Councillors on the police scrutiny committee, which they call the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee are to discuss their future work programme at their meeting on the 3rd of September 2013.
A proposal before the meeting suggests calling in the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable for a grilling by councillors in public every three months.
The scrutiny committee is chaired by UKIP Councillor Paul Bullen.
I have asked to use the public speaking slot at the meeting to make some suggestions, I wrote:
I would like to use the public speaking opportunity at the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 3rd of September 2013 to make some suggestions on the committee’s work programme.
I would like to draw the committee’s attention to the way Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel is scrutinising decisions made by Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. The panel is allowing the commissioner to decide which of his decisions he puts before them for scrutiny. This approach allows the commissioner to evade scrutiny by the panel. There are many decisions which the commissioner has made which he has not volunteered for scrutiny including for example:
- Decisions which the commissioner claims have led to the improvement of non-emergency call handling performance.
- Decisions relating to the staffing levels in the Commissioner’s office.
- The decision to hold the Commissioner’s key decision making committees, particularly the Business Coordination Board in secret and private; only publishing meeting papers well after the meetings took place.
- Decisions on which transactions to include in the Commissioner’s published spending data
- Decisions on pro-active publication of information; including police performance statistics and Force Executive Board papers.
Perhaps the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee could itself seek to fill the gap left by the Police and Crime Panel’s approach and scrutinise those important decisions the commissioner is not highlighting to the panel? I suggest calling the chair of the Police and Crime Panel to appear before the committee.
The Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee could also look at how the Police and Crime Panel is operating and encourage them to adopt a more comprehensive approach?
I can see the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee already has non-emergency call handling on its work programme. When the committee comes to investigate this I would like to see details of any decision taken by the commissioner revealed (the commissioner has repeatedly stated he took action to resolve the problems). The committee has in the past asked the police to provide details on call waiting times where their targets are not met; what is required is data showing the full distribution of call wait times both for the call being initially answered and for any “second wait”. I would like to see such data from both before and after any intervention by the commissioner.
In September 2012 Cllr McGuire, who represents the County Council on the Police and Crime Panel and serves as its chair told the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee the Police and Crime Panel could scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staffing levels and come to a view on if they had overstaffed their office. Perhaps the scrutiny committee could call him back to ask why the panel has not yet embarked on this?
I am concerned by many of the public statements by the Police and Crime Commissioner which appear inconsistent with information published by other sources. I am concerned by the commissioner’s claims the costs of his office will be less than the costs of the Police Authority; questions need to be asked about what he is considering as the costs of the Police Authority. Is it reasonable to include members’ allowances and expenses, or to cite a budgeted cost even now information on actual spending is available? On another subject the way the commissioner has described the “ECINs” data sharing website has been dramatically at odds with information provided to Cambridge’s Community Safety Partnership, the commissioner has stated the only information shared is if an individual has come into contact with an organisation, whereas the CSP papers suggest sharing of more details.
In relation to the Commisioner’s new “ALERT” / eCops service the commissioner has suggested to the police and crime panel it will provide comprehensive information on at least burglaries, car crime and anti-social behaviour; he also told them it was developed by the Home Office when justifying his approach  (something the Home Office deny). Perhaps the Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee could seek to challenge the commissioner on the accuracy of some of his public statements and urge the Police and Crime Panel to do this more too?
Details of the council’s “Public speaking at Overview and Scrutiny Committees” are currently unavailable as the relvent link on the council’s How you can play your part webpage linked from the agenda is broken.