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Home Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 757-iii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
HOME AFFAIRS Committee
Police and Crime Commissioners: progress to date
Tuesday 21 January 2014
Max Chambers, Jon Collins and Bernard Rix
Bob Jones, Sue Mountstevens, Chief Constable Chris Sims and Chief Constable Nick Gargan
Evidence heard in Public Questions 361 - 449
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 21 January 2014
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Max Chambers, Policy Exchange, Jon Collins, Police Foundation, and Bernard Rix, Comparing Police and Crime Commissioners (CoPaCC), gave evidence.
Q361 Chair: Could I ask all those present to declare any interests they have that are over and above what is in the Register of Members’ Interests? This is a further evidence session in the Committee’s inquiry into police and crime commissioners. We are delighted to see Mr Collins from the Police Foundation, Mr Chambers from Policy Exchange, and Mr Rix from Comparing Police and Crime Commissioners, your organisation.
Bernard Rix: CoPaCC is shorter.
Chair: CoPaCC, yes. Thank you all for coming. Even though there are three of you here, you do not all have to answer every single question that every member has. Just chip in whenever, because we will ask the questions generally. If I could start with you, Mr Rix, on your blog on 25 November you referred to Lord Stevens as "The Phantom Menace" in your Star Wars section. Why was that? What did he do that so upset you?
Bernard Rix: He had not upset me. My blog, Mr Vaz, as you may well know if you have read a number of the previous entries, occasionally uses a feature that those that follow me on Twitter have suggested. On that particular occasion, the challenge was for me to write a blog summarising the findings of the Stevens report in the style of Star Wars. That was the closest I got to trying to characterise the work of Lord Stevens in the Stevens report itself.
Chair: If he was the Phantom Menace, who was Princess Leia, Yvette Cooper?
Bernard Rix: I do not think I quite got that far. When I get my next challenge perhaps I might consult you on some of the casting. It can be quite a challenge. I think a previous blog of mine commented on the Winsor report in the style of ABBA. On occasion, the arguably somewhat ridiculous theme that you bring in to illustrate these matters helps to make the material a little more digestible.
Q362 Chair: Did you welcome his report? Did you feel it was fair? Did you think that there were problems with it or not?
Bernard Rix: It certainly examines some of the questions that there are about the new landscape in policing, police and crime commissioners. With police and crime commissioners, we have a single individual who is very powerful.
Chair: No, we know about that, but what did you think of the conclusions? We are keen to know what you thought of the conclusions of the report, not what the report said?
Bernard Rix: I personally do not feel that the conclusions moving away from a single elected individual are ones that, at this stage, should be taken forward, not least because we have only had PCCs in place for a year, which is not enough time, in my view, to determine whether this new landscape is appropriate. One of my great concerns with police governance is that we find we change many times in a short period of time, leaving no time for any of these particular changes to bed in.
Q363 Chair: Yes, we are coming to some of those other points that you have raised, which are very important and valuable. Mr Chambers, in your blog or maybe it was a report, Power Down, you wrote in August 2013, you talked about a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring accountability to the system. Do you think that the arrival of police and crime commissioners has provided what you have said was missing: the system was bereft of local control, financial responsibility or democratic accountability? You are a fan of the system? You would like them to stay, would you?
Max Chambers: Yes. Policy Exchange has published a number of reports over the last few years looking at this area and has always advocated police and crime commissioners in some form or other. I agree with Bernard in the sense that it is very early to be making definitive judgments about whether this has been a success yet, but one of the things that is striking is that that clarity of leadership that has been provided by a single figure as opposed to a committee has led to some very interesting innovations already in the first 12 months. It is that kind of local control and leadership that we were particularly interested in trying to foster when we historically, as an organisation, have written reports previously recommending the introduction of police commissioners.
Chair: Yes. Mr Collins, are you a believer?
Jon Collins: I think the PCCs were a serious attempt to address a real problem, the so-called democratic deficit and not enough local control over where police resources were used and focused. It is not a model without flaws. I do not think that even its strongest advocates would say that it is a model without flaws, but I think there is no perfect solution to this problem. There are different methods and different ways you could develop it and I think the Stevens report puts forward a plausible alternative, but it is difficult to say which will necessarily work best. For that reason, I agree with what the other two witnesses have said, which is that it is a year in and we need to give this model time to run before we discard it. Even if we decide to move on from it a term or two from now, we will have fully learned lessons of what has and has not worked so we will not have to go back to it in a few more years.
Q364 Chair: What struck us in the report but also generally in terms of the powers of PCCs was the ability to dismiss chief constables––what Lord Stevens described as the "chilling effect" of being able to suddenly get rid of your chief constable. Is that a power that you think should be retained by PCCs, Mr Chambers?
Max Chambers: Yes, it is. I think it is an important power that PCCs have. The thing about the Stevens review is that, as far as I am aware, it did not say it is having a chilling effect. It said that it risks having a chilling effect in future, not that there was any evidence that it was already doing so. The decisions a few PCCs have taken over dismissals have been the exception that has proven the rule and the rule is that, in the main, PCCs have built pretty good, on the whole, constructive relationships with chief constables. For me, the question is not so much, "Does the hiring and firing power offend the sensibilities of chief constables?" but rather, "Does it affect the outcomes in terms of the service to the public?" That is the most important thing and if chief constables are deemed by a PCC to be a barrier to that improvement, then it is an important part of addressing that.
Chair: Mr Collins, just on the point of the power to sack. We will come to the other issues, later.
Jon Collins: In terms of the power to sack, in the end, if that relationship breaks down irretrievably, someone has to have that power to remove the other. In the end, the only way round that that can work under this model is that the PCC has the power to remove the chief constable. I think that power should be used rarely and only in exceptional cases. Clearly, if you ended up with a merry-go-round of chief constables changing monthly or yearly, that would be very damaging to the confidence of the public and to the structure of the police service, but we have not, to date, seen that happening. The power should be held back and only used in extremis, used sensibly and used in line with existing employment law. When the current chief inspector of constabulary gave our annual lecture at the middle of last year he set out a very clear legal case for why he thinks that employment law very much applies here and that PCCs need to bear that in mind and I would agree that they should do so.
Chair: Yes Mr Rix?
Bernard Rix: The PCC is there to hold the chief constable to account. I believe it is the ultimate sanction in holding the chief constable to account. Therefore yes.
Q365 Chair: Before we move onto Mr Austin, can I just ask a question about the Police Federation report that came out yesterday? Have you had a chance to read it? Does anyone wish to comment on what was said by Sir David Normington and the federation? Mr Chambers?
Max Chambers: I have not had a chance, but would welcome the opportunity to do so in the future.
Chair: Yes. Mr Collins?
Jon Collins: I have not read it in detail, I am afraid, no.
Q366 Ian Austin: Just on this point about commissioners holding chief constables to account, to what extent are the three of you concerned by commissioners using targets to hold the chief constables to account?
Bernard Rix: From what I see, PCCs are reducing the use of targets. For example, shortly after election, the Surrey PCC removed targets in Surrey. Last November, the Essex PCC significantly reduced, if not removed, the use of targets in Essex. There are a number of PCCs who have quite a suite of targets that they use to measure the performance of the chief constable and, through him or her, their force. What I think will happen there is that that will help inform us, as we look at the 41 PCCs-42 if you include MOPAC as well-about the power of a number of factors, not least in this case on targets.
Jon Collins: Yes, I think I agree with that final point from Bernard. You have 41 mini-experiments here. They are all operating slightly differently. Some are using targets, some are not. Some are using different forms of targets, some more sophisticated than others. For people who are interested in watching how policy develops, we should get to see how that works better in some areas than others. That should give us a sort of natural experiment around the validity of targets. Targets have been a remarkably resilient form of performance management, given the widespread criticism they have received in recent years. I think some PCCs, some chief constables and some forces rely on them to direct activity. They can be crude. Sometimes they have perverse incentives, but they can have their use if used in a sophisticated way. It is important to look at what the targets are trying to achieve and then see whether they do achieve that, and to consider them carefully and whether or not they are distorting behaviour or having unintended effects.
Max Chambers: I agree with a lot of that. I think there is a difference between national crude targets like we had a few years ago-the "offences brought to justice" target, for example-and local targets, which I suppose can at least be a bit more locally responsive and have a chance of being more sophisticated and better defined. On the whole, if it is happening, it is not a brilliant development overall, but I recognise what Bernard and Jon say about the resilience of targets as a general tool.
Q367 Ian Austin: At what point do you think it would be possible to do some sort of comparative work and assess which of these 42 mini-experiments have been most successful and what approach works best?
Bernard Rix: It is certainly a challenge. Over the three and a half years for the first term of a PCC, in very broad terms, the first year was for many PCCs finding their feet. I think the second year will see some significant change on the part of many within their force. In the third year, they need to be demonstrating the benefit of the changes they have made and I think it is that year that answers your question. In the fourth year or the last six months, effectively, for those that choose to stand again-and I am pretty sure that it will not be all of those who are currently PCCs-they then need to use that evidence that they have gathered in the preceding year, hopefully independent evidence, to show that they have made some significant improvements in the way in which their force is able to deliver what the public expect of it.
Q368 Michael Ellis: Gentlemen, the issue that was of concern to the Government was the democratic deficit that existed prior to the introduction of police commissioners between the general public and the police, the lack of elected accountability. That has been addressed now, has it not, by police and crime commissioners? There are bound to be some teething troubles but, by and large as a principle, the public having the right to vote for someone who can oversee the strategy and budgetary requirements of a large public sector body like the police is a good thing. Do any of you disagree with that? There is silence. Mr Rix?
Bernard Rix: Certainly the individual who is accountable and answerable to the public is very clear and there is only a single person, so it is entirely clear who is responsible and who has delivered or not.
Michael Ellis: That must be a good thing, must it not?
Bernard Rix: That is a good thing. I would agree on that point. I think the challenge, though, is over the degree to which, for example, PCCs engage with the public, with the communities within their particular area.
Michael Ellis: Yes, but surely some engagement is better than none at all. Before there were PCCs, there was no engagement. Police authorities existed for 30 years and, towards the end of their lives, opinion polls indicated that only about 6% of people knew they existed. Is that right? You are nodding in agreement.
Bernard Rix: It is significantly more now.
Paul Flynn: Mr Chairman, as Mr Ellis appears to be giving evidence in this Committee, are we allowed to question Mr Ellis?
Q369 Michael Ellis: Mr Flynn has not been a member of the Committee for very long, but I am going to carry on. Is it not the reality, though, that with 6% having acknowledged the existence of the police authority, the way that it is 62% now, according to the briefing that I have had from the civil servants who prepare briefings for this Committee, it is quite good in the scheme of things, isn’t it?
Bernard Rix: For me it is a question of what those PCCs then do with that public engagement. It is all very well engaging. The acid test for me would be over the extent to which they pursue the ambitions or the desires of their community and put them in action and see that they deliver. If I might use one example of that, a number of PCCs, quite rightly, over the past few months have been asking their communities about the police precept. There is a bar on the police precept so that it cannot rise above typically 2% without a local referendum. The argument of localism would suggest that PCCs who have that local mandate ought, if that is what their local population would wish, to be able to increase the precept beyond 2%. It appears that that is not the line the Government is prepared to take on this, so we then have this tension between localism and the application.
Michael Ellis: I just want to give the other two-
Chair: Final question.
Michael Ellis: There are no other questions from me. I just wanted to see if Mr Chambers and Mr Collins wanted to come back on any of that or have any observations.
Max Chambers: Obviously it is very important how PCCs respond to the fact that they are visible, but I think in this instance visibility is an end in itself as well. What is the point in having an element of democratic accountability that nobody is aware of? The starting point is people are aware of the existence of their local police and crime commissioner, had the opportunity to vote for that person and engaged with them throughout the four years.
