Nearly two-thirds of Conservative-run councils expressed doubts about flagship government crime policy, documents reveal Conservative councils think the government's plan to introduce elected commissioners for every UK force will put policing at risk, previously unseen papers show. The papers, obtained under the Freedom of Information act, show nearly two-thirds of the 37 Tory-run councils that responded to the government's consultation on police reform failed to give any direct support for elected commissioners. Instead most raised deep concerns, including that commissioners, due to be elected for the first time in May 2012, would undermine policing, be costly while forces were cutting back, lead to extremist candidates getting elected, concentrate too much power in one person's hands, create more bureaucracy and increase taxes. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, and many Liberal Democrats have already raised doubts. Tory councils critical of elected commissioners included those in the Conservatives' south-east heartlands. Oxfordshire county council said: "We are not wholly convinced of the advisability of directly elected police and crime commissioners and we have fears that their roles are likely to create competing mandates and undermine relationships between local authorities and the police." It added: "Given the current financial climate, we are very concerned that the cost of supporting the police and crime commissioner in his role will be greater than the current costs of a police authority and place pressure on police budgets that are already likely to be severely constrained." Kent county council said: "We do not see any need for a further tier of democratic representation. This will simply add further complexity and confuse lines of accountability to Kent residents ? we have absolute commitment to the operational independence of chief constables and value this strongly. "We have concerns that the elected police commissioner model has the potential to undermine operational independence." Essex and Somerset county councils both said they doubted that one individual could properly represent the area covered by their forces. Somerset said a commissioner might unduly raise taxes and that probable low turnouts in elections could lead to an extremist candidate being selected. Warwickshire county council said: "The concerns focus on three key aspects of the role: the dangers associated with the potential election of an individual with radical/extreme views; broad concerns about the concentration of too much power into the hands of one individual; and the danger that the impartiality of policing could be compromised by the politicisation of the agenda." Cambridgeshire county council said: "The requirement for another election process, and the cost it requires, in addition to council elections is unlikely to add value to local democracy. "The benefits of a police commissioner, as opposed to requiring police to work in partnership with local councils, is not considered likely to add value to policing." A string of district councils also raised similar concerns in the consultation. Erewash borough council said: "There are faults in the present system but surely it is better to tackle the crack in the building than pull the whole lot down." Epping Forest district council said: "There is real concern that government runs the risk of replacing what they see as an inefficient and remote bureaucracy with another." Simon Reed, vice-chair of the Police Federation, said he was not surprised by the low level of support even from Tory councils. "Commissioners are not overwhelmingly supported. This was David Cameron's idea and he's been unwilling to let go; he's like a dog with a bone," he said. Labour says the commissioners are too expensive at a time of police cuts. The government has estimated that staging elections will cost ?100m, plus a further ?25m now the first vote has been pushed back from May to November 2012. Nick Herbert, the policing minister, said: "We had a full debate on these reforms and the legislation contains safeguards to protect the police's operational independence. "Every council will be represented on police and crime panels, including district councils for the first time, and the cost of elections is not coming from police budgets. "Parliament has spoken. Now the focus should move to preparing for the elections next year." Police Crime Local politics Conservatives guardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar