I think the government's review into how Police and Crime Commissioners are performing is timely and should deliver more benefits for the public should they decide to extend the influence of PCCs. The role is still relatively new, we are just two terms in, but the positive impact of PCCs is clear to see in many force areas including Staffordshire.
Police numbers were reducing before the election of PCCs. This trend has been halted and reversed.
Direct commissioning of services to support victims has led to significant investment and improved service. This was one of the main aims when PCCs were introduced. Commissioners additional focus on domestic abuse prevention and support has been positive for victims and tackling the cause of many serious incidents.
Notably in Staffordshire and thanks to supoort from Theresa May, Commissioner Matthew Ellis's determination to provide an appropriate service to those with mental health issues has had dramatic results resulting in far fewer people being in cells when they should be receiving care.
The tricky separation of roles with the Commissioner holding the Chief Constable to account for delivering on local priorities while the Chief Constable is responsible for operational decisions throws up questions. It will be interesting to see if the review thinks there is scope of more influence by commissioners, taking public opinion into account, or if some relationships have become too cosy given Commissioners act for the public not the service. Here in Staffordshire the reducing crime levels and increased investment in prevention indicate a healthy working relationship.
The public are becoming more aware of their elected and accountable Commissioner and the budgets they control but I believe there is still more to be gained. Extending the role so PCCs play a bigger part in modernising and improving the criminal justice process would be a natural step particularly with the backlog in cases following the Covid 19 pandemic.
We could also see more encouragement for PCCs to take on responsibility for Fire & Rescue budgets elsewhere as they have here in Staffordshire. With savings made on office costs and admin being used to keep firefighter numbers up and offer a more joined up service to residents this can work in other places too.
As with every elected position the individuals and political persuasion of those we elect makes a difference and the review will no doubt find that some PCCs are doing a fine job while others could do more to represent the demands of their constituents, to make sure the public's priorities are reflected in the service budgets that affect them. The beauty of having an elected individual is that you can change them at the next election, something that was not easy when represented by a number of councillors on police authorities.
No doubt residents in London will ask themselves if Sadiq Kahn's recent proposals to reduce police numbers there best represents their interests. Who you vote for makes a difference.