Jon Collins: I do not think you necessarily can say either that police authorities did nothing to engage the community, although I would be the first to agree with you they were not as visible as they could have been. The second thing is you do not do away with democratic deficit just by having an election. There is more to it than that and there were clear and well-established problems with the first election, which we do not need to rehash, but as the model goes on, assuming PCCs remain, it will be important for them to build on that and to do more than simply saying, "We are holding an election once every four years, therefore it is solved."
Michael Ellis: I accept that.
Q370 Mark Reckless: Mr Rix, you said that the Government would not accept that degree of power for PCCs, but in their White Paper, Policing in the 21st Century, they did propose giving that power to set the precept entirely to the PCC, subject just to the local panel being able to call a local referendum if they had a twothirds majority against the precept. Do you think that would be a better model than what we had once the civil service watered it down?
Bernard Rix: There is a difficulty at the moment, at the very least in the coordination between what is happening locally with PCCs and their need to set the precept and the clarity of the instruction from, I believe, the Home Office on whether it is the 2% that will apply and which forces may be exempt from a 2%. You will recall that last year there were, I think, 10 forces that were able to increase their precept by more than 2%. To my knowledge, it is not clear how many and the percentage rise that is permissible at the moment. You put a particular scenario there. I would suggest that the clarity of the scenario is the most important thing, not the detail of the scenario. What I am hearing is, in terms of the ability or otherwise of PCCs to increase the precept, at the moment they are not clear on what the rules are that the Home Office will be setting, and those will not be clear until later this month or even early next month.
Q371 Mark Reckless: How would you advise voters to determine whether or not that PCC has done a good job, particularly when it comes to assessing them at the next election?
Bernard Rix: This is why, in part, CoPaCC was set up a year ago. CoPaCC is there to compare PCCs and share best practice. It is deliberately there to compare the 41, or even 42 if you include the Mayor’s Office for Policing of Crime, and then examine a number of areas. For example, late last year, we ran a transparency thematic looking specifically at how PCCs compare on transparency and we have a further five planned for later this year. That provides not just voters but many who are interested in PCC performance with a comparison between PCCs. It is that sort of mechanism that allows electors to take a view on whether their PCC is at the front of the pack or lagging somewhat behind.
Mark Reckless: Mr Chambers and Mr Collins, how would you advise voters to judge their PCC aside from, of course, subscribing to Mr Rix’s monthly CoPaCC review?
Max Chambers: As helpful as the comparative data is, I would ask how people judge their MPs or their mayors. There is no one particular standpoint that people will take. Some people will look at the crime figures. Other people will go on whether they feel safer in their own communities and whether they think that particular crime priorities for them have been addressed. Other people might just say, "Do I think my PCC has done a good job in standing up for my local area?" I do not think we need to be prescriptive about how people judge and how PCCs should be judged.
Q372 Dr Huppert: There was a conversation earlier about whether PCCs addressed the democratic deficit and I think it was acknowledged they cannot do the whole work. Part of the key element that was set up was, of course, the police and crime panels, partly to provide greater diversity of representation and partly to deal with the fact that no PCC can cover an entire area. How effective do you think the police and crime panels have been and how could they be strengthened so they can achieve what they ought to be able to do? Mr Rix.
Bernard Rix: I think there is a real challenge for police and crime panels and, if we start at the very basic step, in some cases it is a question of motivation of the panel. Only in three cases is the chair of the panel is from a different party than the PCC, if we exclude independents. For something of the order of 26 PCCs, their police and crime chair is of the same party. Of course, I am not suggesting that that would discourage any challenge but it is more likely, I would argue, that there is less challenge where it is a chair that is of the same party as the PCC. There is certainly a major question about resources. Police and crime panels are very poorly resourced. Only in one case, I think, do they have a budget of anything other than around £50,000. They are still struggling to find information on what the PCCs are doing. They are uncertain of their powers. They are beginning to share information, but I think they are also discouraged by what I hear is a lack of engagement with those at the centre. I know that a number of police and crime panel members and chairs have written to the Committee and I am sure that a number of them would welcome the opportunity to speak for themselves to this Committee on the challenges that they face.
Chair: We will be having a session with panel chairs.
Bernard Rix: I am sure that they would very much welcome that.
Dr Huppert: I recall one of them who came to see us resigned shortly afterwards. Mr Collins or Mr Chambers, do you have anything to add?
Jon Collins: I would say, in the same way that we were talking about the first year for PCCs being somewhat of a bedding-in period, the same is even more true with panels as it is not, by and large, their full-time job and it is taking some time for them to start to find their feet. They received some fairly strong criticism in the early days about an inability to stop various appointments that they opposed, but I think that it will take time for them to find their feet. There are some concerns about the level of funding and the amount of professional support that enables them to do proper scrutiny. It goes without saying that panels should have access to the information they require from PCCs, and PCCs should voluntarily provide that information if it is asked for because the panel is there to help them to do their job better as well as to hold them to account. A positive, strong, constructive relationship is important and PCCs have to commit to that as well as panels. I would not be too quick, as with PCCs, to jump to give them significant new powers. We always talk about more vetoes and more banning. I would not jump to give them more powers until we have seen how it can really work over a slightly more extended period.
Dr Huppert: Yes. As Mr Chambers said, it is bedding in new resources, not new powers. What is your assessment?
Max Chambers: We have not done a huge amount of work in the space of police and crime panels. I have read the evidence that has been submitted to the Committee as part of this inquiry, but I do not have anything to add to what Jon just said. I think that sounded very sensible.
Dr Huppert: Mr Rix, were there any other things you wanted to add, suggestions for how to strengthen?
Bernard Rix: The key for me is listening to what the panels themselves have to say, acknowledging that in some cases they have not shared with other panels the way in which they can use their existing powers. I am sure you will find that many will argue that they ought to have more. I still think that they are learning how to use their existing powers before they necessarily need to have those additional powers.
Q373 Paul Flynn: As there were no outside applicants for the job of chief constable in Gwent following the sacking or forced resignation of the existing chief constable by the police and crime commissioner, is that not an example of a chilling effect?
Max Chambers: I do not know enough about the situation in Gwent to comment on that individual case.
Q374 Paul Flynn: I mean generally. We have evidence from the PCC who said there would be a large number of applicants for the job. There were in fact none and an internal candidate was appointed. Do you think the commissioners are working collaboratively across the country? We hear of the fact that something like 13 of the police forces are still using numeric targets for crime statistics, in addition to the Mayor of London. Is there an example of them working in a collaborative way or are they all doing their own thing?
Max Chambers: On the collaboration point, I am not sure about the macro pitch but I am aware of examples where forces are collaborating and PCCs are collaborating even across party boundaries. That was one of the concerns: would a Labour PCC be able to work strategically with a Tory PCC? If you look at areas like Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire where there is a Labour PCC and some Conservative PCCs, they are working together on an IT collaboration that is saving the forces money and merging some functions. There are other areas like West Mercia and Warwickshire where they are working very hand-in-glove together and collaborating. There are certainly areas where it is working quite well, but it is not just in force-to-force collaboration where there have been good examples. It is also collaboration between forces and other public services where I think there are more interesting practices beginning to emerge. We are seeing forces working with local authorities to share back and middle office functions, but also forces working with other public sector agencies such as mental health teams and the Fire Service. That is an area where, again, that leadership quality that PCCs are able to offer is driving some interesting practice that it is going to save money and deliver a better quality of service.
Q375 Paul Flynn: Do you think the balance of responsibilities between the commissioners and the police constables is right when the Gwent police commissioner said that he engaged the best legal brains in the country at public expense in order that the other side, as the chief constable, would not have the opportunity of recruiting them? Do you think the balance is perhaps not a fair one?
Jon Collins: I cannot comment on the specifics of the Gwent recruitment situation. I would say that, following the first PCC elections, there were a huge number of chief constables recruited because there were a lot of vacancies at the time of the elections. Inevitably, for the few months after that there will be fewer potential candidates coming forward. The other thing to say about recruitment now where there is a police and crime commissioner in place is that it is almost inevitable that those chief constables who apply for that role and those who are successful will share a vision for the force and for policing with the PCC whom they are applying to work with because that is what you would expect. You would not expect people to move into relationships they know will be problematic. The relationship between PCCs and chief constables in general was always going to be a particular challenge of this reform because it was a new, different form of accountability coming in largely above existing police structures. By and large, it has worked extremely well. The sky has not fallen in. There have been some teething troubles; four areas particularly have had problems, but by and large-
Chair: Which are the four areas?
Jon Collins: They are pretty well documented. There was Avon and Somerset straight after the election, Lincolnshire, Cumbria and Gwent.
Chair: What was the problem with Avon and Somerset?
Jon Collins: It was not necessarily a problem, but in the immediate aftermath of the election the chief constable was moved on pretty quickly. I think the current chief constable and the police and crime commissioner are giving evidence and may be sitting behind me-
Chair: That is why I asked you.
Jon Collins: They have, as I understand it, an extremely good relationship, but they ended up in a court case immediately after the election.
Q376 Paul Flynn: Finally, do you think that an 8% vote for a police and crime commissioner is an adequate mandate for him acting dictatorially?
Jon Collins: The way elections work in this country, by and large, for better or worse, is that there is no minimum number of people you need to get to vote. People who choose to vote choose the person who takes on that role. Obviously everyone, ourselves included, would have liked to have seen the elections have a higher profile and turnouts to have been much higher. Those PCCs who were elected on that first relatively low turnout need to bear that in mind in terms of how they apply their mandate, but they have the powers they would have received if it had been 100% turnout. That is the way it works.
Q377 Mr Clappison: I hope I will not get into trouble for giving evidence, but if I can just say to Mr Chambers that I was interested in his comment about Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and the police and crime commissioners there being able to drive forward change. As a Hertfordshire MP, I do know that something that was talked about as being needed before the advent of police and crime commissioners was smaller forces to work together across boundaries and across party boundaries, as you rightly say. My question is to Mr Rix. One thing that has caused comment in some cases has been the appointment of deputies by police and crime commissioners. One suggestion that has been put to me from quite a well-informed source is that problems might be solved if there was an election for the deputy at the same time––a ticket for the posts. What is your thinking on that and do you have any other proposals or thoughts on that subject?
Bernard Rix: I personally have no difficulty with the PCC being allowed through statute to select their own deputy. They are then answerable for their performance, the two of them combined. Equally, the mechanism you describe may also have effect. Do I think that in some cases deputies are needed? Certainly on some of the larger forces, such as Thames Valley, which is a very large force. Although I do not believe the Thames Valley PCC has a deputy, I do think that that is an instance where having somebody that that individual has selected is helpful. I am one of those few, it seems, who would argue that we need more forces rather than fewer. Very often there is a comment made that we should have fewer forces. I think the engagement that PCCs have, particularly in the smaller forces-I live in Bedfordshire and I know that in Bedfordshire it is possible for a PCC to engage across the county. I can see it being much more difficult in a number of counties such as Thames Valley.
Mr Clappison: Have the other two witnesses anything to add?
Jon Collins: On the appointment of deputies generally, I think that was introduced on the basis that a PCC would be representing a very big area. It would be challenging to get round and the idea of having someone to support them to do that was brought into legislation. I think that is a sensible thing to do. Where deputies are appointed after the election, I would like to see much more clarity about why they are required, what their role will be and why the person who is appointed is the best possible person to do that role. Personally, I would like to see those jobs advertised wherever possible.
Mr Clappison: Do you have a problem with the electorate knowing in advance who the deputy was going to be?
Jon Collins: No, I think that is a perfectly sensible, separate approach. It is also reasonable for PCCs to come in, to look at the scale of the job and then to decide whether they need a deputy and, if so, what skills they need. That is reasonable as well, but where someone is sure they will need a deputy and they have someone in mind who they think will fill the role, I think it is perfectly reasonable to effectively put them on a ticket. Given that people are voting for the PCC, you would still then need to have post-election appointment scrutiny.
Mr Clappison: Mr Chambers, anything to add?
