Elected crime commissioners will put Norfolk people ‘in the driving seat’ of their police, says minister Nick Herbert
Controversial police and crime commissioners will put the people of Norfolk firmly 'in the driving seat' when it comes to having a say on the way their constabulary is run, according to policing minister Nick Herbert.
Elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs), whose responsibilities will include hiring and firing chief constables and setting the police budget, will take place in November.
The government move to replace 'remote and invisible' police authorities with elected police and crime commissioners is an integral part of the biggest shake-up of policing the country has probably ever seen which will, say ministers, ensure the forces of law and order listen to the concerns of ordinary people.
But critics of elected police and crime commissioners, including the EDP, argue they run the risk of the police being politicised and put too much power in the hands of one individual.
Those concerns were last night rebutted by Mr Herbert, who told the EDP elected police and crime commissioners would 'put people in the driving seat'.
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He said: 'People want a say over policing. After all this is a public service. We want choice over the police service. Crime is an issue of major public concern. People want to be safe on their streets. I think people want a greater say over issues that affect them in their local communities rather than have the rule of Westminster and Whitehall. This is all about returning power to people in communities.'
Mr Herbert said he did not want to 'disparage' the 'worthy work' done by police authorities but police and crime commissioners, who will be elected every four years, serving a maximum of two terms, would help provide a more 'visible' and 'accountable' force.
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He said: 'Someone has to set the budget, raise the precept, set the plan and we think that should be an elected individual who answers to the public...
'Their feet will be put to the fire and if local people don't like what's happening they will be able to kick that individual out.'
Mr Herbert insisted there was no intention to politicise the police, saying chief constables would retain legal control of their force.
'But someone has to do the important job of holding the organisation to account, setting the budget and raising money from local people and we think it's right that it's an elected individual.'
He also refuted claims the role of a commissioner would place too much power in the hands of one individual, saying there would be 'strong checks and balances'.
Stephen Bett, chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, said it was impossible to foresee how the role might work – and even if it would work – in practice.
He said: 'There's a hell of a lot going on in terms of changes to the police service and we've got to be very careful before we can say it's all going to be wonderful.
'What happens if we get a commissioner with no experience of policing at all?'