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PCCs facing power grab challenge from new regional mayors

Proposals to introduce nine regional mayors could impact the reform of the PCC model.

The Home Office, which is trying to reform the powers of PCCs and their relationship with Chief Constables, is battling a power grab by the Department for Levelling Up which wants to introduce more regional mayors.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse, who began his political career with the Greater London Authority (GLA), is leading the negotiations and Priti Patel is keen to keep PCCs but they are up against Michael Gove.

In February, the Department for Levelling Up published a White Paper with plans to shift of power from Whitehall to local leaders.

Every part of England will “get ‘London style’ powers and mayor if they wish to” it says.

The department said: “The government recognises the strong local leadership mayors like Andy Street, Ben Houchen and Andy Burnham have shown, and wishes to replicate this success across England.”

Nine areas will get devolution deals and existing regional mayors will also get more powers.

But that leaves open questions about the future of Police and Crime Commissioners in those areas – and if they will lose their ability to create initiatives to prevent crime or support vulnerable people.

A regional mayor could take over projects such as rehabilitation of offenders, leaving PCCs with basic oversight of their forces.

Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Rupert Matthews said:“As it stands, Levelling Up Mayors would be in charge of everything. The Home Office doesn’t want a really powerful directly-elected mayor to have all the powers a PCC has,” he said. “Having a directly-elected mayor in charge of an entire city and in control of transport, schools and policing would have an impact.”

In the case of Mr Matthews, he has oversight of Leicestershire policing but has to work with Sir Peter Soulsby who is the City Mayor for Leicester and took over many of the powers of a council chief executive. Their remits look set to change.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has so far publicly framed the reforms as part of the policing response to the Sarah Everard case.

She told the Police Federation conference last month: “We’re working with policing partners to develop a new national framework for how the use of police power should be scrutinised at a local level. So that we can give you the backing you need to use your powers proportionately and effectively. It’s the right thing to do.”

Former Director General of the National Crime Agency Dame Lynne Owens told Policing TV that there is "a very strong argument for strengthening the accountability of policing,” Dame Lynne said. “When you are using the most coercive powers of state in the country, you must be held account. But operational independence is as important so that the public can have confidence that policing in the UK can continue to police with consent.”

She also questioned whether PCCs were also sufficiently accountable: "Has a police and crime panel got enough teeth? Has it got a recall lever?"

But she added the complex agendas did not mean the independence of Chiefs should be impacted.

“There is a piece of work going on – and I’m not close to it – at the moment which is all about the policing protocol… there’s thought going into the specifics,” she said.

A draft government bill includes proposals to give PCCs greater scrutiny over victims' outcomes. 

But the former NCA Director General said there is one issue that needs certainty.

She said: “I think the question for me is what checks are there on the police and crime commissioner or equally chief constable if either one oversteps the boundary.”

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