01 August 2008
The Local Government Association has launched a cross-party attack on the government's police reform plans, criticising attempts to increase accountability.
In a letter sent to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on July 31, the four chairs of the political groups at the LGA and outgoing chair Sir Simon Milton said there was widespread concern over the proposals in the policing green paper From the neighbourhood to the national.
'Directly elected crime and policing representatives will not strengthen the link between those responsible for delivering policing and the public, and will undermine partnership working,' the letter says.
The councillors add that the proposed reforms would also fail to increase police authorities' ability to scrutinise budgets, control expenditure or deliver improved efficiency.
As well plans to cut red tape, the policing green paper, published on July 17, included proposals to give local people a stronger voice on policing priorities through improved information, such as crime maps, and elected policing representatives.
If an area has a directly elected mayor – outside of London – then he or she would be that area's elected crime and policing representative in a police authority, but where there is no elected mayor, the representative would be elected.
'If the government can trust councils with directly elected mayors to hold the police to account, then you should be able to trust other local authorities to do the same,' the letter added.
The green paper states that local councillors will no longer form the majority on a police authority board and the LGA letter says competing 'manifesto commitments' could push police authorities and town halls in different directions and lead to 'blame shifting'.
However, councillors will be able to stand as representatives and the Home Office said the green paper was clear about the importance of local authorities tackling crime and disorder in partnership with the police.
A spokeswoman said: 'We believe the best way to provide local accountability in relation to policing at present is by the direct election of the majority of members of each police authority.
'There will continue to be one or two local councillors on police authorities and the government would expect police authorities to continue to work closely with their local authorities.'