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County council says ‘no’ to elected police commissioner for Norfolk

Norfolk County Council says it does not want an elected police commissioner.

Norfolk County Council says it does not want an elected police commissioner.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

There is no need for an elected police commissioner in Norfolk - that is the powerful message which council chiefs have agreed to send to the government.

As the House of Commons debated the bill which will see the commissioners created, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet agreed to write to home secretary Theresa May opposing an elected police commissioner to oversee Norfolk police.

They say Norfolk wants to stick with the current model of having the force overseen by a police authority, rather than by an elected individual.

The decision places the Conservative-controlled council at odds with their party’s own general election manifesto to “replace the existing, invisible and unaccountable police authorities and make the police accountable to a directly-elected individual who will set policing priorities for local communities.”

The government has said an elected commissioner would make forces more accountable and reconnect the public with policing, but critics argue there should be no politics in policing and commissioners could make decisions motivated by their own electoral gain.

Ian Mackie, deputy leader of the county council, said the council saying no to an elected comissioner was a case of the authority sending out a message about what is best for Norfolk.

At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, where the cabinet’s stance was agreed, he said: “I am a firm believer that each county should determine what is appropriate to them; and in our instance it appears to be the status quo.”

Councillors agreed to write to the home secretary stating that the council believes Norfolk Police Authority is doing “an excellent job” for Norfolk taxpayers, with Norfolk recorded as the safest county in England.

The letter will state that Norfolk Police Authority contains elected councillors, and that the cabinet does not “feel there is a need for an elected police and crime commissioner for Norfolk”.

But the council says, if the government does go down the elected commissioner route, the elections must be held at the same time as local county elections in May 2013, to “save the taxpayers of Norfolk unnecessary cost”.

Mr Mackie added that, rather than refer the issue to full council, it made more sense for the cabinet to decide to write the letter, given the bill which would bring in the commissioners is at such a crucial stage.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “This is not a personal affront to the government. This is something we have spent a long time debating and it’s about what is best for the county.

“We have a high profile chairman of the Norfolk Police Authority and members of that authority who are democratically elected councillors, while we have one of the safest counties in the country.

“We think that system works and there is no need to fix something which is not broken.”

In July, the Green party put forward a motion urging the county council to call for the elected police commissioner proposals to be adandoned, but at that point Conservatives said it was premature to make a judgment and instead asked officers to draw up a report into the proposal.

At a meeting last week, the council’s community services overview and scrutiny panel considered that report and debated the issue, which led to the cabinet’s decision to take a stand against the proposal.

That move was welcomed by Stephen Bett, current chairman of the police authority, who said: “It’s a very strong message to send to the government. I totally support what they say. Norfolk is doing very well at the moment, so why change it?”

he EDP has stated it does not believe an elected leader of our constabulary is needed or wanted, a view backed by former Home Secretary and ex-Norwich South MP Charles Clarke.

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