Sunday, 24 March 2013

The shape of things to come?

Some people are getting in a froth about the expanding teams supporting the Police & Crime Commissioners around the country:
New police chiefs (who you didn't vote for) pay cronies thousands: Crime tsars give friends and allies jobs worth up to £73,000
Apart from the fact that this should be 'whom you didn't vote for'... I am wondering what people honestly expected? Certainly, the suggestion that cronyism is alive and well in some offices of the PCC is an accusation that might stick in some places. (A subject I have blogged about before.) However the idea that a single individual could ever really cover the job of PCC without some significant and close support is laughable.

By means of comparison, I am merely a lowly town councillor. I get about 200 emails a month and just yesterday I despatched a stack of one year's worth of council agendas and other papers 18 inches high to the recycling bin. I am one of 17 councillors and between us, with half a dozen staff, we just about manage to stay on top of all the issues. We hope. I spend about a day per week on council related business. And I admit, I do not read every document in depth that comes my way. But we are a team, and I know that my councillor colleagues will read some of the pieces I miss and together we cover all the bases.

Now transpose this to a PCC. My local PCC has a population of 2.3 million people to cover with 17 local authorities. The budget of course is much bigger than my town council. The buck stops with him and therefore he must stay on top of a very wide range of issues. As I mentioned before, even if only 1% of the people resident in the Thames Valley Police Area write to their PCC once every year, that equates to over 400 letters and emails every week which require investigation and a response.

So I am none too surprised that many PCCs are creating bigger teams. Frankly, in my opinion, they have little choice unless they want to treat the job as something of a part time jolly.

So please read more about one example: the team that Bob Jones is creating in West Midlands. I know Bob and he is not sort of man to spend taxpayers' money without very good cause. Given the size of his 'constituency' and the need to liaise with a significant set of local authorities & other partners, he is creating a Board that has the capability and capacity to do the job.

I would also suggest that Bob is creating the shape of things to come. I am guessing here, but I would imagine that he would favour having an elected board of assistant commissioners as one way of spreading accountability and democracy.

Could this be the model for a policing governance structure that a future government might install? 

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