A LABOUR government would abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and give local communities a “policing contract” to enforce priorities like keeping police on the beat, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has said.
Labour faced embarrassment when its PCC for South Yorkshire Shaun Wright resisted calls to resign following the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham, where he had served as head of children’s services. Mr Wright quit the party but hung on in his £85,000 post for three weeks before stepping down.
Speaking at the start of Labour’s annual conference in Manchester, Ms Cooper said that the coalition Government’s introduction of directly-elected PCCs in 2012 “hasn’t worked” and that scrapping the next round of PCC elections in 2016 would save £50 million which could be ploughed back into frontline policing. “This was (Home Secretary) Theresa May’s flagship reform and it just hasn’t worked,” Ms Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said.
“The model is just fundamentally flawed. It’s costing too much. They spent £80 million on the original elections. It will cost £50 million to hold the next elections. It cost £3.7 million to hold the by-election in the West Midlands.
“To spend all that money on something where so few people vote, when you could put that money back into policing, is wrong. Only 15% turned out for the original vote for the elections.
“You’re concentrating power in the hands of one person who can’t be held to account for four years. As you saw in South Yorkshire, we called for Shaun Wright to stand down but there was no mechanism to hold him to account.”
Ms Cooper said that Labour will give local residents a legal guarantee that they can help decide local policing priorities and the number of police on the beat.
“There should be a policing contract with the local community, involving councillors but also giving the public direct access in public meetings,” she said. “The council and the chief constable should be jointly appointing the local police commander.”
Shami Chakrabarti, of civil rights group Liberty, said: “I’m delighted that the Labour Party have said they will scrap PCCs. This was always a very dangerous development from a rule of law point of view, because you directly elect a charismatic individual politician to boss the chief constable around, to hire and fire the chief constable and to meddle in operational policing.”