Headlines: February 14th, 2005

Local government leaders say national police service targets should be scrapped and replaced with a flexible system allowing them to tackle the issues that are most important to their local communities. The Local Government Association wants police forces to be made more accountable to communities and, in its response to the Home Office’s consultation on police reform, it urges a joined-up approach to reducing crime and disorder.As well as submitting its own views to the consultation process, the LGA has drawn up a joint response with the Association of Police Authorities, covering issues of mutual interest. Together they say local authorities should decide the appropriate level of councillor representation on police authorities. Consideration should be given to political balance, appropriate weighting between various levels of local government and involvement in and knowledge of community safety issues.

In its own response the LGA welcomes the government’s recognition of the role local government can play, and the importance of partnership working to the success of efforts to combat crime and disorder. Bryony Rudkin, who chairs the Association’s Safer Communities Board, said it was crucial that local councils could work with the police, the fire service and other local partners to reduce crime and disorder and promote safer communities. For this to be truly effective, she said, the police first had to be freed from the restraints of national targets and to be able to divert resources to issues that were most important to their own individual localities.

She said the role of local councillors was fundamental to ensuring democratic accountability for police services. “As members of the public elected to represent the views of local people, councillors must have a direct say in how local police serve local residents. This means that national targets should be phased out, with performance based on how well police services do in meeting locally determined targets,” she said.