During the public participation agenda item at Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel on the 5th of February 2014 I suggested the panel consider potential items for scrutiny arising from the recent release of the commissioner’s Diary in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The released diary appears to show the commissioner working a three day working week. I would have liked to see the panel investigate this, to see if it is in fact the case, and to question the commissioner on if, and how, he manages to fit the role into that time.
I also noted the large amount of time being spent by the commissioner on his directorship of a Limited company, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and suggested the panel look into how that is impacting his role in Cambridgeshire. I also suggested the panel consider what burden supporting the commissioner in that role is putting on the commissioners’ staff.
The panel could also compare the diary with the commissioner’s published events listings on his website, and the public events (such as council meetings) he is known to have attended. I suggested the panel might want to make recommendations to the commissioner as to what information he ought proactively publish relating to upcoming official engagements, as well as his historical diary.
My suggestions were summarily dismissed out of hand by the acting chairman of the panel:
Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: In terms of some of the things in here, the commissioner’s diary, that’s not, frankly, our concern at all. That’s a politically accountable thing and it’s up to the electorate if they feel that’s the case and not a scrutiny panel to all intents and purposes.
Cllr Ablewhite’s comments were met with murmurs of agreement from panel members.
My view is that the Police and Crime Panel should be helping members of the public who are trying to hold their Police and Crime Commissioner to account. The electorate don’t have the powers to hold the commissioner to account, the panel hold those powers on the electorate’s behalf.
While I don’t think all suggestions of areas for scrutiny ought result in detailed investigations I don’t think reasonable proposals ought be dismissed summarily on the basis they are “a politically accountable thing”.
One of the outputs of the panel’s work should be a better informed electorate about how the Police and Crime Commissioner is performing his role.
I think the panel were wrong to rule out any consideration of the commissioner’s diary as not being their concern.
Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner does not publish his planned attendances at
council meetings and the like in advance on his website; this means the public cannot easily find out where they can go to see the commissioner and when it is an appropriate time to write to their local councillors with suggestions of matters to raise with the commissioner.
I think that had the Police and Crime Panel looked into matters arising from the released diary positive suggestions may have emerged which could have improved the way the commissioner is carrying out his role.
If Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel are to rule out ~”politically accountable things” from matters they are prepared to investigate that really doesn’t leave much scope for them to operate.