Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) elections, November 2012
Below are a set of frequently asked questions regarding the newly created position of Police and Crime Commissioner. The FAQs deal with the role and responsibilities of PCCs. The answers are, in the main, provided by the Home Office. Where an alternative source has been consulted, the annotation makes this clear.
If you have any further questions concerning the PCC elections, or these FAQs, please contact us and we will do our best to find and return the answer to you.
[See also our article on Police and Crime Commissioner Elections – why Muslims MUST engage]
1. What are Police and Crime Commissioners?
On 15 November 2012, for the first time ever, the public across England and Wales will elect Police and Crime Commissioners who will be accountable to their electorates for crime strategy and implementation by the police force authority.
This is a result of the Policing Protocol Order 2011 (statutory instrument) which came into force on 16 January 2012, under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility bill, and extends to England and Wales. You can view the order here.
The Protocol sets out how the new policing governance arrangements will work. It clarifies the role and responsibilities of police and crime commissioners, the mayor’s office for policing and crime, chief constables, police and crime panels and the London assembly police and crime panel. It outlines what these bodies are expected to do and how they should work together to fight crime and improve policing.
2. What is the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner?
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.
To provide stronger and more transparent accountability of the police, PCCs will be elected by the public to hold chief constables and the force to account; effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.
Police and Crime Commissioners will ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible, and will improve local relationships through building confidence and restoring trust. They will also work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime.
PCCs will not be expected to run the police. The role of the PCC is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account.
3. What powers will a PCC have?
- PCCs will appoint (and will be able to dismiss) chief constables, although the chief constable will appoint all other officers within the force
- The PCC will set out a five-year police and crime plan, although it may be refreshed each year and may be fully reopened at the PCC’s discretion
- PCCs will be required to determine local policing priorities, publish the plan, set a local precept and set the annual force budget (including contingency reserves) in consultation with chief constables. The plan will need to take account of national policing challenges, as set out in a new ‘Strategic Policing Requirement’
- PCCs will receive the policing grant from the Home Office, various grants from Department for Communities and Local Government and the local precept (as well as other funding streams yet to be determined)
- The PCC will commission policing services from the chief constable (or other providers – in consultation with the chief constable). These services shall be set out in the plan where their objectives and funding will be publicly disclosed
- The plan must be published and remain a public document including any updates or amendments made during the five-year period
- At the end of the financial year the PCC will publish an annual report which will set out progress made by the PCC against the objectives set out in the plan
- Alongside the annual report the PCC will publish annual financial accounts, including showing how resources were consumed in respect of priorities and how value for money was secured
- PCCs will also have a general duty to regularly consult and involve the public and have regard to the local authority priorities
- PCCs will be able to require a report from chief constables at any time about the execution of their functions
- The local precept will be subject to the same referendum requirements as local government (triggered on rises which exceed thresholds set by government)
4. What will PCCs actually do?
PCCs will aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within the force area. They will do this by:
- holding the chief constable to account for the service delivery of the force
- setting and updating a police and crime plan
- setting the force budget and precept
- regularly engaging with the public and communities
- appointing, and where necessary dismissing, the chief constable
5. Will PCCs politicise policing?
No. The job of the PCC will be to ensure the policing needs of their communities are met as effectively as possible by bringing communities closer to the police, building confidence in the system and restoring trust. They will give the public a voice at the highest level, and give the public the ability to ensure their police are accountable.
However, it will not be for the PCC to tell the professionals how to do their job - the legislation continues to protect the operational independence of the police by making it clear that the chief constable retains direction and control of the force’s officers and staff. The operations of the police will not be politicised; who is arrested and how investigations work will not become political decisions.
The statutory protocol sets out the roles and responsibilities of the PCC, chief constable, Home Office, police and crime panel and builds on the government’s commitment that local chief constables will retain the direction and control of their forces’ officers and staff and makes clear that operational independence of the police will be safeguarded. The protocol also underlines the government’s commitment to limiting the role of the Home Office in day-to-day policing matters so giving the police a greater freedom to fight crime as they see fit.
The above statement is provided by the Home Office.
Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), has written on this from a police perspective, he says: “…the government has an absolute right to reform accountability at a local level, which it aims to do through replacing police authorities with locally elected police and crime commissioners. Our position is that the police service should have clarity on how new arrangements are going to work, complete with effective checks and balances that sustain the insulation from political interference in operations which Peel intended.”