Max Chambers: I suppose I just want to make a wider point that we mentioned in our Power Down report, which is that this is a different job from running a police authority and we do not think the PCCs should be squeamish about appointing the people they need to a good job. If that means that the costs of the PCC office are different and higher than the costs of a police authority, but in doing that they can drive down the policing budget while maintaining the downward trajectory of crime and delivering a better service to the public, that is the more important thing. Deputies and advisers and assistants and all the rest of it, fine––and let the public judge at the end of the four year process whether they have delivered better outcomes.
Q378 Nicola Blackwood: I want to follow up on the answers to Mr Austin about targets. I think, Mr Collins, in the Police Foundation’s submission to the Committee you made some comments on targets and you quoted an analysis by the BBC of the PCC’s police and crime plans, which found that 178 performance targets have been set with 18 of the 41 PCCs using targets for performance measures. However, in your answers it was a bit more high-level discussion saying, as I understood it, that we will not be able to assess the impact of these targets until the next election. Have any of you done any work to look at these specific targets in their areas and analyse the different kinds of targets that have been set in the different areas and the impacts that they are having there? It would be very helpful for the Committee.
Jon Collins: As you said, it was not our analysis. It was carried out by the BBC. These are all targets contained in police and crime plans that we have looked at, but we have not been looking at their impact. It would be a very useful piece of work for, in general terms, more comparative work to be done to look at how the PCC reform is evolving. We are not currently in the situation to do much more than very high level work, but I think it would be welcome if others could do so.
Nicola Blackwood: Mr Rix, you are the Comparing Police and Crime Commissioner’s think tank.
Bernard Rix: It is a mouthful. CoPaCC is much more straightforward. Part of our aim for this year is, in the same way that we undertook the transparency thematic at the back end of last year, to run a number of very similar thematics, one of which will be on governance, looking at how PCCs hold their chief constables to account. There are very clearly different mechanisms. I fear I am not in a position to offer any concrete objective evidence as we speak. It is still relatively early, but it is very clear that there are different approaches that PCCs have.
Q379 Nicola Blackwood: The next issue I want to follow up on concerns your answer to Mr Clappison about transparency and decision making regarding deputies. I am a little confused. Would it not be necessary for commissioners to publish their decision making for deputies as part of their register of significant decisions?
Bernard Rix: It illustrates the way in which different PCCs are interpreting obligations to publish certain statutory transparency factors and they have to publish their decisions by law, as you know. Some PCCs publish as few as one decision a month on average, while others publish as many as 13 or 14 each month. It is pretty clear from that that there is some interpretation on what type of decision is published by each PCC. I have not seen any decision published on the appointment of their deputy other than, I think Dyfed-Powys, where the approach was somewhat different. Rather than selecting an individual simply on a political basis, there was a competition in Dyfed-Powys.
Q380 Nicola Blackwood: In the discussion with Mr Ellis on democratic accountability, clearly the foundation of that has to be transparency and there are the 25 measures of transparency. In your submission, Mr Rix, you clearly outlined your assessment of the degree to which the PCCs are adhering to those statutory requirements. I think there is only one office of police and crime commissioner where all 25 statutory disclosures have been available on the website, but overall your assessment is that the disclosures are quite good?
Bernard Rix: Room for improvement I think. We did use the term "good" in the report that we put together. In fact, you are hearing evidence from the West Midlands PCC, whose office is the one that you described where all 25 statutory factors were mentioned. If you look at the "could do better" side, we found that something like 9% of offices of police and crime commissioners had websites with fewer than 60% of their statutory responsibility for declarations on their website, and that is simply on the basis of a mention. This is not the quality of the information that is provided; this is simply the mention of that statutory transparency factor.
Q381 Nicola Blackwood: On the point about quality, obviously none of this material that is declared will be of any value to the electorate if it is not accessible, if it is not in plain English rather than acronym-laden-forgive me-police language, and if it is not freely available and if people do not know where to find it. I wonder if perhaps Mr Chambers and Mr Collins might want to come in on whether they think that the current system is working and whether they think there are any other measures that should be included to make the transparency measures that have been put in place work effectively for democratic purposes.
Jon Collins: The first step is obviously that all PCCs should be complying with that but, as you say, that is not enough. To expect many members of the public to trawl PCC websites and make their way through lengthy PDFs to try to get to the bottom of what decisions have and have not been made is unrealistic, I would imagine, given the interest in PCCs so far. It would be valuable if PCCs chose to make that information as accessible as possible in a way that people might be engaged with it and interested in it. It will be in their interests if they are doing a good job to broadcast that as widely as possible to the public and to their potential electorate in the future. There is a clear incentive for them to do that and I think they should be encouraged to do so, and then it is for local and national media and those of us who have an interest in PCCs to take that information and disseminate it as widely as possible.
Max Chambers: I agree with all that. The hope is that you will have third-party organisations like CoPaCC-we tried to do this at the time of the last election on our website PoliceElections.com-who will try to make that information digestible and available to people. As Jon says, the first step is PCCs making sure that they comply with the guidance where they have the capacity to do that. That is the other question here. We cannot, on the one hand, criticise PCCs for employing staff and then, on the other hand, say, "You need to be quicker and more responsive in giving us information." They need to make sure they have the support to do that.
Q382 Nicola Blackwood: In your view, all of you, the 25 measures are the right measures and it is just a matter of complying with that?
Chair: A yes or a no is fine.
Bernard Rix: I am drawn towards no. Quite simply, if I may be allowed a supplementary to that, I feel the measure of those 25 factors is an illustration of the determination of the PCC to publish information. The interest of the public, ourselves included, in the information would extend, for example, to the Association of PCCs website, which has become less transparent in the last month. You cannot simply examine the statutory factors. You have to look at the desire of PCCs individually and the PCC community to share that information and I am mindful here of the NAO comment about transparency.
Q383 Chair: Thank you. The Committee were concerned about the lack of transparency. That is why we created our own register of interests for PCCs, because the Government said it was a matter to be dealt with locally. There is no local register, so we did the work ourselves and we produced the register last year. Do you think there ought to be a register of interests of PCCs and, if you do, very quickly, who should hold that register, Mr Chambers?
Max Chambers: I can see no reason why not. There is no reason that PCCs should not be declaring their interests. Where it should sit, I do not have a strong view.
Chair: Mr Collins?
Jon Collins: I agree that there should be one and I think the key thing is that PCCs publish that locally. I think whether someone chooses to collate that into one national document is a secondary issue to making sure it is available from them at the local level.
Chair: Mr Rix?
Bernard Rix: There is already a statutory obligation on them to publish that information. Not every PCC is doing that at the moment. I think anything that encourages them to get it right on their website is to be encouraged.
Q384 Chair: You see no objection to a national register that just collates all this information together? We found it very odd that this was not being done and, therefore, you cannot have a comparison of what is happening in Leicestershire and what is happening in Warwickshire, for example.
Bernard Rix: I would argue that is something that CoPaCC is looking to do, in part because there is a vacuum there.
Chair: Maybe the register can sit with you. Yasmin Qureshi has the final question then we must move on. Our next witness is here.
Q385 Yasmin Qureshi: Would the Chair, with your indulgence, permit me two little questions?
Chair: I will. I will measure them carefully, Mrs Qureshi.
Yasmin Qureshi: You will, I am sure.
The first question, I just want to take over from what Mr Flynn was saying about the issue about the PCC being able to fire the chief constable. None of you seem to see any problems with that, but let me put it this way. You have a chief constable, somebody of 20 or 30 years’ experience, running an area who knows all about policing. Then somebody comes in, elected on about 8% of the vote-I know it is democratic and it does not matter, but this is very low-and most of them do not know anything about policing. They can come and they simply tell the chief constable what to do and, if the chief constable may have a different view about how they should be tackling the area, that person should be able to fire them. To me that is quite a chilling effect. Do you still hold by the view that that would not cause a chilling effect?
Bernard Rix: My feeling here is that this is the will of Parliament; that they are elected individuals; that if they are-
Yasmin Qureshi: No, leave aside the will of Parliament. On that basis, we should not be discussing it at all because on the will of Parliament they have been set up. They have been set up. All of you are giving evidence saying it is a great organisation; it is brilliant. I am just pointing out something that is a very obvious problem that a lot of people can see.
Bernard Rix: For me it boils down to one or possibly two sentences. The PCC is there to hold their chief constable to account and the ultimate sanction in holding the chief constable to account is the power to fire them.
Max Chambers: I might put it a different way. Someone has to have this power and it either sits with the Home Office or it sits with weak and invisible police authorities that nobody has ever heard of. At least this way everybody knows who is taking the decision and there is proper democratic accountability for it. We saw what happened when there was not a high turnover of police constables. We saw the police become more and more remote from the public, with the Home Office buttressing that with very centrally directed, blunt targets. I think this is a much better model.
Jon Collins: Just briefly, I do not think this situation is unproblematic, but I do think there are processes in place to try to make sure that the power is not used inappropriately, both processes specifically designed for PCCs in terms of some of the operational independence issues as well as the processes you are meant to run through to remove a chief constable. There is also broader restrictions in terms of employment law that do not allow you to just fire people without any cause at all. As Max said, in the end, if someone is going to hold them to account, someone needs to have that power, but I continue to say that it should be used carefully and sparingly and if there is evidence that it is not, by and large, then it needs to be looked at again.
Bernard Rix: Can I just come back on that point? Jon mentioned chief constables a little earlier. I believe I am correct in saying that none of them have been fired from their jobs. The Gwent chief constable resigned. The Avon & Somerset chief constable’s contract was not renewed. The Lincolnshire chief constable is confirmed in post as chief constable and the Cumbria chief constable was an acting chief constable who was acting up as deputy. In fact, the circumstance there was that he returned to his deputy chief constable post. As I understand it, as we speak we do not have any chief constable that has been sacked.
Q386 Yasmin Qureshi: I never try to go into personal cases of any individuals. What I am talking about is the potential for the fact that, because of this power and because the elected commissioners may have a particular way of wanting to do things or perhaps a general thing, the expert, as I would call the chief constable, may have a different view and then the tension that can develop between the two. It seems that the final word is with the commissioner to decide what to do. That is what I am talking about. That is the law Mr Flynn was talking about; the ultimate power of somebody who in all honesty is not that experienced being able to fire somebody who is?
Max Chambers: It boils down to the fact that-
Yasmin Qureshi: Do you not think that is a problem? That is what I wanted to explore with you, the fact that it is a potential problem.
Max Chambers: I was just going to say you can either see it as a chilling effect or you can see it as a creative healthy tension. Our view is that that is what it is.
Bernard Rix: If I may, there is a clear distinction and there are elements of grey. There is a distinction between the operational side, which is absolutely the chief constable’s responsibility, and the strategic side, which is the PCC’s. There are instances where there is a grey area in between but ultimately, for me, I would say again that an elected individual who is there to effectively take forward the mandate that has been given them by representatives, that is the one-
Chair: Mr Chambers, Mr Collins and Mr Rix, thank you very much. We could obviously go on for hours on this subject. You are obviously very knowledgeable about it. If there is any other information of use to this committee, please write to us. The inquiry is not over yet and, of course, you are welcome to stay to listen to the next session. Thank you very much. Our next witness is Lord Wasserman. There is a vote at 4 pm and, therefore, Lord Wasserman’s evidence will go on until then. We will then vote and come back.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Lord Wasserman gave evidence.
Q387 Chair: Lord Wasserman, thank you very much for coming. The Committee is delighted. After many years of trying, you are with us and we are very grateful. I do not know whether to shake your hand or hug you to welcome you.
Lord Wasserman: Thank you very much. You never give up––quite right. I am looking forward to this. It has taken a long time for me to get here.
Chair: It has. We are delighted to see you because we know, as a peer, you do have a choice and we are delighted to see you here. Now, if anyone is the father of PCCs it must be you. I assume that the mother is probably the Home Secretary. Your toddler is now a year and a half old. Are you pleased with what you have created?
