Police and crime commissioners could run free schools, May suggests

5 Feb 16
Theresa May has indicated that the government will expand the powers of police and crime commissioners following this year’s elections and could be given powers to set up free schools.

In a speech ahead of elections in May, the home secretary insisted that PCCs, who were first elected in 2012, were “here to stay”.

Creating individuals with a personal mandate to replace police authorities had helped to drive positive change not just in policing and crime, but also in criminal justice, mental health and the wider emergency services, she said.

“The range of initiatives is broad, the ideas fresh and innovative, and the benefits to the police and the public tremendous.

“In sum, PCCs are doing things that police authorities could never have imagined, and could never have hoped to achieve.”

The directly elected positions had helped cut crime while also working closely with local partners to protect the vulnerable and keep communities safe and secure.

“I believe we can be pleased with what has been achieved, and the role police and crime commissioners are playing in making policing more accountable and more effective.”

Following the election, May said additional powers will be considered, with a greater role for commissioners in the handling of complaints against the police one of the first areas that will be considered as part of a wider role in the criminal justice system.

“But in the future, I would like to see the PCC role expanded even further still,” she added.

“So after the May elections, the government will set out further proposals for police and crime commissioners. Because as a number of PCCs have argued, youth justice, probation and court services can have a significant impact on crime in their areas and there are real efficiencies to be had from better integration and information sharing.”

Other areas being under consideration also included education.

“As [police and crime commissioner for Northamptonshire] Adam Simmonds has argued, I believe the next set of PCCs should bring together the two great reforms of the last Parliament – police reform and school reform – to work with and possibly set up alternative provision free schools to support troubled children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime.”

Responding to May’s proposal, the National Union of Teachers’ deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said it was “quite an extraordinary suggestion”. It was “astonishing” that local authorities, who will have a reduced role in running schools following government reforms, were not considered suitable to run schools yet police and crime commissioners are,” he said.

“Theresa May cites an example of the Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner opening a new free school with a ‘crime specific curriculum’, whatever that may be,” he added.

“No state schools should be opening up with a limited vision for education. We need an inclusive, engaging curriculum that meets the needs of all students and we need schools to be answerable to their local community and run by their local authority.”

Also in her speech yesterday, May said it would make sense to bring together the PCC post with directly elected mayors being created as part of the government’s devolution drive where there was local agreement. The post of PCC is to be merged into a mayoralty in Greater Manchester.

However, she said that the consent of PCCs must be a “prerequisite” for the inclusion of policing in any mayoral deal.

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