Ministers are sympathetic to councillors’ concerns about elected police and crime commissioners, according to a senior Local Government Association member.
Cllr Richard Kemp (Lib Dem), the LGA’s vice-chairman and leader of the Liberal Democrat group, told LGC there was a “meeting of minds” between Home Office ministers and the Local Government Association over reforms to the way the police are held accountable.
“My guess is that the Home Office team as currently instituted wouldn’t have chosen this,” he said. “The direction is very clearly coming from Number 10,” he added.
Earlier this year home secretary Theresa May announced that police authorities, made up of councillors, magistrates and nominated independent members and which she argued were invisible to members of the public, with a single elected individual.
A consultation carried out over the summer elicited 900 responses and the Home Office is currently continuing the discussion with some of the interested parties, including the LGA and the Association of Police Authorities (APA).
The LGA’s submission called for police accountability to be reintegrated into local authority structures. While the body agreed that the existing police authorities should be abolished, it argued that they be replaced with a ‘local government policing executives’ made up of two policing champions nominated by each local authority in a police force area.
Cllr Kemp, left, told LGC that his contact with the Home Office ministers showed “there is a meeting of minds - certainly when I meet the politicians”.
Thinking had moved on from the original idea in May and things looked “better than we hoped” at the time, but the question was whether enough could be done before the bill is published at the end of November, Cllr Kemp added.
Giving evidence to the home affairs select committee, Cllr Kemp told MPs that police and crime commissioners ran counter to key government policies including the drive to reduce extra bureaucracy, such as quangos, and placed based budgeting which the government is expected to back in tomorrow’s spending review announcement.
Cllr Kemp said there already existed an “operational connectivity” between councillors and police officers on five levels - neighbourhood, ward, district, city and conurbation - and argued that a local government police executive made up of champions who were also council crime and safety portfolio holders would provide “strategic connectivity”.
It was very important that the police were held to account by elected representatives, he said, and not the current independent or magistrate authority members which are seen as important by the APA.
“I think what will emerge will be closer to what we want than what the APA want,” Cllr Kemp told LGC. “The general agreement between the political parties is that the status quo is not good enough. What the APA is suggesting is the status quo.”