It is not that long now until Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are upon us – elections will be held on the 15th November 2012 – but there is still some confusion (and concern) over what this new role will do. In broad terms they have the powers of a Police Authority plus a few. Their powers are quite wide ranging, including budgets, and the hiring and firing of the Chief Constable. From the Home Office site: “PCCs will be able to set the priorities for the police force within their force area, respond to the needs and demands of their communities more effectively, ensure that local and national priorities are suitably funded by setting a budget and the local precept, and hold to account the local chief constable for the delivery and performance of the force.”
My question however, is slightly different. If you were to stand as a PCC (and at the time of writing only one person has gone on record stating that he wishes to do so) what would your manifesto be?
Ask that question of the general public and the answers might be obvious – more police officers on the beat, reduced bureaucracy, reduced costs, less crime… the list is probably predictable. However I hope that most intelligent PCC candidates will consider what is achievable before making wild promises to the electorate. After all if they don’t, they are unlikely to be re-elected for a second term.
All PCCs will of course need to address the issues above – particularly the one around budgets and costs. As they will take up office in the late autumn, they will be immersed in budget setting for the following year almost immediately, and decisions on council tax precepts will need to be taken within a couple of months. Any decision to increase council tax will therefore probably be a key electoral issue.
In some areas of the country there may be local ‘push button’ issues; those local concerns that will have to be addressed by PCCs. However the wide geographical area that many PCCs will cover (think of Devon andCornwall, orThamesValleyfor example) mean that these high profile issues may not be high profile across the entire electorate.
Some PCCs will have an understanding of policing, community safety or similar, and will have a particular set of views that they will bring with them from previous employment or experience. Again these views – often not informed by understanding some of the constraints and unique operating environment of the police – could sound good on a manifesto, could easily gain public support…but fail the test of achievability.
So over to you – if you were standing, what are your top 3 (or 5 or whatever) priorities for policing. How would you phrase those to get you elected, but to also be able to deliver those promises once you were elected?