In the Media

Police and crime commissioner timetable is 'unrealistic', critics warn

PUBLISHED November 15, 2012

In what has been criticised as an unrealistic timetable, the newly elected watchdogs will only have until January 31 to balance and deliver the two main duties of their role.

Not only will they have to submit a multi-million pound budget plan for the coming financial year, but they will also have to set out the strategy and priorities they want the Chief Constable to focus on.

The narrow time frame is the result of the Government's decision to press ahead with the elections in the autumn, rather than waiting until next Spring when the commissioners would have had a whole financial year to get to grips with the role before submitting a budget and plan.

Critics claim the rushed timetable will mean the new commissioners have little impact or influence in their first year in the role and even warned it could lead to mistakes.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "I am concerned by the very short time frame which new Police and Crime Commissioners will have to draw up their budgets.

"These are vital decisions which need to be made very carefully after PCCs are given all the facts. Failure to do so could jeopardise the safety of our communities, and mistakes could be made which may take years to rectify."

Dr Stephen Brookes, a retired chief superintendent, who is now a senior fellow in public policy at Manchester Business School, said it would have been more sensible to accept the delay and hold the elections next Spring.

He said: "It would be fair to say it will not be their budgets that they are delivering. They simply do not have the time to assess the community's needs and work out what their priorities are going to be.

"For the sake of waiting until May, when they would have had a full year before deciding on their budget, the government has introduced an extra unnecessary challenge to the job.

"These people are going to be in extremely important roles and they need time to grow into those roles. It would have been far better to give them a little more time to get to grips with things rather than throwing them in at the deep end and giving them just a few weeks to make some crucial decisions.

"Ministers have pushed this through so that they are able to say 'we have implemented a government policy that we said we would' but they should have taken more time."

James Taylor, lead partner for policing at Deloitte, the business advisory firm, said commissioners would have a lot on their plate in the coming weeks.

He said: "For those who do not have a policing background it will be more of a challenge. The timescales are fixed however and it has to be done.

"The police authorities have been preparing the groundwork so they will be able to access a lot of that work but there is no doubt that it is a challenging timetable."

The Government has defended the timing of the elections, insisting that they were keen to avoid any delays and get the commissioners in position as soon as possible.

But sources in Westminster claim the Prime Minister came under pressure from his deputy Nick Clegg because he felt holding the PCC elections at the same time as local elections in May could have impacted on the Liberal Democrat vote.

Yesterday shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper described the elections as "shambolic" and said the very timing of the vote was putting people off.

But Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps defended the elections insisting it was important to get the elected commissioners in place as soon as possible.

He said: "I think it is really important that people know a figurehead, a name of a person that they can turn to when they are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour in their area. They want to know why the police are costing money on their council tax bill

"This is somebody who will be directly accountable to them for the very first time."