In today’s Times, 115 Liberal Democrat councillors (including 14 Lib Dem Council Leaders and almost 70 opposition and group leaders including Councillor Norman Owen, Leader of the Salford Lib Dem Group) have called for the scrapping of Conservative-proposed plans for Police and Crime Commissioners. You can read more about the story at LocalGov, thereby saving you having to pay News International for the privilege of reading the story.
I personally urged Councillor Owen to sign the letter and I am very glad his opinion is the same as mine, that there is a clear need for a separation of the police and politicians. The recent hacking scandal has proven just that!
It worries me that the might of a political campaign could result in the appointment of a Police and Crime Commissioner who is neither qualified for the job nor capable of taking on the huge responsibility that comes with the role.
Take for example Greater Manchester Police, currently the worst performing force in the country, which employs 8,232 police officers, 332 Volunteer Special Constables, 782 Police Community Support Officers, and 4,068 members of police staff and an annual budget of £524.1m
(according to Wikipedia). The new Police & Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester would be expected to set the strategy, be responsible for the allocating of resources and setting targets for the local force, but would have no influence over the management. How will installing an unqualified commissioner to take on the monumental task of turning around GMP’s performance achieve that?
I cannot think of a more confusing situation having a politician in charge of the (supposedly) politically-neutral police!
The coalition government should scrap this idea immediately and I agree with the supporters of the letter to The Times which calls for them to be replaced with police boards that will work with local government.