Police and Crime Panels must be better equipped to hold Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCS) to account, MPs have said.
In a report the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) noted that the panels were the only mechanism for accountability of PCCs outside of elections every four years. The MPs said the panels and PCCs should meet a minimum of once every two months.
The report, Police and Crime Commissioners: here to stay, also said that – in order to improve transparency and accountability – there should be a a central register of PCCs' interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs.
The MPs added that:
- Those Commissioners who will be elected in May must prioritise consolidating the work of their predecessors before considering further expansions of their role and powers.
- It was “deeply concerning” that there had been so few applicants for recent Chief Constable vacancies. Many of these roles had been awarded to the incumbent Deputy Chief Constables, who often shared a close relationship with the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner.
- PCCs should consolidate their profile in the communities they represent. Turnout at the next elections would be one measure of success in engagement.
- Any expansion of the PCC role needed to be incremental and carefully judged. “The additional responsibilities for PCCs detailed in the Policing and Crime Bill in relation to fire and rescue, and in police complaints provide sufficient additional challenges for now, and PCCs should concentrate on the issues raised in this report, wider public engagement and their core role before broader expansion of their role is considered.”
- Progress on the new Police Funding Formula must be brought forward, “as damaging delays are making it impossible for PCCs to fulfil their role of setting Force budgets. PCCs hands are tied by the stalled review which must be restarted urgently, with the establishment of the independent panel HASC called for in its December report.”
Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee, said: "PCCs are here to stay. A series of measures would consolidate their role and effectiveness in local communities. This must begin with a central register of PCCs interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs, so they can be better scrutinised by their electorate.
“We did not anticipate that the creation of PCCs would have such a dramatic effect on the appointment of Chief Constables. The pool of talent in policing is in danger of drying up, with so few applications for the most senior jobs in policing. PCCs must ensure applicants for Chief Constable roles have served at least two years in another Police Force at a senior rank, and not allow close working relationships with their Deputy Chief Constables to deter external applicants.”
Vaz added that newly elected office holders in May should not be burdened with too many additional responsibilities. “They are already due to be given more powers for Fire and Rescue Services and Police Complaints, and an even broader remit on top of this may prove overwhelming and these proposals should be paused."