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24.05.13

PCCs increase policing budgets – MPs

Over a third of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are spending more than the police authorities they were elected to replace, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has warned.

The committee found that 17 out of 41 PCCs have set higher budgets than their predecessor’s, with the largest increase in Hampshire at 133%. The published register shows commissioners’ pay, interests, costs and second jobs.

Only 10 PCCs have met their full statutory obligations to publish required financial data, including expenses and contracts tendered. The committee recommends a national register for this information as vital to provide local accountability.

Keith Vaz, the home affairs committee chairman, said: “The Government is going to publish a register of chief constables' interests, but has so far refused to do so for PCCs, who share the power over policing.

“In this, the first register for PCCs, we find that there is a massive gap between Commissioners' costs and their other activities.

“A system of local scrutiny makes sense for PCCs, but the public cannot possibly judge whether their PCC is upholding the standards of the office and giving them a good deal unless they make a comparison with other PCCs. Some Commissioners have already failed to meet the deadline for publishing information online, but there is no one in Government keeping track.

“A national register is vital for local accountability. Police and Crime Panels must redouble their oversight of their PCCs. Already we have seen the suspension of a chief constable without consultation in Lincolnshire, controversial personal and political appointments without scrutiny by the PCP in Kent and other areas, and PCCs with second, third and even fourth jobs. We need to guard against maverick decision-making.

PCCs have national responsibilities as well as local. It is right that they should meet the same standards of disclosure as chief constables. In future, the Government must commission a full register from an independent national body, such as HMIC.”

A home office spokesperson said: “The local electorate will judge whether PCCs are making best use of public money and hold them to account at the ballot box.”

Cllr Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Police and crime panels have been making effective use of the powers they have been provided with by Parliament to hold police and crime commissioners to account since the November elections last year.

“Although the powers are limited in scope, discussions at police and crime panels can provide a good check and balance, and many panels have made valuable comments in respect of the appointment of deputies and other issues, some of which have been accepted and acted upon.

“In one in six cases panels have not recommended the appointment of the deputy put forward by the PCC.

“Any decisions relating to the chief constable are important and the recommendation that the PCC must give both the panel and the chief constable a written explanation of the reasons why a chief constable has been suspended is welcome even though it has no legal force. Panels will need to take into account local circumstances as to when to best start their scrutiny of such decisions by a PCC.”

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