You can read Sir Hugh Orde’s full statement here.
6. When will the next PCC elections take place?
Following the first PCC elections in November 2012, the next elections will take place in May 2016 and subsequently, every 4 years.
7. What voting system will be used?
The supplementary vote system will be used in the PCC elections. This is currently the system used to elect mayors (e.g. Mayor of London), the closest existing role to PCCs. Under the supplementary vote system, a voter is asked to indicate first and second preferences. If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the first preference votes, the two candidates with the highest number of first preference votes go forward to a second round.
In the second round, candidates who were eliminated in the previous round have the second preference indicated on the ballot paper allocated to the remaining candidates. The process continues until a candidates passes the 50% + 1 threshold to secure a plurality of votes.
8. Where are elections taking place?
PCC elections will be held in all police force areas in England and Wales, except in London, where the Mayor of London has taken on the powers of a Police and Crime Commissioner in relation to the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Corporation will continue to act as a police authority.
Click here for details of where elections will take place .
(Interactive map with full details of each police force area and PCC candidates coming soon)
9. How will the elections be paid for?
The elections will be paid for by the Home Office and will not come from funds that would otherwise have gone to forces.
10. Who can stand for election as a PCC?
A person may stand as a PCC if:
- they are 18 or over
- they are a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
- they are registered to vote in the force area in which they wish to stand
A person may not stand as a PCC if:
- they have been convicted of an imprisonable offence
- they are a serving; civil servant, judge, police officer, member of the regular armed forces, employee of a council within the force area, employee of a police related agency, employee of another government agency, politically restricted post-holder, member of police staff (including Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) or member of a police authority
Politicians such as MPs, MEPs, MSPs and AMs – will be able to stand as PCCs, but will need to stand down from their existing post before being able to accept candidacy as a PCC.
11. Who can vote for PCCs?
You can vote in the election of your PCC if you are resident in that area and you are:
- a British citizen living in the UK, or registered to vote as a crown servant or member of the armed services
- a European Union citizen living in the UK
- a Commonwealth citizen who either does not need leave to be resident in the UK, or has the necessary leave and is legally resident in the UK.
12. Who will run the PCC elections?
The Home Office will be laying secondary legislation before Parliament setting out the statutory framework for the PCC elections. The Home Office is working closely with the Cabinet Office and Department for Communities and Local Government, and using the advice of the Electoral Commission, Association of Electoral Administrators and lead returning officers.
PCC elections will be run by local returning officers (LROs) in each local authority, with police area returning officers (PAROs) coordinating across each force area. Both LROs and PAROs are independent officers from both central and local government.
Police and Crime Panels – PCP
The police and crime panel (PCP) will have power to scrutinise PCC activities, including the ability to review the police and crime plan and annual report, veto decisions, request PCC papers and call PCCs and chief constables to public hearings. The panel can also seek a professional view from HMIC regarding potential dismissals. Local authorities will need to choose a lead authority to hold central funding and provide scrutiny support.
13. How much funding will the Home Office provide?
The Home Office will provide funding to help panels to do the job required of them under the new legislation. This funding will be a total of £53,300 for support and running costs. In addition we will make available up to £920 per member of the panel (including additional co-optees) to fund necessary expenses.
14. Has the funding increased?
The original funding allocation was based on the first draft of the legislation. Since then, additional legislation has clarified the role and potentially increased the size of panels. This includes legislation derived from amendments to the Bill during its passage through the House of Lords and the development of specific regulations in relation to complaints against the commissioner.
We have been clear that we will fund panels to do the job set out for them under the legislation. As a result, we have increased the funding allocation for panels to £53,300 per area for support and running costs. We have also made available funding to cover the necessary expenses of all panel members, including the additional co-opted members.
15. When will funding begin?
Funding will begin in October 2012. This will ensure that the panel can meet and agree procedures before commissioners are in place in November, when the work of PCPs really begins.
16. Who will scrutinise the PCC’s expenditure?
The PCC is required to publish details of expenditure, which will be scrutinise by the PCP and the public. The PCC will also be required to appoint a chief financial officer, who is duty bound to ensure that all payments and grants made by the PCC are in accordance with his or her statutory duties.
