A pledge to abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and replace them with a local community ‘policing contract’ has been made by the shadow Home Secretary.
Yvette Cooper said a Labour Government would scrap the post of PCC in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.
Shaun Wright resigned from his post as South Yorkshire PCC last week after three weeks of pressure on his position. He had served as head of children’s services at scandal-hit Rotherham Council.
Speaking at the start of Labour’s annual conference, Ms Cooper said the coalition Government’s introduction of PCCs in 2012 ‘hadn’t worked’ and scrapping the post would save £50 million which would have been spent on the next elections in 2016.
“This was Home Secretary Theresa May’s flagship reform and it just hasn’t worked,” Ms Cooper 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.
“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.”
Labour said that the system of PCCs would be replaced by measures to increase accountability to local government. The party is consulting on the best framework for each police force area, which could vary depending on the structure of local authorities in the area.
Options include direct accountability to higher-tier local authorities such as county councils or to combined authorities where they are in place; boards of local government leaders sitting with lay members and representatives of organisations covering issues like youth justice and crime prevention or the introduction of an ability to appoint a chair or chief executive.
Ms Cooper said: “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. The council and the chief constable should be jointly appointing the local police commander.”
Ms Cooper also said: “More needs to be done to combat child sex abuse, following the Jimmy Savile scandal, and admitted children are still often not believed when they complain to the authorities.
“I think this is an issue everyone needs to do more on. Whether it’s the Savile reviews or the different case reviews, the common theme is about children not being listened to, believed or taken seriously.
“We’ve got to challenge this cultural attitude about not believing young people. I think this is still a problem right across the country. Child protection issues still aren’t being taken seriously enough.”