A pool of experts set up by the Local Government Association (LGA) will support the work of councils establishing police and crime panels ahead of elected police commissioners taking office later this year.
The taskforce will be the latest offer of help to councils adapting to major changes in their responsibilities on crime and community safety.
Police commissioners will be elected in 41 force areas outside London on November 15.
Councils have until July 2 to submit proposals to the Home Office for a police and crime panel for their force area. Panels – made up of between 10 and 18 councillors – will be responsible for scrutinising the incoming commissioner and will have the right of veto over commissioners' selection of a chief constable and setting of the council tax precept.
Since September last year, the LGA has been clarifying the legislation and regulations, providing guidance notes and helping councils share expertise on some of the more difficult aspects of setting up panels. This has included establishing which councils should host the panels and how to achieve political and geographical balance among panel members. The LGA is helping authorities share expertise and advice through an online forum on the LGA's Knowledge Hub. As a result of this, councils are now in the advanced stages of preparations for panels.
The next challenge for councils in police authority areas will be to finalise the details of how panels work and establish shadow meetings so that panels are in a position to be up and running by the time police commissioners take office in November. From next month the LGA's 10-strong taskforce of scrutiny experts will be on call to ensure that the panel members are clear on their role and responsibilities and have all the right skills and expertise at their fingertips to perform this important job.
Cllr Mehboob Khan, Chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
"When these 41 elected police commissioners take office in November, police and crime panels – mainly made up of councillors – will have a vital role to play in holding them to account.
"We know that that the public will expect new police commissioners to support communities in tackling crime and deal with local issues like anti-social behaviour. The police won't be able to tackle problems like that on their own. Panels will play a crucial role in quizzing police commissioners about how they are working with partners in local government, the fire and health services and probation, as well as local communities, to successfully fight crime.
"Councillors will be speaking for their residents and making sure police commissioners focus on the concerns of the neighbourhoods they serve. These boards will be have the power to veto major decisions, like the setting of precepts, where they are not in the best interests of effective policing or the wider community.
"Local authorities are already making great progress at working together to get the initial preparations in place and ensuring there is a fair political and geographical balance on these new panels. Over the coming months, the LGA will be supporting them to ensure they can hit the ground running come the election of police commissioners this November."
Notes to editors
1) LGA guidance on terms of reference and rules of procedure for police and crime panels can be found on the LGA website:
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: Simon Ward, LGA Media Office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333
17 August 2012