Lord Wasserman: Yes, I am very pleased. First of all let me say it is very early days and I want to repeat what some of the other panellists said. It is very early days for this major constitutional change. We are changing entirely the arrangements by which the country is policed and it would be very odd if a Bill and then an Act, which has been developed in the Home Office in the course of a year and a bit, got everything right. That is just not the way things happen. I see this very much as a work in progress. The first step has been taken. That is why, Mr Chairman, as you know, I welcomed this inquiry very much, because I think we need to put some things right. I will mention one or two things later. We need to put some things right and this gives us an opportunity, after your report is published, to consider them. I hope that this Government perhaps in this session, or the next Government after the election, will put some things right. I think they are minor things but, as I always say, some things that need to be put right. On the whole, Mr Chairman, if I may go on for a minute, I see some real advantages. I think with PCCs now, as opposed the way things were done before-and I was in the Home Office for 27 years, so I do know how the Home Office manages police forces-there are some important advantages. One is I think the PCCs bring a much more holistic approach to crime reduction.
Q388 Chair: We will explore all of this in the questions that we have in the 30 minutes that we have with you. I was reading your speech following the publication of the Stevens report and you talked about the 47 eminent scholars who had helped Lord Stevens. You also talked about the fact that the report offered no practical solutions. In other words you obviously read the analysis, but you felt it was a bit short on practicalities. What are the practical solutions you think can be offered now?
Lord Wasserman: What I was disappointed about is that, on some of the major issues about structure, we did not get to an answer: 43 may not be right, but it was not clear whether they wanted to have seven or one or 26 and so on, and there were these major issues. I think the kinds of things I want to put right are relatively minor. For example, can I talk about training and transition?
Chair: You can do further on. If you just say one or two practical solutions then we will explore these other issues with you. What would be the practical solutions you think that were missing from the Stevens report?
Lord Wasserman: I would have liked to have their guidance. This was a group of professionals. I would have liked to have their guidance on the best structure for operational policing. I would have liked to hear much more about the role of the inspectorate. The inspectorate now has to change, obviously, because we have the inspectorate inspecting a very different structure and an inspectorate now headed by a civilian. The IPCC was another area in the report that I felt came down in the middle. Then again on my interest in science and technology, I was disappointed, because it said, "Forensic science is not very good. On the other hand maybe it was." There was no solution. On the IT, which is the longest-running issue, there was again no solution.
Q389 Chair: But you also must recognise that one of the central points of his report was the issue of the ability to sack chief constables, which he said in a sense was casting a shadow over the police leadership. He also mentioned the very low morale that currently exists within the police service. I think he referred to an opinion poll, which suggested 90% were unhappy about the state of policing. In some ways, do you feel responsible? You talk about this great landscape of policing and I agree with you that it is a revolution in policing that has been created over the last three and a half years, but has it been too fast and has the power slipped the other way, specifically in relation to the power to dismiss chief constables and the chilling effect that has on police leadership?
Lord Wasserman: I think that is very interesting. Almost everyone in this country lives with the prospect of losing their job and that is just the way things-
Chair: Apart from you.
Lord Wasserman: Quite. That is not employment, Mr Chairman. People do live with the prospect of losing their job and I have seen this in America where chief constables are fired. I mean Bill Bradman was fired by Giuliani after two years. They get up, they brush themselves off, and they go on to greater things. Bill Bradman went on to Los Angeles. Bill Bradman is indeed back in his old office in the NYPD. I do not regard this as chilling. I think there is an issue and I see morale is bad. I think that not enough credit has been given to the police and to chief constables, who are after all the crime-fighters in this. It is not the job of the PCCs to fight crime. It is to identify the problems that need fighting, the crime problems, the policing role, and I do not think they get nearly enough credit.
Q390 Chair: But you were one of those who favours people coming from abroad to take on the job of a chief constable. You like direct entry. It is part of the revolution in policing. You must feel that chief constables at the moment are failing to provide the leadership that is necessary to make sure that these reforms are successful. Would you not like to see Bill Bradman coming over here as the commissioner?
Lord Wasserman: Bill Bradman is no longer on the market, but let me say this. First of all, I am not on record as favouring direct entry. I am prepared to discuss this, but I am not on record as favouring direct entry, though I know the Home Secretary is. I am on record as saying that I think our chief officers are, on the whole, as good as any officers in the rest of the world. I have worked in the States and, if you lined up our 43 chief constables and you lined up their 43 top ones, I have no doubt that, after the few stars they have-and we know about them-ours are every bit as good, if not better. They are certainly better trained.
Q391 Chair: Why do we need PCCs then? If they are so good at their jobs, why-
Lord Wasserman: They are two different jobs. If we have very good brain surgeons, why do we need someone to decide about health expenditure? The job of the PCC is not to fight crime. It never has been to fight crime. That is the job of the chief. That is why I get slightly aggravated and disappointed when I hear people say, "Well, it is all working; crime is falling." Crime is falling because the chiefs are doing their job and the PCCs are meant to be supporting them; I have always seen it that way. The reason I thought the PCCs would be useful and helpful and keep our communities safe-and I was all about community safety; it is not about value for money but about keeping our communities safe-was because I felt that our chief constables were inhibited from acting as they know best through central directives from the Home Office, guidance and directives and memos and targets and what have you, and I wanted to free them to do their job. They are the professionals. They do the job. They reduce crime and they should get the credit for it.
Q392 Paul Flynn: In a recent poll, 3% said they thought that the PCC project had made the police more effective and 9% said they felt they had made the police less effective. Is one of the reasons for this a lack of training for PCCs?
Lord Wasserman: No, Mr Flynn, the lack of this is that they have not had enough time for this system to prove itself. At the end of the four yours, if you tell me that is what people think I will be very much shaken by it because I do not believe that is the case. As I said to the Chairman, if the PCCs and the chief constables work together it is a partnership. The PCCs cannot reduce crime on their own. They do not know how to reduce crime and, by the same token, chief constables need support. They need guidance. They need to be told what the local community wants dealt with. After all, policing needs are more or less infinite and policing resources are very scarce. Someone has to take the rap or take responsibility for deciding which of the many policing needs––domestic violence, traffic, schools––should get priority, and that is the job of the PCC.
Q393 Paul Flynn: Tom Winsor told us that he thought that PCCs did not have unfettered power to sack a chief constable. The PCC in Gwent thought that he did and acted accordingly. Do you think there was training needed for both chief constables and the PCCs before they went on this unchartered sea?
Lord Wasserman: Firstly, I cannot comment. Tom Winsor is a distinguished lawyer, and I would not challenge his interpretation of this statute.
Paul Flynn: But is it your view that they have unfettered powers?
Lord Wasserman: I do not think they are unfettered, but I bow to Tom Winsor’s legal view on this. What I think about training is that there needs to be training certainly and we can come back to that, Chairman, because I think there needs to be a period of transition, a period of training. You cannot take someone who has never had this responsibility before and give it to him without any training whatsoever. It is quite different in central Government where a Minister comes into a Department with hundreds if not thousands of professional permanent civil servants to advise and guide her, to a PCC who comes into an office of nine and probably some of them will leave. We can come back to this, I think.
Q394 Paul Flynn: Do you think the public will judge the record of PCCs on what they are doing or in a few years’ time by the collapse of public confidence in the accuracy of police and crime statistics, chiefly crime statistics?
Lord Wasserman: Insofar as crime statistics are not accurate, I think steps will be put in place to quality-assure them. I do not think this is beyond the wit of man. I think this is a job for the inspectorate, for example, to quality-assure crime statistics. The chief constables have no interest in fiddling the statistics because, in order to allocate police resources effectively, you have to have reliable statistics. If you do not know where the crimes are, when they occurred or who did them, then it is very difficult to allocate your scarce police resources to those areas and those problems that you are trying to tackle. There is no interest for chief constables in trying to fiddle the statistics. Now, do people occasionally fiddle the statistics? Yes. I came across a situation in Philadelphia when I was the Chief of Staff of the Philadelphia Police Department where a captain thought he would be very clever and fiddle the statistics by making a more serious crime into a less serious crime. We soon discovered this through our quality assurance procedures and then he lost his command and he was sent into some Siberia of a job. It amuses me then to think this same captain is now in a federal prison for a very serious offence committed after he left the police, so you have some idea of the character we are dealing with here.
Q395 Paul Flynn: A final question: we heard Lord Stevens’ evidence last week where he says the crime statistics have been fiddled for years––had been and are. If you had been training the PCCs, what advice would you give them about setting numeric targets for crime statistics?
Lord Wasserman: I think the question of targets is a very important one. I think there has been a misunderstanding here. The Home Secretary, when she came into office, did away with national targets and made something of this. Some people were upset. She said, "We will bonfire targets and we are not having any targets anymore, national targets" but those were national, one size fits all targets, and I do not believe that crime is a national issue. On the whole, I believe crime is a local issue, Mr Flynn. I live in Pimlico. I am not interested in the crime rate in the country as a whole, I want to know, when my granddaughter comes and visits me in Pimlico, can she go to Lupus Street to buy a newspaper or is she likely to be mugged? That is all I care about. If you tell me that in Tottenham now crime is down by 12%, it is interesting but it does not cut any ice with me because I want to know about my community, my street, my children, my grandchildren.
Chair: Thank you. Can I just say, Lord Wasserman, I know you have to vote and we have to vote at 4 pm. We need slightly briefer answers. It is fascinating what you are saying, but we all want to get in to have a bite at the cherry.
Q396 Mark Reckless: Lord Wasserman, you mentioned living in Pimlico. A year or two ago there was a serious spate of muggings, a number at knifepoint and some at gunpoint, around Pimlico. Was there not evidence there that it was people coming in from other boroughs in London and it was not perhaps the local community police only, but a wider issue that happened to be focused on Pimlico? Are structures right for dealing with that now, do you think?
Lord Wasserman: Yes, I think they are fine. The Metropolitan Police know how to deal with these matters. I am not quite sure what you mean, Mr Reckless, by "are structures right". This issue of PCCs does not apply-
Mark Reckless: The relationship between neighbourhood policing and more serious crime policing, do we have that connection and interface right, do you believe?
Lord Wasserman: Again, we have the National Crime Agency, which will impact serious and organised crime and a number of other trans-force crimes. I think that is right. Again, it is bedding down. We do not know the relationship between the NCA and the Met and local forces until we see a little more of it. We certainly have someone running the NCA who was himself a chief constable and very conscious of the need to bring all his colleagues along. I am very optimistic about the relationship between local and serious crime.
Q397 Michael Ellis: Congratulations, Lord Wasserman, on seeing this project through to fruition. If we look at some of the complaints from the left about police and crime commissioners in particular, it is said that very few people took part in the election for them. Statistically it was below 50%. Of course, most MPs are elected on less than 50% of the vote, but that tends not to be spoken about quite so much. Do you think it is going to increase the next election and increase after that? Are you confident that the participants in the election will increase?
Lord Wasserman: Well, it could hardly get any smaller. Yes, I do think it will increase because there is so much talk about it. I think there will be much more talk. I think now that the political parties, for example, are going to take that much more seriously than they did. The Conservative party for one, as you know, was all about having independence, how good it would be to have independence, and now-
Michael Ellis: It is going to coincide with other elections often, is it not?
Lord Wasserman: Also a better time of year and all the rest of it, yes.
Q398 Michael Ellis: The issue of the ability to sack chief constables, you referred before to most jobs being susceptible to dismissal. Do you see that, looking at this matter since the creation of PCCs, as a problem? Do you think that chief constables should be, as senior public servants, susceptible to disciplinary action in the right circumstances?
Lord Wasserman: To disciplinary action if they do something that is under the disciplinary code, but should they be sacked if they fail to live up to their promise? Yes, I do. I think there is a problem and that is about what they are held accountable for. If they are accountable for something that is a professional interest of theirs, fighting crime, and they fail and the police force begins to fall down the league table from one of the top five to the bottom, there is a problem. I think the PCC may well ask the chief constable to resign or retire because he is not doing it.
