Headlines: December 1st, 2008

The Government’s decision to go ahead with plans for the direct election of crime and policing representatives to police authorities have been dismissed as nonsense by council leaders. The Local Government Association said the move would be a waste of money and make policing more difficult.

Following consultations on the Government’s Policing Green Paper, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, underlined her commitment to giving local people a stronger voice in policing. She confirmed that this would include the new elected members of authorities. She pointed to a poll by the Association of Police Authorities, which showed 55 per cent of people actively supported the direct elections and only 19 per cent were opposed to the idea.

The chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer Communities Board, Hazel Harding, however, said the idea was complete nonsense. “The cost of these elections alone would run to tens of millions of pounds, which could be spent putting hundreds of police on our streets,” Councillor Harding said and added, “What does the Government think the public would prefer, more elections or more police? Experienced councillors who are elected and accountable already sit on police authority boards.”

Councillor Harding said that on a practical level the suggested elections would make local policing more difficult. She said local authorities, the police, health services and local groups all needed to be working together to prevent crime but the elections would only increase buck-passing and blame shifting between the different organisations. The proposals would fail to bridge the gap between the public and the police and added, “The real reason there’s not enough accountability when it comes to local policing is that police authorities don’t have the right powers. Giving them the ability to examine budgets, control spending and improve efficiency would go a long way to addressing this.”