PCCs to get greater powers of competence
Earlier this week (8 March 2022), the Home Office published its formal response to the consultation it conducted last September on whether Police and Crime Commissioners should be given “greater powers of competence”. The consultation invited comments on the opportunities, benefits, and risks of granting PCCs’ wider powers to enhance their levers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
In particular, it asked for views on giving PCCs either:
- a wider functional power of competence as held by fire and rescue authorities, which will include giving them the power to do anything indirectly incidental to their functions
- a general power of competence as held by local authorities, which will give them the power to do anything that an individual can do so long as it is not prohibited by legislation.
The consultation was undertaken because many PCCs say that they feel constrained in their role because their existing powers limit their ability to undertake innovative activity, particularly where that activity might only be indirectly linked to policing. There were only 84 responses to the consultation with 35 of those local authorities, 14 PCCs, 13 police forces and 13 fire services.
Overall most (71%) agreed that PCCs should have greater powers and to have the power to “do anything indirectly related to their functions, no matter how many times removed and to charge and trade“.
Respondents felt that giving PCCs a wider functional power of competence would better enable them to engage in partnership work to tackle crime, for example by funding specific services which have been discontinued by partners or by providing future investment in tackling crime and community safety through exploring commercial and other income generation opportunities. It was also identified that greater powers could give PCCs greater flexibility and strengthen partnership working through promoting innovative solutions in the multi-agency arena, for example through re-purposing premises for multi-agency use, such as drug and alcohol services.
A number of responses also emphasised the importance of creating consistency within the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner model (where PCCs exercise the wider functional power in their capacity as an Fire and Rescue Authority). Some respondents acknowledged that giving PCCs a wider functional power of competence would also level up their powers with the majority of Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) such as Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.
The government intends to go ahead and grant PCCs these additional powers although the timescale is uncertain as it will need to pass primary legislation to enable the change. The government argues that giving PCCs a wider functional power of competence would give them the confidence to act where there may be doubt. It says that a wider power would also encourage greater ambition, innovation and creativity in their approaches to tackling crime and public safety issues and would also enable them to play a wider role in the Criminal Justice System, particularly in the respect of offender management by providing them with the tools and levers to enhance wider public service delivery through forming effective partnerships with housing, education, health partners.
The government gives examples of the advantages of these powers; it could give PCCs the ability to tackle issues outside of policing, such as community safety, or enable them to have more influence over criminal justice agencies where there are evident shared priorities and outcomes locally. The government claims that preserving the link between these wider powers and PCC’s core crime and policing functions will also minimise any risk of distraction from their core purpose whilst permitting greater freedoms.
When the first Police and Crime Commissioners took up office in 2012, there was doubt about how permanent the move would be. This latest decision appears to entrench PCCs firmly as the co-ordinating hub of local criminal justice systems.
Thanks to King’s Church International for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.