First elections for Police Commissioners set to take place in May 2012
With the publication today of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, Britain's first democratically elected police commissioners are one step closer to becoming a reality.
The legislation comes three years after then shadow minister for police reform, Nick Herbert - now doing the job for real - made elected police commissioners Conservative Party policy - which in turn came two years after he had signed up to a similar proposal in the Dan Hannan/Douglas Carswell-inspired paper, Direct Democracy: An agenda for a New Model Party.
The Bill - viewable in its entirety here - will see Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) directly elected by the public from May 2012, with the power to "set local policing priorities and hold chief constables to account whilst protecting the operational independence of the police".
The Home Office website summarises the role as follows:
"PCCs will have to make forces truly accountable to the communities they serve, ensuring that resources are properly targeted to where they are needed and giving the public a greater say in measures to reduce crime and improve community safety. They will:
- represent and engage with all those who live and work in the communities in their force area and identify their policing needs;
- set priorities that meet those needs by agreeing a local strategic plan for the force;
- hold the Chief Constable to account for achieving these priorities as efficiently and effectively as possible and playing a role in wider questions of community safety;
- set the force budget and the policing precept in council tax bills; and
- appoint - and, where necessary, remove - the Chief Constable.
The Bill includes a variety of other measures emanating from the Home Office, including:
- giving more powers to local authorities and police to tackle licensed premises that are causing problems;
- introducing temporary bans on "legal highs"; and
- restoring the right to non-violent protest around Parliament whilst ensuring that Parliament Square remains accessible to all by repealing sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005 and prohibiting encampments and other disruptive activity on Parliament Square.
Watch Home Secretary Theresa May explaining the plans below: