The government’s plans for the reform of policing, licensing and drug laws have been unveiled.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which includes controversial plans to replace police authorities with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), has started to make its way through Parliament.
Home secretary Theresa May said the new measures would “place the public back at the heart of our drive to cut crime” with the creation of directly elected commissioners and give police greater powers by cutting red tape.
“For too long, the fight against crime has been tangled up in a web of centrally imposed red tape that has driven a wedge between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve,” she said.
“I am determined to rebalance that by giving the public and the police and councils the powers they need to deal with the issues that blight too many of our communities.”
Association of Police Authorities’ (APA) chairman Rob Garnham said the Bill was “the wrong response to people’s priorities” at a time of budget cuts and public concern about policing.
Along with police chiefs and the Local Government Association, the APA unsuccessfully tried to persuade ministers to drop its plan for directly elected police commissioners.
Speaking at the APA’s annual conference last week, Mr Garnham said the government was at risk of creating a “perfect storm” by cutting police budgets at the same time as losing the experience of police authorities.
Mr Garnham has also asked the Sir Denis O’Connor, chief of the police inspectorate, to urgently carry out a risk assessment of the proposal.
“The APA is very disappointed and worried that the government is continuing with the proposal to introduce Directly Elected Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012, despite the numerous and considered responses to “Policing in the 21st Century”, from a majority of people within and without the police world, highlighting major concerns and reservations,” he said.
As well as the creation of police commissioners, a Home Office spokesman said the Bill will also contains proposals to:
- Give councils new powers to restrict late-night sales of alcohol and doubling the fine for alcohol sales to children to £20,000
- Allow anyone to comment on licensing applications, not just those that live nearby
- Ensure health and policing concerns are considered more widely in licensing decisions
- Introduce a late-night levy on licences to pay for policing
- Powers to impose immediate temporary bans on “legal highs” and tough penalties for those supplying such substances once banned
- Give protesters the right to gather in Parliament Square without notifying the police, but preventing them from taking over public spaces and setting up camp