While there’s plenty of debate about Police and Crime Commissioners, the bodies that will scrutinise their performance, Police and Crime Panels, haven’t exactly exicted much interest. In an admittedly vain attempt to address this inbalance, we thought we’d look at the Police and Crime Panels to find out a bit more about them…
The Police and Crime Panels are the main instrument of oversight to the Police and Crime Commissioners. The functions include:-
- Contributing the to the development of the Police and Crime Plan
- Scrutinising the PCC and receiving evidence from the chief constable – at set events…
- Reviewing the precept
- Reviewing proposed appointments by the PCC
- Making reports and recommendations on matters relating to the
- PCC on which the PCC is obliged to provide a response
- Carrying out investigations into decisions made bye the PCC and into topics of particular interest, or public concern (this isn’t statutory)
- Making comments on the PCC’s annual report at a public meeting to be held as soon as possible after the publication of that report
See this in detail using this PDF from Lancs PCC.
The genesis of the PCPs is quite interesting in this sense. In 2010 the Home Affairs Select Committee made recommendations to the government on the panels, including that they should be “a means of providing advice to commissioners before final decisions are made”. See the article here.
PCPs and the public – they don’t have any statutory obligation to engage with the public, but do have “to have regard to the
opinion of local people in developing policy”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to engage but that it’s unlikely to be something they’ll commit much budget,too. See this PDF from Lancs PCC here.
It stands to reason, given the two previous points, that part of the PCP’s job will be to ensure that the PCCs engage with the public themselves. As the Home Office states, the panels should be ‘critical friends’ to the PCCs. (See this from the archives of the Home Office website.)
The PCPs will have a scrutiny officer who will be employed by the lead local authority – to offer support to their work but, otherwise, there won’t be much in terms of resource for the PCPs. See this presentation by Hannah Buckley of the Home Office.
A minimum of 10 members of the PCPs will come from local authorities, with two independent members. If there’s an elected mayor in the policing area they too will have to be on the panel. You can see from Richard Taylor’s post how councillors in Cambridgeshire have negotiated over their panel – and some of the implications to this.
We’ll know more about the setting up of the PCPs once secondary legislation is resolved. As this posting from the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s forum asserts.
PCP funding isn’t massive. They will get £53,000 per year (this doesn’t include the £30,000 or so that the wages of a PCP scrutiny officer costs) (See here). This has led to some stern criticism – see Lord Harris of Haringey’s very interesting take on the debate in the Lords.
There isn’t much chatter about the PCPs at all – as this post by independent PCC candidate Martyn Underhill points out. This is probably because in comparison with the PCCs it just doesn’t have the appeal. Despite that the role of PCPs is quite significant. The ability to be able to hold to account the PCC may become important, particularly if a PCC fails badly.