Police Authority chief slates radical Government reform

Joseph Bulmer

North Devon council urged to stand up to new police bill

RADICAL Government reform to change the face of policing has been heavily criticised by the head of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.

In a letter to the chief executive of the North Devon Council, Mike Bull urged the local council to stand up to the Government’s new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, describing it as “unwanted, unnecessarily costly and a step backwards for police accountability.”

Due to be introduced in May 2012, the new legislation will essentially abolish police authorities across England and Wales and replace them with directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs.)

In doing this, Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that: “we can forge a direct link between the police and the public, ensuring that the public have a voice in setting police priorities and have the power to hold the police to account for keeping our streets safe and secure.”

Mr Bull, however, has complained that the proposals are “seriously flawed” and should be “strongly opposed.”

In the letter to Mike Mansell. to be discussed at tomorrow’s Overview and Scrutiny committee meeting, the chairman questioned why the Government was introducing a new system of police governance right in the middle of major attempts to reduce the budget deficit. He estimated that the cost of staging elections for PCCs would be �1.93 million, excluding the commissioner’s salary.

With regards to the geographic challenge that faces the elected PCC and the vast area that the Devon and Cornwall Force covers, Mr Bull asked: “How can one person sitting in, for example Exeter, represent the views of a community in West Cornwall?

“Under current arrangements,” Mr Bull added, “Police Authority members are drawn from across the two counties including the Isles of Scilly. How can moving from 19 people to one be an improvement in community engagement?”

As a final thought, Mr Bull pointed out that Police Authority meetings have been open to the public and broadcast live on the web for years. However, a PCC will be making decisions by themselves, in private and without debate.

The chairman asked: “How overt and transparent is that going to be?”

Mr Bull strongly urged the Council to express their views on the new legislation, in writing, to the Bill Committee which will be examining the proposals in more depth.