Headlines: July 16th, 2010

Council leaders have stressed the need to put local authorities at the heart of holding the police to account locally. They believe it is not only the most cost effective solution but would ensure members of the public got a fair hearing. The Local Government Association wants to see a white paper to explore fully the idea of elected police commissioners.

The LGA says electing police chiefs could weaken forces’ ability to fight crime. Instead it wants the emphasis to be on developing good practice that already exists in some areas where accountability spreads from street and neighbourhood level, to ward, district, borough and city level, through to police force and combined police force processes.

Richard Kemp, Vice-Chairman of the LGA said there was no doubt the police service had to be more efficient and effective and added: “People quite rightly want a say on what is being done to combat the crime and disorder issues affecting their everyday lives. If the police are to be truly held accountable at local level, then councils must be at the heart of any new system.”

Councillor Kemp said local authorities already had democratically elected members overseeing community safety and the reintegration of police oversight into council structures was the way forward. ‘The measure would require minimal legislative changes, drive out duplicate spending and deliver efficiency savings,” he said.

The LGA has consistently argued that police accountability needs to be reformed. It has registered its concerns with the Home Secretary and wants to ensure that elected police commissioners do not fragment local partnerships, make a place-based budgeting approach more difficult and increase the possibility that responsibility for failures to reduce crime is passed between public agencies.