Headlines: February 11th, 2008

The Local Government Information Unit believes Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s review of policing is good news for local authorities. The review looked at a number of options for democratic accountability for police forces and the think-tank says Sir Ronnie is pushing to strengthen the role councils play in making communities safer.

In the report, Sir Ronnie argued that introducing elected local police commissioners or neighbourhood boards could lead to internal tensions and hamper local policing. Amelia Cookson, head of LGiU’s Centre for Service Transformation, said, “This review is good news for local government. In a balanced way, Flanagan has considered a wide range of accountability options, of which, arguably, strengthening the role of local authorities comes out most strongly.”

The Local Government Association had already made clear its view that all services delivered locally should be directly answerable to residents through their locally elected councillors. Sir Simon Milton, the Chairman of the Association, said, “Councillors are elected to put people first. Regardless of which local service they are using, if local people are seeking help or redress, their first point of call must be their councillors.”

A local police chief, he added, should be accountable to the local council and local authorities could only serve the interests of local people if they could get rid of someone doing a bad job. “There is no sense in having police commissioners sitting on newly created directly elected boards which do not involve local councillors who are responsible for the other services that contribute to crime reduction such as housing, schools, leisure and recreation. The most effective way to improve local police accountability is by increasing the involvement of directly-elected frontline councillors in deciding policing safety priorities,” Sir Simon said.