Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner – Local Democratic Priority Setting and Accountability


Friday, October 12th, 2012. 2:35pm


Sgt Wragg of the police speaking at the September 2010 North Area Committee in Cambridge

Sgt Wragg of the police with councillors at the Cambridge North Area Committee

Elected councillors should set local police and crime priorities and hold their local police and other agencies to account for their performance against them.

Priorities should be set after councillors have heard from those with an interest in policing the area. Evidence based, quantitative, priorities should be encouraged, and priority setting meetings need to know what information is available which could be provided to them, or indeed what could be collected on request. Examples of material which can inform elected representatives’ decision making includes speed survey data, injury data, crime and anti-social behaviour reports, as well as information recent court outcomes.

District and County Councillors voting on priorities ought be the default position and the details of how the meetings are run should be up to them. If District and County Councillors think it appropriate they could decide to extend additional speaking rights, voting rights, to town or parish councillors. Where there are other elected representatives of significant numbers of people in an area, for example students’ union or school council representatives it would be appropriate for them to be enabled to play an appropriate role in setting, and monitoring performance against, priorities.

Meetings need to be well publicised, with councils, the police and others working together.

I would like to see members of the public interested in influencing their local policing able to make use of their local police priority setting meeting, either in-person, by contacting local councillors, or contributing via an online forum eg. Facebook or ShapeYourPlace. A key advantage of such routes is they can be used at any time. The day when we see a whole committee of councillors prepared to make a decision following an online deliberation might not be so far away, but we’re not there yet.

Currently police consultative effort is spread thinly, I think we need to see less of police surgery type events (PCSOs hanging around in shopping centres) and more focus on the events where priorities are set and elected representatives have the opportunity to robustly hold the police to account. All outcomes of consultative efforts should be fed into the democratic process of priority setting and holding to account. Communications should not be exclusively focused on specific groups such as residents associations and neighbourhood watch groups, but made available to the general public, undue effort and resources should not be expended on working with such self selecting minorities.

See Also

Overview

I have published a summary of my views on what Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner ought do.

4 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner – Local Democratic Priority Setting and Accountability

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    What I would like to see is a world away from what as far as I can tell the Conservative Candidate Graham Bright is proposing; he says he want to upgrade Neighbourhood Watch giving them responsibility similar to London’s Neighbourhood Boards, this as I understand it means giving the self-selected neighbourhood watch members, not democratically elected councillors, responsibility to set local police priorities and hold the police to account for their performance against them. I have commented further on Mr Bright and his policies at:

    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/graham-bright.html

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    Liberal Democrat Candidate Rupert Moss-Eccardt has tweeted

    @RTaylorUK at the Grantchester Hustings I said I would take the best practice across County from panels & committees. Councillor-led

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    On Monday the 12th of November I attended Cambridge’ South Area Committee.

    I asked if the committee, or councillors on the committee, knew if they would be able to set the police priorities for South Cambridge at their next meeting to consider policing matters, as this would be held following a Police and Crime Commissioner coming into office. I noted Conservative Cllr Shapour Meftah had been campaigning with the Tory candidate Graham Bright on the previous Saturday and asked if he knew his policies relating to councillor set police priorities at area committees.

    I suggested the Commissioner be invited to the next policing meeting of the committee.

    The meeting’s chair, Cllr Dryden, said the commissioner could be invited (no other councillors appeared to support this idea though)

    Conservative Cllr Meftah said that he had recently met his party’s candidate and at that meeting he understood that if Graham Bright became Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner he would attend all meetings of the South Area Committee.

    Liberal Democrat Cllr Heathcock was the only other councillor to comment; he said that he thought time constraints would make it a challenge for a commissioner to attend all such priority setting meetings (I wasn’t suggesting that, just inviting the commissioner to the first one so he could explain what, if anything, had changed following his election).

    Cllr Heathcock said he hoped to see commissioners at the meetings; he said that he had: “to put it politely found the police inspector evasive” when councillors were requesting information and he said he hoped the commissioner would be forthright and support councillors.

    Tweet from another attendee:

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    Many local police priority setting meetings won’t be formal council meetings (they can be police led, or even chaired by local business people or activists) so there’s no legal right to attend/report/record those.

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