On the other hand, if, for example, a serious IT project were to go wrong-and this is something that concerns me very much-and the chief constable was responsible for it, should he be made to resign because he made a mess of that? Now, that is a very interesting issue because it relates to something for which the chief constable has not himself been trained. He is not a professional. He is a professional crime fighter, but if the PCC gives him that responsibility to deliver a project on time and to budget he may find himself losing a job for something that is not strictly a policing matter and that does concern me.
Q399 Michael Ellis: Do you think the holistic approach that is provided by having a man or a woman in charge of the strategy and the budget of policing is one of the great advantages of the police and crime commissioner system?
Lord Wasserman: I do not think there is any doubt. Where you sit is where you stand; that is what happens, is it not? If you are in the Home Office and a Home Office official, you deal with the police. You used to be able to deal with the police, probation and prisons. Now you can only deal with the police. On the whole, that is a very difficult way to tackle overall community safety. It would be much better to sit outside and then look across to see, there is a drug problem, there is an environmental health problem, there is a lighting problem, and so on. You cannot solve all these problems, but you can identify them and you can approach those responsible for them.
Q400 Chair: In answer to Mr Ellis about voting turnout, in November 2012 during the elections you said, "People should go out and vote because they will be kicking themselves that they allow John Prescott to win in Humberside as opposed to someone else." Obviously he is a colleague of yours, Lord Prescott. How many Lord Prescotts do you think were elected?
Lord Wasserman: I could not possibly comment.
Chair: But the policies of the people elected, have you looked at them?
Lord Wasserman: First of all, some of them are extremely distinguished members of your own House and have gone on to other things. There is no question about it. These people had big jobs on the national stage, there was no question: Tony Lloyd and others. There is no doubt. There are some in the Conservative party who had not held major office and who, on the whole, I think are doing a very good job. I do not know what the independents are doing. I was not thrilled about having eight former officers of a more or less junior level doing this. That is what the public wanted. I do not think this will happen again. I think it is very difficult for them dealing with chief constables with enormous experience and so on. But, on the whole, I think the quality is much higher than people feared when they wrote articles and columns in the paper before the election, because I do not think we are looking-
Q401 Chair: If you were to line them up, as you lined up your 43 chief constables and compared them to anyone in the world, if you were to line up your 43 commissioners how would you compare them to elected officials doing the same job in other parts of the world?
Lord Wasserman: Very different, because if I lined them up in America it would be against the mayors and some of these mayors are major city political people. It is a very political job. You cannot go and become mayor from having been an inspector in a local police force. It is simply not possible.
Q402 Yasmin Qureshi: Lord Wasserman, earlier you said that chief constables are the crime fighters and I think we all accept that they are the ones with the experience.
Lord Wasserman: Certainly.
Yasmin Qureshi: You also said that it is not unusual for people in top jobs to be dismissed and no one has a job permanently. There is a bit of difference here, is there not, because you have here somebody incredibly experienced-these individuals often are-and you have somebody who has been elected with perhaps very little experience and knowledge. Therefore, to say that those people can have carte blanche to sack somebody of that knowledge and experience is different, is it not, than say a chief executive of a hospital who may be doing a whole lot of other things? He is not going to be directly fired by a consultant. The consultant is going to say, "The operation should be done in this way", and so on, and if he chose to do it a different way there are conflicts. There are not the same kind of issues there, are there? Is the chief constable position not a little bit different? I know Mr Ellis talks about left and right. For me, this is not an issue about left and right. It is all very well to have elections and democracy, but when it starts interfering with people who have to do a job I get worried about political interference in how the police officers do their job or, for example, political interference in how judges do their jobs. In America, you have judges elected. That kind of thing frightens the life out of me and that is why I am very concerned about this aspect of the fact that the chief constables are being held directly responsible to elected people. It brings what I would call party politics or politics into policing and that is where people like me and some others are concerned about.
Lord Wasserman: As I say, there is no comparison between the expertise of a professional police officer, a chief constable, and the PCC. The PCC is elected and he need not have had any experience. In fact, some of those are better than ones who have a little bit of policing experience. His job is not to second-guess the police. Any PCC who suggested to a chief constable how to handle a difficult public order problem would find themselves in difficulty. The chief might tell him he could do it and then he would be in real trouble because he could not possibly begin to understand how to tackle a public order situation of a major kind. In fact, if anyone did that then I would have thought that the chief constable, if he had any self-respect, would himself resign rather than take this kind of abuse. I do not think that is the issue. At the end of the day, if the PCC said, "Domestic violence in our community is a serious problem and I want you to put in resources", and the chief constable said, "I do not think domestic violence is a problem; I think women bring it on themselves", I think that is an issue on which there is absolute clarity. If the chief constable cannot work with the representative of the people, he can be fired for that.
Yasmin Qureshi: That sort of thing does not happen.
Lord Wasserman: It may happen. Why may it not happen?
Yasmin Qureshi: I spent 20 years in the criminal justice system, prosecuting for 10 years of those, and I have seen how police officers respond. When I deal with my chief superintendents and other senior police officers, I have never seen them disregard what I told them about the concerns of my constituents.
Lord Wasserman: We are talking now about very big decisions about resource allocation and I think that is where the PCC has to express the views of the people-that is what he is elected to do-and hold the chief constable to account for that. Maybe it will not happen, in which case this issue is moot. But, if it does happen, I think it is absolutely right that the PCC should say, "This is how I see it. You see it differently. You do not think that this ethnic minority community or whatever it is happens." There could be issues. I do not know. I think it is a partnership; I do not see this as anything but a partnership. They both need each other. The chief constable needs the PCC to get resources and the PCC needs him to reduce crime, so they work together.
Q403 Dr Huppert: Lord Wasserman, if you were going to make three proposals to improve the current position for the running of police forces, what would your three ideas be?
Lord Wasserman: Running police forces; I will make a proposal for making the present arrangements better. Will you accept that?
Dr Huppert: I will take that as one.
Lord Wasserman: One of them is we need a transition period and this is something I hope the Committee will recommend. I think we cannot have a situation where on 5 May 2016 we elect a group of PCCs and they take office on the following morning. I think we missed a trick there. I think we need a transition period because we do not have any kind of long-lasting structure, as we should have. I was involved in all this and I did not see it. If we say on 5 May next year we have an election but on 4 July, which is a Monday, they take office. In the meantime, they have some training. They understand what the crime statistics look like and how you deal with them. Most people do not understand about this. What is the deviation? What does it mean? What does this mean? You have to have training on this. Also, knowing how the local government finance system works. What is a precept? How do you know about all this? I would give them a training period and a chance to be able to hire their chief executive, their chief financial officer and their team, and I would have a six-week period of transition where the existing team carried on because I would not want to have a period of six weeks where they do nothing. In fact, before the last election I had talks with the Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham about developing such a course. We did not do it because we all became so caught up with the development of the legislation.
Dr Huppert: That is two ideas. What was the third?
Lord Wasserman: I do not know if I have any direct suggestions for making things better except that I do think, if I were a PCC-and this is a general comment-I would not concentrate so much on value for money, but on community safety. I think there is excessive obsession with value for money. The PCC will not be elected next time because he has cut the budget by 10% if crime went up by 30%, Value for money, which has become a bit of an obsession-I look at the chief constable’s salaries and perks and so on-is all very well, I understand all that, but on the other hand let us get on with our chief constables. Let us get them to reduce crime. We will come to the perks later, but there seems to be an obsession with it.
Q404 Mark Reckless: If he cuts the budget by 10% further he might get the precept down by 30%, which would be able to swing a few votes. However, on the deputies, is there anything wrong with a PCC appointing a close ally or friend as a deputy?
Lord Wasserman: I can have deputies and assistants. As far as I am concerned, they need much more support. I do not think they are getting enough support. I see the job of the PCC is to support the chief constable and if, for example, the PCC had with him, by his side, someone who could support him on issues such as diversity, ICT, or estate management or who could support him and the police force working together, this would be much more satisfactory. At the moment all the burden for ICT, for estate management and for diversity, falls on the chief constable.
Q405 Mark Reckless: Finally, there is a bit of a nexus developed between Lord Stevens and some ex-chief constables and the Labour party, albeit the report is described as independent. Do you think they will get their PCCs and stop the accountability that has been brought in?
Lord Wasserman: No, I do not think they will.
Chair: Lord Wasserman, we will write you with other issues, if we may, but thank you very much for coming in to give evidence. Thank you.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Bob Jones, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Constable Chris Sims, QPM, West Midlands Police, and Chief Constable Nick Gargan, QPM, Avon and Somerset Police, gave evidence.
Q406 Chair: We are quorate. Other colleagues will arrive after they have voted. First of all, I apologise for the delay. Obviously there have been two votes and that is why we were away. Could I thank Commissioner Jones, our original witness, and all our new witnesses who have joined us since we advertised this event for coming in? We are currently conducting an inquiry into police and crime commissioners. At some stage we would have certainly come to Avon and Somerset to ask for your views, but we brought this forward. Thank you, Commissioner Mountstevens, Chief Constable Gargan and Chief Constable Sims for coming here at short notice. I want to start with some issues that have been in the public domain over the weekend. Chief Constable Sims, were you as astonished as I was when you read the comments of Tom Winsor that there are areas of the Midlands, which includes Leicester, Birmingham and all places under your command, where the ethnic minority communities were not reporting crimes, both low-level crimes and also even up to murder. He had spoken to a number of Chief Constables and he was quite certain that this was the case? Were you as astonished as I was at that statement?
Chris Sims: I certainly did not recognise at all the picture that was painted in the article. Certainly the quote, "There are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called", is totally at odds with my experience, where the inner-city areas that are our most diverse are the areas that generate the most activity for us, understandably, and are the areas that we are putting so much effort into engagement and getting some good traction from local communities. None of that made sense to me in terms of my experience. HMIC rang me yesterday and did make clear to me that he was not referring to the West Midlands in the comments he made. He was not able to say where he was referring to, but it certainly was not the West Midlands.
Q407 Chair: We will certainly write to him and ask him because it is quite a general statement that he has made. Commissioner Jones, you have been a local councillor in the area for many years and represented local people and I have obviously represented my constituency for 26 years. I do not know that there has been any underreporting by communities. If anything they are on the phone pretty quickly reporting crimes. What do you say about this?
Bob Jones: Yes. As someone who was born and who continues to live and work in such an area, I did not recognise the HMIC’s description of the area that I live in and the area that I represent. Clearly, in the areas that he is referring to, we have higher levels of reporting and higher levels of police activity than other areas of the West Midlands and the wider country.
Q408 Chair: Chief Constable Gargan, I know you are in Avon and Somerset, where the ethnic population is quite low, apart from Bristol, but you have policed areas in Leicester. Do you recognise any of these comments as bearing any relation to anything that has come before you?
Nick Gargan: I used to be a district commander for an area in Leicester, including your own constituency, Chairman, where in areas there were minority communities of 84% Gujarati Hindu populations. I could only agree with what is being said this afternoon; there is nothing in the Chief Inspector’s comments that resonated with my experience.
Q409 Chair: Mr Sims, you would know, would you not, if there were communities carrying out either sharia law or that had become a police force on their own, a subculture of police officers who are not police officers going about trying to solve crimes and meting out justice?
Chris Sims: We would. When I appeared before the Committee last time, you were kind enough to make mention of a very big operation that had just been running, the murder of an Asian man in Birmingham and then, subsequently, the bomb attacks on mosques. If you just reflect on that operation, the communities of the West Midlands came to us, quite properly, looking for our support and protection and stood by us very noticeably in the way that the policing operation was put together, which could not be further from the picture painted in the article, albeit that we now know that the article was not referring to the West Midlands.
Q410 Chair: Thank you for that. I want to move on next to the Police Federation report and wonder if any of you have had the chance to read it and give an initial assessment as to what you have seen. I appreciate that it was only published yesterday, so if you have not seen it I understand. Commissioner, you have indicated that you have not seen it. Have you seen it, Mr Gargan?
