Jawad Iqbal, todays Times (paywall)
“The role of police and crime commissioner is a discredited experiment and should be abolished. Research conducted before the most recent elections for PCCs, as they’re known, found that fewer than one in ten people knew who their local one was. This despite the fact that they control a policing budget of £12.5 billion and have the final say in appointing chief constables.
So, five years into an experiment that was meant to spearhead a revival of local democracy and police accountability, it is clearly far from a success. The warning signs were there from the beginning: turnout for the first round of voting in 2012 was only 15 per cent — the lowest figure ever recorded for a national election. One polling station in Newport, Gwent, registered no voters at all.
Things improved a little last year, with turnout at 26 per cent, but this had much to do with votes being held on the same day as local government elections.
PCCs who come to public notice usually do so for all the wrong reasons. The Kent PCC, Ann Barnes, was ridiculed for struggling to explain her job during a television interview, as well as for paying £15,000 to a 17-year-old “youth commissioner” who was forced to resign after it emerged she had sent abusive tweets.
Shaun Wright, the South Yorkshire PCC, tried and failed to cling to office, despite police failures in the Rotherham child abuse scandal. Cumbria’s PCC, Richard Rhodes, apologised for wasting £700 on two trips in a chauffeur-driven car. Most notoriously of all, the Devon and Cornwall PCC, Alison Hernandez, appeared to suggest last month that ordinary citizens with gun licences might be able to help in a terrorist crisis. And at a time when policing budgets are being squeezed, the salaries of the majority of PCCs — between £70,000 and £85,000 — don’t exactly represent value for money.
Ministers should have acted on the findings of the 2013 Stevens report into policing, which dismissed PCCs as a “fatally flawed” system. It is time we cut our losses and dropped them. The latest crime figures in England and Wales, published yesterday, show the biggest annual rise in a decade, with rising levels of the most serious violent offences. All the more reason for precious funds to go into frontline policing — not into a discredited vanity exercise that flatters the egos of overpromoted busybodies and failed MPs.”