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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 14th March 2012

 

Report of the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

 

Establishment of Police and Crime Panels

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To apprise Members of the requirements of the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 in so far as they relate to the establishment of Police and Crime Panels. 

Recommendations

1.             That the report be noted.

2.             That a further report be submitted to a future meeting regarding arrangements for the operation of the Police and Crime Panel.

Reason for the Recommendations

1&2    To raise Scrutiny Member awareness of the role of the Police and Crime Panel.

 

Background

2.             The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 brings in new structural arrangements for national policing, strategic police decision-making, neighbourhood policing and policing accountability.  Principle among these changes will be the election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the first of which will take place in November 2012. 

3.             Once in office, PCCs will be held to account by a Police and Crime Panel (PCP), to be composed of locally elected councillors, along with a number of lay members.  The PCC is, in turn, responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account. 

4.             Whilst the Government intends that arrangements should be developed locally, guidance has been issued by both the Local Government Association (in conjunction with the Centre for Public Scrutiny) and the Welsh Local Government Association.  This report summarises and reflects the guidance issued. 

5.             In issuing guidance, the LGA has indicated its intent to provide a summary of the key issues that both local authorities and police authorities should address in establishing accountability arrangements for the PCC. 

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             As alluded to above, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 contains provision for the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and Police and Crime Panels.  This report relates to the introduction of Police and Crime Panels. 

7.             The expectation is that PCCs will want to work closely with partners and that partnership working will be important if they are to operate effectively.  Under Section 10 of the Act, the PCC has to co-operate with local community safety partners to achieve the objectives of the Police and Crime Plan.

8.             The PCP is to be regarded as a scrutiny body, existing to scrutinise the PCC, to promote openness in the transaction of police business and also to support the PCC in the effective exercise of their functions.  Functions of the PCP will include:

  • contributing to the development of the PCC's police and crime plan (on which it is a statutory consultee)
  • scrutinising the PCC and receiving evidence from the Chief Constable (by invitation) at 'set piece' events at certain points in the year
  • referring the PCC's proposed precept
  • receiving evidence in person from officers of the PCC's secretariat (subject to certain limitations)
  • reviewing the PCC's proposed appointments of Chief Constable and other post holders and holding public confirmation hearings for such posts
  • making reports and recommendations on matters relating to the PCC, on which the latter is obliged to provide a response
  • carrying out investigations into decisions made by the PCC and into topics of particular interest or public concern.  Whilst not a statutory function, this may be necessary in order to effectively carryout the rest of the PCP's business)
  • an informal role in investigating complaints about non-criminal behaviour of the PCC (without any explicit powers to investigate) draft regulations
  • making comments on the PCC's Annual Report at a public meeting to be held as soon as possible after the publication of such.

9.             The functions and procedural rules for the operation of the PCP will need to be set out in "panel arrangements" and "rules of procedure".  An extract from the LGA/ CFPS guidance regarding this aspect is attached as Appendix A.

10.        A PCP will have certain duties around formal audit, focussing on the consideration of finance reports.  Prior to any decisions being made regarding the composition of a PCP, the roles and functions of such need to be considered and determined.  Appendix B is an extract from the LGA/CCFA guidance covering these matters.  In summary, the following will need to be addressed:

  • which authority will lead / chair? (N.B. The Welsh Local Government Association [WLGA] have expressed an interest in undertaking the lead role in terms of administering PCPs.)
  • how will panel arrangements and rules of procedure be set out?
  • how will the PCP, PCC and other local community safety partners define their inter-relationships?
  • in particular, what will be the division of responsibilities between the PCP (at force level) and local Crime and Disorder Scrutiny Committees (at local level)?
  • will the PCP's focus be mainly reactive scrutiny or proactive policy development (the nature of the PCP's role suggests that both will need to be carried out, but the balance will need to be decided)?
  • how will the public be involved?
  • how will decisions be made?
  • how will the Panel be supported and resourced?  (See reference above to WLGA.)

11.        As far as the composition of a PCP is concerned, the Act makes detailed provisions.  In brief, these are:

  • where a force area consists of ten or fewer authorities, the number of members of the PCP will be ten, not including the co-opted members
  • where a force area consists of more than ten authorities, there will be as many members as there are local authorities in the force area, plus two co-opted members
  • additional councillors maybe co-opted onto the PCP, as long as two lay co-optees area also included, the size of the PCP does not exceed 20 and the Secretary of State approves the co-options
  • composition should be carried out in accordance to the 'fair representation objective', essentially each authority in the force area must be represented by at least one member if the total number of authorities in the area is less than ten, and one member if the number of authorities is ten or more
  • where agreement cannot be reached, the Secretary of State has the power to make nominations
  • the PCC cannot be a member of the PCP
  • sitting MPs, Welsh AMs, MSPs, MEPs, staff of the PCC and civilian police staff may not be co-opted onto the PCP
  • by and large, beyond these principles the choice of who sits on the PCP will be down to the authorities involved.  However, in Wales, and in those parts of England where agreement cannot be reached, the Home Secretary will nominate members.

12.        Relevant authorities within the area will need, between them, to make decisions on the following issues which, in turn, will need to be set out in the PCP arrangements.  This will need to occur once the issues in the previous section on roles and functions have been resolved.  In summary this is:

  • Who will sit on the PCP, and how can we assure equity of representation?
  • How do we ensure the PCP is politically proportionate across the force area?
  • How will seats be assigned to individual authorities?
  • Will Executive, or non-Executive, Members sit on the PCP?
  • What will happen in committee system authorities?
  • Who will the lay members / co-optees be, and what process will be used to appoint them?
  • How will changes in political control in authorities within the force area, and other necessary membership changes be dealt with?
  • Will a "special responsibility allowance" be assigned?
  • What happens if a decision cannot be reached?
  • What happens in Wales?

13.        Once resolved, decisions on the above should form part of the Panel arrangements discussed above.

14.        In some areas "shadow PCPs" have been, or are being, established by police authorities (which are to be abolished) and local authorities in the area.  The aim of these bodies is to prepare for November 2012 and to ensure a smooth transition between the work of police authorities in the operation of the new structural arrangements.  Should this approach be desirable, a shadow PCP could, for instance, be set up involving a range of members from all local authorities in the force area, between whom a decision could be made about the final composition, powers and other related matters in respect of the PCP.  However, it is important to recognise that the shadow PCP, if established will have no role to carry out substantive scrutiny until the election of the PCC.  Any such arrangements should be member-led and involve both Executive and non-Executive members.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

15.        The Home Office is making finance available to each police force area (not each Authority) to support the PCP in that area.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.        It is envisaged that the introduction of PCCs will be well structured with a robust legal backing, however this is a new venture for Local Authorities and police forces alike.  Potential legal implications are unknown both in terms of content and scale.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.        The crime and disorder implications following the introduction of the PCCs will be far reaching.  The PCCs will be directly accountable to the public in terms of setting crime and disorder priorities.  The approach the PCC takes to working with CSPs will inevitability impact on crime and disorder in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.        There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.        The Safer Vale Partnership is responsible for delivering a number of key objectives to reduce overall crime and disorder within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Following the introduction of PCCs these corporate and service objectives could still stand.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.        Councillor P. Church (Cabinet Member).

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.        Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011

LGA / CPPS Document: "Police and Crime Panels - Guidance on Roles and Composition"

 

Contact Officer

Jeff Wyatt, Operational Manager - Democratic Services, 01446 709408

 

Officers Consulted

Head of Public Protection

 

Responsible Officer:

Peter H. Evans, Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

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