Nick Gargan: I have had a brief look at it, scanned the recommendations and I think the report is a sensible contribution to the thinking that the federation will have to do. It was a brave decision by the new leadership of the federation to commission the report. The report is genuinely independent. I hope that the leadership of the federation and joint branch boards and others in the service, including the leaders of the service, can pull together and find a way forward because I think what we all agree on is that change is necessary.
Q411 Chair: Mr Sims, I was a little surprised that the report was being authored by the former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office who must have known some of these issues when he was Permanent Secretary because he is not new to the game, so to speak.
Chris Sims: I am sure that added to the richness of the report.
Chair: What do you think of the report?
Chris Sims: Again, very briefly, it was only available yesterday but I very much agree with the comments that Nick made, which slightly got lost yesterday in the reporting, that this was initiated by the federation which clearly recognises the issues that it wants to overcome. I suppose the other bit that got perhaps slightly lost is the degree to which the federation is bound by legislation in the way that it operates. I think the report will perhaps help all of us to help the federation to do the job that needs to be done.
Q412 Mr Clappison: Mention of the Police Federation reminds me of the evidence that we took from members of the Police Federation about their meeting with Mr Andrew Mitchell at his constituency office. Perhaps I could ask Mr Sims where we have got to with an apology to Mr Mitchell for that, please.
Chris Sims: I have not met Mr Mitchell yet. I had an appointment with him that Mr Mitchell was unable to fulfil. I spoke to him on the phone and I am due to meet him, I think, in about three weeks’ time.
Mr Clappison: Will you be apologising to him when you meet him?
Chris Sims: I have indicated before, yes.
Q413 Mark Reckless: Mr Jones, do you have any regrets about your role as regards Mr Mitchell?
Bob Jones: Not that I am aware of. I have obviously met with Mr Mitchell and had a discussion on the topic.
Mark Reckless: Were you involved in delivering letters to his constituency or office, bringing up issues, notwithstanding your-
Bob Jones: Yes, certainly. I delivered one to my opposition candidate who happened to be based at Mr Mitchell’s office. It was not a letter to Mr Mitchell. It was a letter to my opponent.
Q414 Mark Reckless: You were very critical of the IPCC which, of course, has now taken control of this investigation, on the basis that there has not been a proper report by the investigating officer delivered but it was by someone else. On reflection, do you think that some of your comments about the IPCC were a little too harsh in instances?
Bob Jones: No, the evidence points to the fact that they made the wrong decision in the first place. They clearly have not done a good job of supervising that one and have acted inappropriately. Their decision to completely review that and start that again is recognition of the fact they did not do their job well.
Mark Reckless: Do you not think your attacks on them perhaps detract from where the genuine responsibility for any misbehaviour lies?
Bob Jones: I do not think so. The problem is that their actions have meant that we potentially are not going to get closure on this particular issue because of their errors on process and so on. We are not going get a position where we can see an investigation conclude and a decision being made.
Q415 Mark Reckless: I do not know if the West Midlands was one of these but this report was showing that 30 police federations were alleged to have No. 2 accounts and only three had given details of these. Do you share my concern that some of this may be public money and it is totally unclear whether any of it may have been misappropriated?
Bob Jones: Sorry, Mr Reckless, I did not follow the start of the question.
Mark Reckless: This is about the police federation generally, the report by Sir David Normington of No. 2 accounts, and the fact that I think he said there were 30 of these and only three of the regional feds would allow him any information about them. Do you have any plans to see if public money is being misappropriated or what may have happened to any subscriptions of officers or indeed public funds in the circumstances?
Bob Jones: I will certainly act if there is any evidence. Regrettably, not having been at police and crime panel meetings and meetings ever since it has been published, almost continuously, I have not had an opportunity to read it. Clearly, if there is any evidence in there I will see if there is anything I can do to resolve any issues.
Mark Reckless: But will you proactively investigate that matter in the West Midlands to see if there is a No. 2 account and, if so, whether its contents have been disclosed or should be to ensure proper use of that money?
Bob Jones: Clearly, the main line of accountability of the Police Federation is to its members. That is based on a statutory regulation. If there is any position where it is not complying with that, I will certainly speak to the Police Federation and seek to rectify it.
Q416 Mark Reckless: Mr Sims, do you see any role as chief constable in this matter?
Chris Sims: You might recall that, when I spoke last time, I talked about the need for some level of oversight of the way some of the expenditure was being used. If you recall, one of the management actions that would have followed from the closure of the investigation we have carried it out regardless was to make sure that there was a process to ensure that the federation was at least transparent if it was intending to use funds in a way that we would describe as novel and contentious. We have agreed that and that stands.
Mark Reckless: Thank you. Can I just ask that question to Mr Gargan, because of what I think is your finance and resources business area role? Are you going to do anything about this and these funds where no one appears to know what is in them?
Nick Gargan: My relationship with the joint branch board is a very cordial and friendly one and my plan will be, as soon as is possible, to sit down with them and discuss the review in general. That will be on the agenda, but I think one needs to exercise great caution before you start poking around on a fishing expedition into accounts that are fundamentally members’ accounts. These are members’ subscriptions to an organisation with which we negotiate around industrial relations. We need to exercise caution. If anything was brought to my attention that gave rise to suspicion of criminality, then that would be a different matter, but I would hope, in the first instance, to be able to get to the bottom of the local situation by means of negotiation and amicable discussion.
Q417 Ian Austin: Mr Sims, it seems to me that relations between the police in the West Midlands and the areas diverse in ethnic minority communities have improved significantly over the last few years. Is that something that you would agree with? Could you tell us a little more about the sort of work that you have undertaken to engage with those communities in places like Eastbourne?
Q418 Chair: As briefly as possible.
Chris Sims: I will be very brief. I think it has improved. There are still challenges and only this week two people have been charged with terrorist offences and we will be creating a dialogue that allows the community to understand why that is and what action we have taken. There is unreported crime and there is underreported crime, particularly around issues like domestic abuse and female genital mutilation. We are doing huge amounts to grow the confidence of the community to report those crimes. Where I take issue with the article is that that effort is going on with the community, not operating in what almost felt like a vacuum and that is the strength in the relationships that we build.
Q419 Ian Austin: The thing that surprised me about the article was this phrase, "Born under other skies." When you spoke to him, did he cast any light on what he meant by that? Was he able to substantiate any of this?
Chris Sims: No, I did not speak on that issue. I made the comment in The Times on Saturday that I found that a very peculiar phrase, not least because it seemed to me, if this had been about the West Midlands, that most of the people that we are talking about are British and born in this country and, therefore, part of our culture.
Q420 Chair: Thank you. The Committee will be writing to Mr Winsor to ask him to clarify his comments. Let us move on now to the role of the PCCs and the chief constables and perhaps I could start with you, Commissioner Mountstevens. One of the issues that has come up in the inquiry has been the issue of crime statistics and our concern at what Lord Stevens said to us a week ago and to evidence that has been given even this morning to a sister committee of ours that some of these crime figures that we accept as gospel have perhaps been fiddled. What are you doing about making sure that the figures that you get are absolutely accurate? Are you worried about these assertions that these figures perhaps were not accurate and some had just been made up because officers have decided to do so?
Sue Mountstevens: I do not think they were ever made up. There may have been some genuine mistakes. I was very concerned, after the report in Kent that obviously appeared in local and national papers, that more had to be done. In discussion with the chief constable, it was clear that in Avon and Somerset we were not particularly compliant. There was a strategic and an operational group that was immediately set up in about February/March time. I am represented on both of those. A lot of work has been done. The constabulary volunteered to be the pilot for HMIC at the end of last year. There has also been a peer review by Gloucestershire police to have a look at them.
Q421 Chair: You have no concern about Avon and Somerset? You are quite happy with the statistics you have? You do not think they need to be looked at again?
Sue Mountstevens: We must never be complacent. We are about 95% compliant. We have to embed it in through integrity and through operational culture and make sure that everyone does know the rules, but there is a real focus and that has been very much within the constabulary on making sure these figures are correct.
Q422 Chair: Mr Gargan, you must be concerned at what has been said not just by the whistleblowers who have come forward and said that they think that the figures have been fiddled in some circumstances but Lord Stevens, a very well respected former commissioner, and now the decision of the ONS to no longer guarantee these crime statistics as statistics. Are you doing anything locally to satisfy yourself that these matters are now being properly recorded?
Nick Gargan: Of course, nobody wants to be a leader in a police service that is watching its previously good reputation dragged down, whether justifiably or not, but when that fall in your reputation is justified then it is right that we should respond very purposefully. We are aware that Avon and Somerset came out badly in two inspectorate reports of recent years, in one of which we were examined for the extent to which a crime had been put on the books and then taken off the books; that is a process of "no-criming". The second is where incidents have been reported to us that had been dealt with, which seemed like they should go on the books as a crime, but we had fared badly in effecting that conversion and that has prompted the action that Sue has just described. We are now up to a high standard and a high level. We want to stay there and we want to continue improving. We have had the head of CID blogging to the force. I heard an earlier witness say, "Nobody has an interest in concealing crime figures." I think it was Lord Wasserman who made that point and, of course, as chief constable, I absolutely agree with him. I want those who are resourcing policing to understand precisely the nature of criminal threat we are facing. We should resource ourselves and deploy resources against that threat and so a partial picture is of no use to me at all.
Q423 Chair: Commissioner Jones, did you have any concerns when you saw the newspaper articles? You heard the evidence about the possibility that these figures were not accurate and you have the ONS saying, "We cannot guarantee them any more"?
Bob Jones: No.
Chair: Originally, of course, the Commissioner told this Committee that he was satisfied with the figures and now he has come forward and said that he thinks that there may be problems with these figures and Lord Stevens is telling us that fiddling has been going on for some time. Have you initiated any inquiries locally to make sure the figures are accurate?
Bob Jones: It is one of these issues from when I was chairing the authority back in 1995; it is an area that requires total vigilance. Significant changes were made in the 1990s, for instance, removing certain protections: on the concept of going out and getting prisoners to cough up to offences with incentives, any incentive was removed. It is something that we are continually asking HMIC to take on board. In 2009 and 2012, one was offered some significant assurance but clearly further work needs to be done, which meant I was slightly surprised at seeing the Kent one because HMIC had two complete national reviews of this in the previous period. Obviously, if police authorities and then police and crime commissioners are going to have effective performance management, we do need figures that we can trust that are comparable between one force and another. Clearly we can do a certain amount on a unilateral basis in a local area but, particularly for performance management in comparison, we need to make sure all the figures have confidence across the country. Locally, both the police authority and myself have had a policy manager performance analyst who assists with that. We meet with the crime registrar and I am conscious of the fact that the crime registrar has made some changes. For instance, in the last couple of years we picked up the fact that, in terms of shoplifting where stores had banning orders, that was being recorded as intelligence rather than crime and there was also an issue in respect of certain public order offences that were being reported as anti-social behaviour. A lot of these are very much motivated by the complexity of some of the systems and, particularly, some of the national descriptions of what a crime is. Hopefully, that can be rectified in the future.
Chris Sims: I have been involved in this for several decades and the one piece I can absolutely assure you of is that the crime statistics now are stronger than they have ever been. The level of scrutiny that they have is much stronger and the level of independence that sits above them. The Commissioner mentioned-and it is a good example-two issues that we found ourselves that we put into the public domain that we rectified. I do not think there is very much wrong with the system that is being used. It cannot be perfect because we are talking massive numbers and huge complexity. I believe it is basically sound and the public should be able to trust the data that is there.
Q424 Chair: That is very helpful. Let us move on to the relationship between chief constables and commissioners. Commissioner Mountstevens, you were elected with the largest mandate of any commissioner in the country and behaved in a pretty ruthless way when you got in. Did you not ask your chief constable to go within two days?
