Labour may scrap police commissioners

A shadow minister today said that while Labour is putting forward candidates to become police and crime commissioners, the party might 'scrap' the new posts if it wins power in 2015.

The coalition legislated to introduce police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to oversee every force in the country, with the first individuals taking up the roles elected this November.

Labour heavily criticised the idea of PCCs but with their introduction set in law, decided to put up candidates for the posts; selecting former Norwich City Council leader Stephen Morphew in Norfolk.

But speaking to the Eastern Daily Press at Labour's conference in Manchester yesterday, shadow police minister David Hanson said that even if his party's candidates win in November they might still be out of the job by 2016.

He said: 'I'm not going to rule anything out at the moment. I'm simply saying we're going to try and make this work.

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'We are two and a half years away from the general election and we will go into that election with an offer on what happens to police and crime commissioners.'

He added: 'Remember, the PCC term lasts for three and a half years so it runs now from November 15 through to May 2016.

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'So we've got to take a decision about the future of this post, post-2016 and that will be influenced by how it works in practice in the next two and a half years.'

'That might mean we keep it, it might mean we amend it, it might mean we scrap it,' he said.

The government argues that PCCs are needed to improve police accountability, but critics have said they will politicise the police and interfere in operational matters best left to officers.

Mr Morphew, who was selected in June to run in PCC elections for Labour, said he was not surprised by the comments, in fact he welcomed them.

'We've been critical of the concept of PCCs and it's hard to believe given the small amount of public interest in them, that whoever wins will be able to claim a real popular mandate.

'It's right that the police authority has passed its sell-by date, but PCCs were a solution to a problem that was never properly defined and probably never existed anyway.'

Mr Hanson also urged people to ensure they went out to vote in the PCC elections, with the Electoral Reform Society projecting that the turnout could be as low as 18pc.

Fears have been raised that in some areas of the country a low turnout may allow candidates from extremist parties to win votes and take control of policing.

Meanwhile Mr Hanson said that Labour candidates would use websites Twitter and Facebook to try and gauge what public opinion of policing was.

He said: 'We need to look at Facebook and Twitter. We need to engage with the public.'

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