An exercise in presumption – the Local Government Association attempts to annexe policing

Remember Herod? Jewish King in Judea? Didn’t fancy the competition from the “King of the Jews” and so was all nicey-nicey with the visiting wise men before ordering all the kids to be killed? Yeah, that one.

Well, the Local Government Association have just decided to do something a bit like that with Police and Crime Commissioners, except in a different order.

In the LGA’s case they tried to kill off the Police and Crime Commissioners before they were born, while the law was still in the Lords, supporting instead a Police Commission where a tiny fraction of the Councillors in an area would choose, wouldn’t you know it, one of their own number as Commissioner, without the tedious requirement to involve the Great Unwashed electorate in any way.

That didn’t work.

So today we hear from the LGA again, in nicey-nicey mode. They have set up, they say, the “Police and Crime Commissioners Association” which will brief people before they are even elected, and induct them in the ways of local government when they are elected, which will help them network in party groups, and where they can make use of the LGA’s London offices, and provide them with ‘advice’ initially for free, though later there will be “a subscription”.

So, all of a sudden, before a single Commissioner has drawn breath, the LGA are attempting to annexe them into becoming a subset of local government. While the ‘prospectus’ talks about an ‘offer’ it also unsubtly describes the new Association as “The National Voice for PCCs”.

Excuse me. When was this decided? And by whom? So far only the Mayor of London qualifies as a PCC, and the rest won’t be around for another 9 months. We don’t know who they are. They don’t know who they are. So they sure aren’t in a position to decide that what they really want to do is shore up the LGA, and shack up with an organisation whose mandate frankly pales in comparison with what the Commissioners will have to offer.

Will the dying Association of Police Authorities rise like a phoenix with an alternative to offer? Will the Home Office get round to having a plan? Or maybe, just maybe, the new Commissioners won’t want to be herded into party groups, won’t need advice from anyone other than their own staff, and might prefer localism to be, well, local, instead of London-based, and fresh and new and not the same old vested interests who tried to legislate those very Commissioners out of existence only months ago. In which case describing your new effort as “the National Voice for PCCs” might just come across as a tiny bit presumptuous.

Potential Commissioners, do not be seduced. Your new charges will tell you that when someone offers you the first one for free, they are usually pushing an addictive substance that will screw you up. The LGA even has a hard time persuading Councils to shell out their exorbitant ‘subscriptions’ – yes, this isn’t £25 a year and less for the low-paid – these fees are measured in the tens of thousands. Just say ‘No’, and become the best that you can be.

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6 Responses to An exercise in presumption – the Local Government Association attempts to annexe policing

  1. Sadly, it’s all a little more complicated than that.

    Commentators have already bemoaned the poor quality of information around the PCC debate, and the big fear (see Tim Collins) is that the people will elect someone on a party ticket who knows nothing about policing and crime. The LGA offer will see that all PCCs have access to training, development and improvement support to help them be more effective in their role – and to improve outcomes for communities across the country. The APA, of course, are being abolished on 22 November, but have no track record of delivering this level of improvement in this field, unlike the LGA.

    Perhaps more importantly, there is a requirement for a single national voice to lobby independently on behalf of the police on such issues as pay & conditions (especially important in a post-Winsor landscape). The APA currently do this, but without a single body, the govt would have to have 41 different conversations every year – for which they will have no appetite.

    Finally you say that the LGA are “attempting to annexe them into becoming a subset of local government”. I don’t think “subset” is the right word here – it looks to me like they are bringing PCCs into the local government family, and again this seems right and proper; they will be democratically elected to run a service in a sub-regional geographical area, which sounds suspiciously like local government to me. So it would seem this is the ideal place for a national body to sit.

  2. samchapman says:

    Well, as the PCC field hasn’t existed before, the LGA are in no better of a position to deliver improvements than anyone else, if such were needed.
    There may be a case for a single body, but why should it have any link to the LGA when they can’t even claim to represent all Councils?
    PCCs will have single-individual large area electoral mandates in policing and crime. Perhaps they will want their representative body to be as distinctive from the LGA as their post is distinctive from just about everything else in local government.
    Maybe, because all the PCCs could fit into one room, they won’t need a layered representative body, or a large team of staff that they share with Councils, or offices in London. Maybe they could do it inexpensively. But then, if they could do that, it might make the LGA look bad.
    Oh, and it wouldn’t need to be a body to “lobby independently on behalf of the police”. There are already 3 of those. Any PCC body would need to lobby on behalf of the people on policing and crime issues, as expressed through an election which is just about that.

  3. Whilst PCCs haven’t existed before, community safety partnerships have, and as far as I can see the LGA do a cracking job supporting them – so clearly the expertise is there. Plus I think they also are the representative body for Fire Associations – again, it would seem logical that if it works for fire, it would work for PCCs.

    And I don’t think anyone’s forcing PCC’s to be members, just as no-one forces councils to join the LGA – although all but 4 (and one of those is likely to rejoin) already are. When you say “3 bodies” , do you mean ACPO, Police Fed and Supers Ass? Because none of those have the ability to make a collective agreement over police funding, which a PCC org would.

  4. samchapman says:

    Well, I can only speak from my own experience of managing 3 Community Safety Partnerships over 12 years:- The number of times we needed the LGA could be counted on the fingers of no hands, and it didn’t seem to hold us back.
    My point is not about force – from the folk standing at the moment, I don’t think you could force them to do anything. It’s about presumption, and the LGA making what others have called a ‘landgrab’ while no-one is looking, as there are no PCCs around.
    There will no doubt be times when PCCs agree sufficiently for their collective voice to be represented nationally, but it doesn’t need to be through an organisation with less of a mandate than they have. To paraphrase comments elsewhere – it would look good on the LGA’s CV, but not so good on the PCC’s CV. I can see why the LGA want it – but not why the PCCs would, and I should think they might be capable enough to work out what they want in terms of representation and collaboration, and to build it themselves.

  5. Richard Stay says:

    Actually its quite a good idea
    The Assoc of Police Authorities is frankly dead & lock in a strong link with the localist agenda (and local government) seems very sensible.
    Of course you need to look at ‘what’s in for them’ but I think that in principle its a good idea!

  6. Sam I fully understand your postion and share your concern’s,I do not want to be corralled into a body that as you stated, does not exist,and will not until after 22nd November.But also on the flip side,as an independent candidate I am walking around in circles trying to speak to anyone that
    may help me,get into a postion where I can fight the very strong party structure.You have declared yourself as a Conservative and I have know problem with you and your site,this is not a political issue for me it is a pragmatic one.I will speak to anyone up until November to try and get my head around how I am going to compete against party poltics.I have a very slim chance of success, but that will not stop me putting 100% effort into it.Yes, there will be a national body of PCC,s and the terms of reference etc should be decided by those who are elected as and when,but that will not stop me listening to the LGA or anyone else that may have some answers.
    keep up the good work
    Mick Thwaites Essex

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