Police and Crime Commissioner resignation exposes flaws in system

The recent resignation of  Jason Ablewhite has again exposed the weaknesses in the Conservative approach to local government. They clearly prefer one strong man (and it is usually a man) in charge, as with elected mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners. But when the supposedly strong man breaks for some reason, there is a major problem.

“Having one person at the helm leaves the ship rudderless when they are forced to resign”, says Rupert Moss-Eccardt, who was the Lib Dem candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in 2016 and 2012. “The Police and Crime Panel will appoint an interim replacement. The appointee won’t have any electoral legitimacy yet will be making decisions that affect us all.”

The date of Mr Ablewhite’s resignation means that a by-election will not be held. If he had resigned just five days earlier then there would have been a by-election.

“I do wonder about the timing of the resignation,” says Rupert.  “It seems that members of the Conservative party were told ahead of the announcement. If the announcement has been delayed to avoid a by-election that raises a serious question.”

Whatever happens, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are suffering yet another departure under a cloud from the Conservative-run Office of the PCC.

No details are known of the complaint that triggered the referral to the IOPC. Normally it must be a criminal allegation for it to go to the IOPC without first being considered by a committee of the Police and Crime Panel.

During Mr Ablewhite’s tenure he has been involved in a costly legal battle to wrest control of the Fire Brigade from councillors to himself alone. Last year the PCCs across the country produced a booklet showcasing the best schemes they had supported for crime reduction. Jason was not mentioned.

Tory Cuts

Liberal Democrat analysis of new Home Office figures, published last week, has revealed that the Conservative Government cut funding to Cambridgeshire Constabulary by 6% in real terms between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

According to Liberal Democrat analysis, total government funding to all 43 forces (in 2019-20 prices) fell from £8.48 billion in 2015-16 to £7.99 billion in 2019-20. 32 of the 43 forces across the country experienced cuts of 6% or more. 

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

“Across the country, we are seeing rising crime and falling police. Far too many people now feel unsafe walking down their own streets.

“Taking 5,000 police off our streets in the last four years and cutting funding in real-terms by £490 million from 2015-16 to 2019-20 are big Tory crimes.”

Liberal Democrat campaigner, Rupert Moss-Eccardt said:

“Inflicting six percent cuts on our local police force over the last four years, given concerns about knife and rural crime, shows just how out of touch the Tories are.

“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will give police forces the resources they need to recruit more officers and restore community policing, so that we can make our streets safer and make people feel safer too.”

Details:

The data is from the Home Office statistical bulletin Police funding for England and Wales 2015 to 2020, published on the 10th of July and available here.

The 2015-16 figures have been converted to 2019-20 prices using HM Treasury’s latest GDP deflators, available here.

The calculations of real-terms cuts for each police force can be found here.