On the eve of the Great PCC Debate at ACPO, who is currently trying to do what to whom?
by Richard Hibbs, Independent Candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in North Wales
The Local Government Association, as previously featured on TopOfTheCops, says it wants to give PCCs a strong voice via a new Police Executive Board, with a “prestigious leadership development programme” thrown into the bargain.
This rather misses the point of having PCCs in the first place, in at least two rather obvious ways:
Firstly, it is PCCs that are supposed to be the voice of the communities they represent, not a new committee in London. That is why we are having elections, and a key issue in North Wales where we are hoping to get our hands on proper devolved powers for once, not have to rely on a remote politician in Cardiff.
And secondly, candidates without existing well-developed leadership skills frankly need not apply. It’s simply not credible to expect an LGA trainer to instil the kind of charisma and prophetic vision that communities will come to expect from their elected representative on earth.
The LGA offer is taking shape fairly rapidly, so how come the design of their product still looks a bit suspect? Perhaps because LGA don’t yet fully appreciate that elected PCCs will at least 100 times as important as local councillors in constitutional terms (due to the size of the constituencies and their democratic mandate) and will therefore have a pretty loud voice which will carry all the way to Westminster anyway without amplification. Plus they’ll be able to say no to the Home Office if, in consultation with the Chief Constable, they don’t wish to “have regard to” aspects of the Strategic Policing Requirement they simply don’t believe in (whatever ACPO thinks!).
LGA could sensibly provide a platform for organisations who want to lobby PCCs to get their agenda into 41 Police and Crime Plans simultaneously, like Victim Support for example who are understandably anxious about how to get their message across (or indeed the Home Secretary, or even ACPO) but such a lobbying service would work in the opposite direction to the service LGA are promoting. If so, the LGA offer should probably be aimed at national stakeholder organisations rather than PCCs.
Meanwhile, ACPO are understandably keen to stress who they’d like to stay in charge and who they’d like to sideline after 15 November by running their Leading Change in Policing event this week in Manchester (the clue’s in the title). If they really wanted PCCs to take centre stage at their conference (or indeed after the election) the ‘invitations’ to talk about changes in policing would have been issued weeks and weeks ago.
Obviously belatedly offering 5 free places to PCC candidates via the LGA was a welcome concession, and a nice illustration of the lobbying principle I’ve set out above. The realisation had clearly dawned by the end of last week that charming PCC candidates into participating in tomorrow’s debate in order to impress the Home Secretary with a collegial approach might be a good idea. But too little and too late was the cry from candidates like myself who already have other commitments this week.
Instead I’ve been attending the World Federation Against Drugs conference in Stockholm – and I’ll be bringing back some fantastic drug enforcement policies in my suitcase. Which I will of course be very careful to pack myself.