Sue Mountstevens: That was not quite correct, inasmuch as I had a meeting with the chief constable. The chief constable was in a position where he had already done an eight-year contract. He had had five years and it had been extended three years. All he could do was extend it for one more year. I wanted to work with someone for a much longer period of time than that because that would give consistency with delivering the strategies. I asked him, if I opened it up, would he apply for the job because in that way we could have then worked for five years together.
Chair: And he said?
Sue Mountstevens: He said no, he did not want to apply for his own job, and then resigned.
Q425 Chair: You all have been given as a model to this Committee, as a commissioner and a chief constable who work together and the relationship is very harmonious. You appointed Mr Gargan. The fact that he is a Leicester City football supporter obviously did not put you off that appointment, but how would you describe this relationship?
Sue Mountstevens: Sorry, the relationship-
Chair: Between yourself and Mr Gargan.
Sue Mountstevens: We have mutual understanding of each other’s roles and that is absolutely key to a good relationship between a chief constable and a police and crime commissioner. We work very closely together. We are obviously going to agree on many things because we have the same vision. We are trying to create very safe and strong communities and by making sure that I hold him to account and ask him questions that the local people are constantly feeding into me about making sure that that attention to detail is paramount. I have a very good professional working relationship with Mr Gargan and making sure that it does not become too cosy a relationship, because I hold him to account.
Q426 Chair: I invited, as the Committee does, all the local MPs to come in to watch the session when we have local chief constables in and one of them responded to say that he did not vote for you at the last election but he has become a great fan because of the work that you are doing.
Sue Mountstevens: That sounds very nice, doesn’t it?
Chair: What are you doing there that is not being done in other parts of the country?
Sue Mountstevens: I am very open and I am very transparent. Obviously, being an independent, I do not have a political allegiance. I have always been very clear that I am there representing Avon and Somerset and the local people that make up that area. The fact that it covers 16 parliamentary constituencies as well just goes to show the sheer size of it and it is a mixture of rural and urban. It is being open and transparent and being very clear that I am there to listen. I spend at least one day a week out in the communities listening to what I call the quiet voices-people who do not know how to lobby people like you and myself-so that I can hear very much on the ground. I go to refuges and I go to nursing homes. I make sure that I listen to a very wide group of individuals.
Q427 Chair: Commissioner Jones, you are very much an insider, whereas Commissioner Mountstevens came from outside the political system. You were the former chair of the police authority and you were born in the West Midlands. You obviously knew Mr Sims before because he was the chief constable who used to appear before you. How would you describe your relationship with him?
Bob Jones: One of mutual respect and one of trust, but I do not think we necessarily take things on trust. Obviously we talk things through and ensure that we evidence any course of action that we wish to pursue jointly or inform one another of the areas of responsibility where we proceed in a unilateral bond, obviously in the chief’s case in terms of areas of operation and independence.
Q428 Mark Reckless: Commissioner Mountstevens, let me ask you about the urban/rural spread. You have the large city of Bristol with its significant policing needs but also a very substantial area of countryside with, I am sure, people pressing for greater policing visibility. I just wonder how you have managed that conflict to the extent that you see a conflict and whether you have made any changes in the amount of relevant resources going to areas.
Sue Mountstevens: You are absolutely right. There is always a tension and whenever I am in Somerset I am being asked by local people almost all the time, "Does the money always go to Bristol", and vice versa, I have to say. Bristol has 41% of the crime, so there has to be appropriate resources put into that, but it is also making sure that we work within the rural communities. I have set up a rural crime forum to make sure that, for farmers and people who work in less urban areas, their voices can get heard. One of the things with the community safety grant that is my responsibility to allocate is that we have made sure that the formula is very open. It is based on crime, risk-based on population and areas of multiple deprivations. Everyone can see how that is allocated. It is not done behind closed doors. I am very clear on what the formula is.
Q429 Mark Reckless: A BBC poll last year showed that 62% of people were aware of the police and crime commissioner. What do you and Mr Jones do to develop your public profile and how do you work with the chief constable in terms of allocating media opportunities and focus?
Sue Mountstevens: We have public forums every other month where the chief and I go to various areas around the patch and where we do presentations, but it is then open to the public to ask us any questions that they like and we also web-stream that. We also have forums where we tackle specific themes. We have done a very successful forum on road safety. We had over 150 people take part in that, with over 700 watching it when it was web-streamed. It is making sure that we are talking about areas that local people want to hear about and making sure that we are very accessible. I have made it very clear that you do not have to submit a question in advance. You can ask us any question that you want and the chief and I, whoever is most appropriate, will make sure that we answer it.
Mark Reckless: Mr Jones, are you often in the media?
Bob Jones: I am and occasionally for good news items as well. We clearly score highly for entertainment value as PCCs and the media are very attracted to the comment if they can get a quick and immediate response. Whether it offers much in terms of assurance and confidence is a moot point.
Q430 Mark Reckless: Mr Sims and Mr Gargan, has the coming of PCCs changed the level of demand or your role as a public face through the media for your force?
Chris Sims: I definitely have done less media in the last year than before. We have done quite a lot together. We did a joint letter, for example, to The Independent last week around crime reporting. Where it is appropriate, we do some things together, but I think the commissioner is right. Often, I am the dull professional voice, whereas the political line is often, quite rightly, more attractive and can be more expansive. The commissioner has been a huge presence on local media and is much sought after.
Q431 Mark Reckless: Mr Gargan, I know you were frequently in the Leicester Mercury, if not as often as our Chair, but now you are in Bristol with the PCC. How much media do you do now?
Nick Gargan: I was not the chief constable in a police force prior to the birth of police and crime commissioners, so I shall compare it with the National Policing Improvement Agency. I do quite a lot of media. Quite often Sue and I will together be on a radio phone-in and then, as the questions come in, the ones that are more political, financial or budgetary will go in the direction of the police and crime commissioner and those that are operational will come in the direction of the chief constable. I do quite a bit because we are a busy operational force and it is our understanding that I run the police force and answer for its operations.
Q432 Mark Reckless: There is one thing in debating the legislation. A number of members felt that this would be an area of tension between PCCs and chief constables. That is not your experience?
Nick Gargan: Certainly it is not my experience locally and I do think that those chiefs who were appointed subsequent to the arrival of the police and crime commissioners are potentially at an advantage because there has been an opportunity to test the alignment of approach throughout the selection process.
Q433 Mark Reckless: Mr Sims, you are happy doing relatively less media than before.
Chris Sims: Yes, I think so. Just to make sure this does not look peace and harmony, there have been media pieces that the commissioner has done that I have challenged and we have discussed and maybe an amended view has come out. Do not mistake this as a totally compliant relationship between us. There is a fair bit of challenge about how things are presented, as well as the destination that we are moving towards.
Bob Jones: Yes. I think there have been some problems in terms of the media wanting to talk about things that are strictly operational where I have had the need to seek to push that, but because there are lots of grey areas sometimes it has come across that I am running the operational side. For instance, we responded collectively to young people in a community demanding to have a knife amnesty, a knife-surrender campaign, that we worked together on. The person who made the decision in terms of the operation was the assistant chief constable. However, because I fronted up and reported back on the collective meeting between the young people, the council, Community Safety Partnership and so on, in the paper it immediately appeared that I had called for a knife amnesty when I was merely the spokesperson and the decision was made by the operational side. There have been quite a few areas where I have avoided going on dawn raids and things like that, even when I have been invited, so as not to muddy the waters because there are a number of areas where, in terms of assuring the community, they would prefer to see a police officer rather than a politician.
Q434 Ian Austin: Can I ask the two commissioners whether they think that police and crime panels have sufficient clarity of understanding of their role in scrutinising the PCCs, in scrutinising you. Also, how many times have each of you appeared in front of the-
Sue Mountstevens: I have appeared seven times.
Bob Jones: I think, with yesterday it makes it eight. We started slightly earlier. There was a problem, in terms of the original hype, about the powers of the panel, particularly being able to veto the precept, which turned out to be a minor amending-delaying veto rather than a significant veto. Also, of course, there are some practical issues about the veto on the appointment of chief constable. It is always going to be rather difficult for a police and crime panel to be there. In the West Midlands, as you are aware, we started off with the all the leaders on, but rapidly they have started to withdraw and that arrangement and allow people who have more time to go into it. I am pleased that they are increasingly developing and particularly taking advantage of our pre-decision scrutiny and so acting in a similar manner to your Committee, Chair, in terms of inviting witnesses to look at our safer travel plan, our procurement strategy, and yesterday at our transforming rehabilitation proposals. They have a wide range of witnesses and are able to make informed recommendations about decisions prior to making them, because in many ways there are very little decisions I make. I appoint the chief constable, I set the budget, I set the precept, I set the plan and I distribute the community safety funds. Apart from procedural issues, those are the key decisions I make.
Sue Mountstevens: I value their input. I think police and crime panels are a great source of being able to talk things through with them and for them to scrutinise people such as myself. I value very much the professional working relationship that we have with them and we work very hard at being able to deliver what the panel are interested in and also using them because we have panel-link members who are particularly interested in certain work that we are doing. We use them so that they can work with us and then feedback to the panel about what we are doing. We have a good relationship with the panel and I value very much what they do. We have a pre-meet and we also have agenda briefings and when they want reports, then we have a lead member in my office who works very closely with them so that we can produce the answers that they want. We have also provided a training day so that we could talk them through. My chief financial officer and the constabulary’s finance officer work with them to explain the budget and how it was made up. I think they are a source of powerful good and they certainly scrutinise and support with what I do.
Q435 Paul Flynn: What message of significance did you gain from your meeting with 150 members of the public, other than the predictable ones of lowering the speed limit locally?
Sue Mountstevens: Lowering the speed limit was in fact something that was being discussed because the Mayor of Bristol is imposing 20 mph speed zones in Bristol. We had asked for this meeting because, in the press and in the radio, it was becoming more and more vitriolic between pedestrians, cyclists, and car users to the point where it was almost road rage. Everyone wanted the death of almost everyone else. It was very clear that, if we were going to work forward on this, it was necessary to get everyone around the table and talk about it. I know that there are now ongoing meetings between the constabulary and certain of those organisations in order to improve, first, that communication, but also areas that the constabulary can take it from. One of the things that the constabulary have done well is having areas where they will go and tackle cyclists without lights and also cars that are parked in the cycle box. We had good publicity because motorists did not know that they were not allowed to be in that area. By making that a far more educational thing, rather than trying to just get tickets from everybody, I think has helped the relationship, but it is still ongoing and there is still a lot of work to do.
Paul Flynn: The motorists in Somerset did not realise that they should not be in the hatched areas, which have been around for 10 years?
Nick Gargan: I think that carelessness creeps in.
Q436 Paul Flynn: I am trying to give you an opportunity to tell me what your added value is. All that came from the public meeting, from what you appear to have said, could have been gleaned by reading the local papers. What added value do you have in your role?
Sue Mountstevens: It was important that they listen to each other by bringing everyone together and it was important also for them to recognise, first, what the council were doing through the work that they were doing on making the road safer, but also what the police were doing. It was facilitating and making sure that everyone was there to hear and I think there are some positive measures that are now going forward, because it was at the point where there was quite a large concern from local people that the police were not doing anything. That is very obviously not true.
Q437 Paul Flynn: Do you think the fact that you appointed the new chief constable strengthens or weakens your role of acting independently of the force?
Sue Mountstevens: Sorry. Can you ask the question again?
Paul Flynn: Do you think that your action in appointing the new chief constable-and perhaps you can tell me how many applications there were-strengthens or weakens your role as someone who should be standing independently of the police force?
Sue Mountstevens: I think it is always very clear that, as a PCC, I have one foot inside the police but I am always making sure I have one foot outside. Appointing a chief constable who has the same vision about what we want to do in bringing much more transparency and openness to the police so that people in Avon and Somerset accept that it is their police service and that they can scrutinise various parts of it probably has strengthened that role.
