John Elworthy, the editor of a number of local newspapers, recently tweeted to note the cancellation of a meeting of Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel which had been scheduled for Wednesday the 9th of January 2013. Notice of the cancellation had been posted on the committee’s webpage on the Peterborough City Council website.
No reason for the cancellation was given along with the notification. Member of the panel Cllr Martin Curtis responded to John Elworthy’s tweet to say:
Cancelled due to lack of business
Rupert Moss-Eccardt questioned what this might mean:
So, apart from appointing a deputy and hounding cyclists, the PCC has done nothing of note?
It is astonishing that the panel considers it has no business to conduct; I think this shows it is not carrying out its role of robustly and routinely scrutinising the commissioner and holding him to account. My concern is that it is only going to carry out those duties it is required to by law.
The police and crime panel discussed its agenda plan in a meeting held behind closed doors on the 21st of November 2012. No minutes for that private meeting have been produced despite key decisions, including the appointment of non-councillor members of the panel, having been made at the meeting.
There does not appear to be any plan to release the minutes, or even any decision notices, as the meeting was one of those dubbed a meeting of the “shadow panel” and the minutes were not put to the first meeting of the panel itsself for approval and publication.
The PDF report on the agenda plan for the Police and Crime Panel shows a proposal to consider the following items at the 9th January 2013 meeting:
- Confirm Procedure for Handling of Complaints
- Confirm Rules of Procedure
- Confirm Protocol Between Commissioner, Constabulary and the Panel
- Scrutiny of the Police and Crime Plan
Perhaps the commissioner has fallen behind the proposed timetable for the production of the Police and Crime Plan? If that was the case surely the panel ought to have called him in to discuss this rather than cancelling the meeting?
The panel might also have discussed the commissioner’s absence from a series of key events during his first few weeks in office. Events I would have expected the commissioner to have been present at which he was absent from included:
- The swearing in of new constables.
- A briefing event in London including sessions with the Home Secretary and Security Services.
- The first “Force Executive Board” meeting – in December 2012.
- Full meetings of both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council – where councillors from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have questioned the commissioner’s absence from their full council meetings. Previously there had been an opportunity for councillors to raise policing questions at their full council meetings.
- Cambridge Community Safety Partnership – at his confirmation hearing the Police and Crime Panel and specifically asked Deputy Commissioner Ashton to get to know about the work of these bodies, but neither the commissioner or his deputy attended
- Various Local Police Priority setting meetings, including one in Swavesey