The PCC will also publish an annual report which will set out performance against spending and provide the platform on which the PCP will seek to challenge and support the PCC in developing their police and crime plan.
17. How will the public know how their PCC is performing?
A key responsibility of the PCC will be to report to the public in a transparent and open way how funding is being used; hold the force to account in an annual report for their local use of resources, including any national arrangements for buying goods and services and of nationally provided services; and to hold the force to account for their contribution to and use of collaboratively provided services within their region.
The public will benefit from objective accounts on the force from HMIC, as well as crime data from police.uk. In addition, PCCs will have to publish details of their staff salaries in the interests of transparency. The public can then judge whether they are making best use of public money.
18. What exactly is a police and crime plan?
The PCC will need a document that sets out clearly the priorities for local policing for the whole force area, their term of office and how they are going to be addressed. Essentially it must set out the PCC’s objectives for policing and reducing crime and disorder in the area, how policing resources will be allocated and agreements for funding and reporting on the work.
In developing the plan the PCC must consult the chief constable, who acts as their principle adviser on policing matters. They must also obtain views on the plan from local people and the victims of crime in that area.
The PCC’s role is to ensure that the plan includes and addresses the views on local policing of the electorate; it will be a public document and a key mechanism for the PCC to hold the chief constable to account.
19. Is the funding for PCPs enough?
PCPs are not a replacement for the police authority. They will fulfil an important role in scrutinising the commissioner, but this reform is about reconnecting the police and the people, which will be achieved through a directly elected police and crime commissioner not through the police and crime panel.
It is the commissioner who is taking on the role of the police authority and who the public will hold to account for the performance of their force.
20. Can local authorities spend their own money on PCPs to make them more robust?
Local authorities are free to use their own budgets to resource the PCP as they see fit, although central funding is being provided to deliver the function described in legislation. It will be up to local areas to work out how they want their PCP to function although the legislation sets out a framework for this.
PCPs will not be replacement police authorities. They do not have the same powers or responsibilities. They will be a critical friend to the PCC, providing as much support as challenge, so when considering how to develop their local PCP, areas should consider examples of scrutiny good practice.
21. Isn’t the PCP more than just a scrutiny body? It has decision making powers
The PCP is a scrutiny body, acting as a critical friend to commissioners. However it does have some important, if limited decision making powers in that it can veto the precept and the chief constable appointment. These are powers that the PCP can use as a last resort. We expect the relationship between the PCC and the PCP to be one of support and challenge.
22. Will there not be political conflict between the PCC and the PCP, especially if there are mayors on it?
Local authorities and PCCs will both have the same overarching aim which is to respond to the needs of their local communities. With this principle in mind it should be possible for both parties to work together to address any perceived areas of conflict.
23. Does the PCP not need to represent the people?
The PCC who is tasked with gathering the views of the local community on policing and crime and incorporating these into their police and crime plan. PCPs will have a role in reviewing that plan and ensuring that local priorities have been considered.
24. Who will sit on a PCP?
PCPs will comprise of one elected representative (councillors and, where relevant, elected mayors) from each local authority within the force area and two independent members or co-optees.
There must be a minimum of ten elected representatives therefore in those areas that have fewer than ten local authorities, each authority will be required to send one member with the remaining seats to be negotiated locally and filled by the member authorities.
Both top-tier and district councils will need to be represented on the PCP. It will be the first time district councils have formal involvement in policing governance.
Independent members could, for example, be experts in their field, or representatives of community organisations (e.g. the voluntary sector), or appointed on the basis of other relevant knowledge and skills.
The intention is to allow PCPs and member councils to decide what membership works best for their force area, taking into account the legislative framework and the balanced appointment objective.
The balanced appointment objective states that in appointing panel members local authorities must as far as is practicable consider the make-up of the local areas, including the political make-up, and the required skills, knowledge and experience for the panel to function effectively.
Once established, panels will be free to co-opt further members, both elected and independent, where required, up to a maximum panel size of twenty.
25. What happens if local authorities cannot agree on a PCP’s membership?
The Home Secretary will have powers (to be exercised as a last resort) to intervene where local authorities have failed to nominate members to the PCP, or have collectively failed to establish a PCP. We do not expect these powers to be needed, but the PCP is a critical part of the model and so we have ensured that arrangements are in place should the PCP fail to form.