Paul Flynn: But you do not see a danger in having appointed someone in your own image; that you would not be able to take this challenging role, which would be perhaps at times inevitably different to that of the police, if you were-
Sue Mountstevens: No, I do not think I appointed the chief in my own image. We went through a very strong interviewing process where we invited various people to listen to each of the applicants making presentations. We had several stakeholder groups. Each of the candidates spoke to voluntary organisations and spoke to members of the council so that they could see how they interacted. That was what I was trying to do by making it open and transparent but very much engaging, because that is what I wanted the police service to be.
Q438 Paul Flynn: Mr Jones, why did you want to see the police and crime commissioners getting the same wage as MPs?
Bob Jones: I thought it was a representative job. I used to make a lot more executive decisions when I was a cabinet member at Wolverhampton council. I think my key role is ensuring that I give a voice to the community and empower the community in a similar way to MPs. The actual decision-making executive structure is fairly limited, particularly with the concept of operational independence. I can see the logic of a mayor where you can do deals with the industry trying to come into the area, cut through the red tape and so on. The urgent quick decisions are those of the chief constable. Mine are the ones that tend to be inclusive and instil confidence that decisions are being made on behalf of the whole of the community, including obviously appointing the correct chief constable.
Q439 Paul Flynn: Do you think that the salary of the PCCs and their ability to appoint their friends as deputies and other matters are barriers to the acceptability of the role of PCCs?
Bob Jones: Certainly the very high levels of publicity have not assisted in terms of confidence in the new structure, and some of that publicity reflects some of the intrinsic weaknesses of the new structure. In terms of my deputy, I was the only candidate to announce the deputy and the first to do it. I thought it would have been much more appropriate that they were on the ticket from the start. I announced my deputy from the point where I was selected as a Labour candidate. The entire electorate were fully aware of who my deputy was going to be, so it would not be a surprise afterwards.
Paul Flynn: You announced it during the election period?
Bob Jones: I announced her as soon as I was appointed as a Labour candidate.
Q440 Chair: How many deputies do you have, Mr Jones?
Bob Jones: I have one deputy, but I do have three assistants. My deputy covers Birmingham. My assistants cover two cities or boroughs each to ensure that I have the presence in the locality and on the local police and crime boards, children’s trust, health and wellbeing board and so on.
Q441 Chair: But you received a lot of criticism for the appointment of your deputy and assistants on the grounds that they were all members of the Labour party. Some were members of the Labour group; some were double-hatting, serving as councillors and chairs of other committees but you still appointed them all.
Bob Jones: The deputy was-
Chair: Not just the deputy, but also the assistants.
Bob Jones: Yes, the assistant police and crime commissioners were dealt with-
Chair: Are they all Labour councillors?
Bob Jones: The assistants are. My board is not. I also have four non-executive directors. I am the only-
Chair: Are they all paid?
Bob Jones: They are all paid. I am the only police and crime commissioner who has members of my executive board who are acting key roles-business champion, victims champion, e-champion-who are members of the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrat party, Independents and one of the candidates who stood against me. My board is a different one, where the chief constable and myself can be challenged by a cross-party consensus to give some assurance that community decisions are being made in the interest of the wider community.
Q442 Chair: Indeed. I do appreciate that and well done on creating your board, but just going back to the controversy about your deputies and the assistants. They are all Labour councillors. Is that right?
Bob Jones: That is correct.
Chair: On reflection, do you think that was the wise thing to do and, if you were doing it again, perhaps you would have representatives of other political parties?
Bob Jones: I do. I am the only one that has members of other political parties on my board.
Chair: On the board?
Bob Jones: In some ways, they are more effective in that non-executive role because, to some degree, the deputies are the people who are my presence on the ground and who can attend the regular monthly meetings and things which I could not possibly find enough time to have that developed partnership on. They are the people who are committed to supporting my manifesto and delivering my manifesto. My non-executives, because they do not have that role, have complete carte blanche to challenge and they are not committed to delivering my manifesto.
Q443 Chair: Did you put those choices of names as your deputies and assistants to the crime panel to ask them to approve the names?
Bob Jones: The deputy, yes. I was the first one to get confirmation on my deputy. The assistants, I invited the panel to be on the interviewing board but they declined to participate in the interviews.
Chair: Why was that?
Bob Jones: They felt it was possibly too close a relationship with the PCC.
Q444 Chair: Commissioner Mountstevens, do you have a deputy and an assistant and a board who are all paid?
Sue Mountstevens: No, I do not have a deputy. I think in these times of austerity, where there are serious cuts being imposed on the police, it would be wrong to do that but I do think that deputies should be open and competitive appointments. I think they should be either be on a double ticket when you stand so that the electorate can make that decision or, if you are going to appoint during your tenure, I think that they should be publicly advertised, and maybe the police and crime panel should be invited to be part of that so that they could scrutinise the process to make sure it is robust.
Q445 Chair: I am going to put a quote to you. Do you agree with this quote, "With the record low turnout at the election, record levels of hostility, hostile publicity, record numbers of investigations into PCCs, and clashes between chief constables and PCCs, there is not much evidence that PCCs have led to more confidence in policing or the governance of policing"? Would you agree with that?
Sue Mountstevens: I would not agree with that. I think there is much more recognition of the fact that a PCC is very identifiable and, if you think that in the last year of the police authority they had over 250 contacts, I have already had 4,000 and, in fact, I had more in my first week than they have had in the previous year. I think there is a real hunger out there for people to want to get involved. Some cynics might say, "They are all complaints." No, they are not. They want to give feedback about how they want their police service to improve.
Q446 Chair: Yes, of course, because that quote came from you, Mr Jones. It is not surprising that Commissioner Mountstevens does not agree with you but, I was surprised, given the fact that you are enthusiastically doing this job-you have appointed assistants, a board, you have the appetite for doing it-that you should have given such a very low assessment of what PCCs have achieved. I think you gave the model two out of 10 for its impact on public confidence in the police. How can we improve it then?
Bob Jones: Certainly I would commend the model I have used at the strategic level, the cross-party board. I have also sought to introduce local policing and crime boards. That is not a new structure. That is-
Chair: Do you stand by your comments, because they are very critical of PCCs? One wonders whether you are going to even stand again, you are so disappointed with the role.
Bob Jones: I am very confident that I have introduced in the West Midlands a whole series of mitigations that have prevented the risk of damage that could have occurred through the PCC model. I have done it by seeking to be much more inclusive. I take my view as not being the voice of the community but making sure that the community voice is heard, strengthening the neighbourhood voice, and introducing the new police and crime boards for every one of the cities and boroughs of the West Midlands, which will become community-led instead of just being officer-led. They set the policing plan. They have the relationship with the local policing unit commander, which is the issue which 90% of the public are concerned about. I have given the resources to empower them. I see my role as very much ensuring that we empower those partnerships and community engagement to a new level.
Chair: Do you stand by that statement?
Bob Jones: I still stand by that statement.
Q447 Chair: You do? Okay. We are coming to the end of the session and I just want to ask our chief constables, starting with you, Chief Constable Sims about the fact that people talk about the low morale in the police service as a whole, not just individual police officers. Lord Wasserman made reference to this and Lord Stevens, who you know is a distinguished former commissioner of the Met, made reference to this. What are we going to do to improve that? Many people believe the election of police and crime commissioners meant that chief constables will be held to account and morale would go up, but that has not happened. It has gone down? What can we do to restore confidence, to turn the page on this whole episode?
Chris Sims: I never expected morale to be a function of the PCC election. I think there are two things behind the morale issue. One is that pay and conditions have been eroded, as they have in other parts of the public service, and people at the front of our organisation can see no end to that process. The second is, unsurprisingly, if you turn the television on night after night after night and there are issues critical of policing at whatever level-and we have covered three or four of them just today-that does have an impact on the way people view the value that others place upon their occupation. What I think we can do about it-and this is an issue jointly between the commissioner and myself-is that we want to take forward real police reform: not the politics of landscape change or governance––we want to change the way policing works.
Chair: How do you do that, because all Governments for the last 30 years since I have been in Parliament have been saying that?
Chris Sims: We are at the latter stages of a procurement process to enter into a partnership with the private sector. The first stage of that work will begin in May and it is designed to change the operating model of policing, to uplift the technology available to officers, to change the way that we work with the community, and I think I will-
Chair: Mr Sims, that is not an answer, is it, to say we have low morale and your solution is, "Let us go into a partnership with the private sector"? How can that be the solution?
Chris Sims: My solution is to appeal to the strong professional ethos of officers to give them the tools, the structures, and the processes that will allow them to do the job that they want to do, to instil in them the professionalism that is already there and to take away the barriers that stop that professionalism coming through. I cannot alter pay levels. I cannot combat the tide of political criticism, but where I do think collectively we can work together is to move forward the way that we operate.
Q448 Chair: Mr Gargan, you are one of those chief constables who, when things go wrong, go on to the Today programme, as I heard you a few weeks ago, and apologise for something that the police have done in the past, even though you had nothing to do with it, as a way of turning the page on a particular issue. How would you see the future of policing at a local level? How do we raise the morale of the police officers themselves, which you have to admit is at an all-time low, and make sure that that integrity is restored to the system? We thought PCCs were part of that process but maybe they are not. How would you do it?
Nick Gargan: I have a good deal of sympathy with the view often expressed by my friend and colleague Sir Hugh Orde, who says that he cannot remember a year in his long policing career when morale has not been reported to be at an all-time low. I get into trouble for saying this sometimes with some retired colleagues and some of the more shrill voices that you encounter on social media, but when I go to the police stations what I see, by and large, are really committed, energetic men and women who feel a little bit bruised about what has happened with pay and conditions; they feel rather unloved, but nevertheless they continue in circumstances where we ask them to do repetitive, difficult, and unpleasant tasks all the time. I think they cope remarkably well and when I walk into police stations I see people who, by and large, are okay. They have smiles on their faces and they are resilient, and they believe in what they are doing, and they know that they are in a job where 96% of the people who apply to become police officers in our force area are unsuccessful.
I challenge back the presumption that morale is at an all-time low. Of course we have problems and I think the leadership of the service needs to respond purposefully to those. I think the leadership of the service needs to take the service through-this is why I think the review of the federation is so important-a period of change in an atmosphere that acknowledges our shortcomings but also celebrates the wonderful brave things that people in policing do day in and day out. It is simply to do with the transformation that Chris was describing there. It has a lot to do with speaking up for our people but also, in that sort of critical friendship that leadership entails, articulating the need for change and saying to people, "We are going to take you through this".
Q449 Chair: Thank you very much for coming here today. Obviously, things are going well in terms of the relationships in Avon and Somerset and the West Midlands, but I want you to end by giving just one example of a disagreement you all have had that you have subsequently resolved through negotiation. Obviously, it has been going very well but one example of a disagreement, Mr Gargan, with your commissioner obviously.
Nick Gargan: Of course. We were at a public event and all afternoon long across police stations, I had been conducting a mini-poll, "Should we fly the flag at half-mast for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral?" There were two local MPs who were in conversation with the commissioner and me at the time who, having cast their vote, then said, "By the way, whose decision is it?" We both said at precisely the same time, "That will be mine". That was the area of contention.
Chair: We will not ask what happened. Mr Jones, an example of a disagreement.
Bob Jones: I think probably about access to the front desks, where we had a view as to what degree this was an operational matter and to what degree it was about finance and access to the public. I think we now have an agreed position where we do need to review anything that is preventing us putting maximum resources into frontline operations, but we need to do it in a way where we can hopefully look at reprovision and ensuring that access is being maintained, hopefully in a more cost-effective and imaginative way.
Chair: I have to say the Committee is due to come to visit the West Midlands at Mr Austin’s invitation, so we will be coming to visit you. Perhaps we will have time to come down to Avon and Somerset to see the work that you are doing there but, in the meantime, Chief Constables and Commissioners, thank you very much for coming in today. I am most grateful. Thank you.