief constables have come round to the idea of PCCs?
There are a couple of reasons. One is that chief constables are not businessmen they are crime fighters. They did not join the police with the motivation of negotiating joint procurement of paper clips. So getting a bit of rigorous guidance over their budgets is helpful.
Secondly, the role of the PCC as a politician assists the police and the public in communicating with each other. A PCC is also well placed to help sort out arrangements with other organisations – the NHS, councils, the Home Office, business, charities, the churches. It is a way of the police being better integrated but just with the rest of the state but with the rest of society.
Yet Labour propose to abolish the PCCs. Labour claims this would save money. The claim is dubious – although it is usually unchallenged by the media. As the Conservative cost analysis of Labour’s spending says:
“PCC elections are held alongside local elections. The elections are due in May 2016. There are no savings in 2015/16. Labour would also incur costs to set up the replacement model. Without any detail it has not been possible to estimate these costs.”
Stephen Greenhalgh says that committees consumed with political point scoring would be a poor alternative to proper police accountability:
“Cops count but public safety governance matters too – especially as we show solidarity for the people of Paris who suffered such a grotesque attack on freedom of speech.
“The London Police and Crime Committee are supposed to hold the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) to account. Instead they convene an impromptu committee meeting and try to invite the Met Police to attend to give reassurance after the horrors in Paris without even having the courtesy to inform me – the very individual they are supposed to hold to account!
“Labour want to abolish the PCC role and return to this sort of petty “political committeeism” and grandstanding which failed to hold the Met police to account. It beggars belief that Labour will not say what this policy means for London after 7th May but public deserve to know given how important public safety is as an issue to us all.
“They see to abolish MOPAC which would cost money and bring back the discredited Metropolitan Police Authority would destroy London’s public safety governance overnight. Just like the Mansion Tax, Labour politicians in London do not agree with Labour policies and are hoping Londoners won’t notice. Conservative PCCs – just like this Mayor – have given the public a stronger voice in setting police and public safety priorities. On this day of mourning I call on all fair-minded people to call for Labour not to turn the clock back.”