In our manifesto, published before the general election in 2010, we championed elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). Police authorities were outdated, hardly anyone knew who served on them, and they lacked accountability. Although it is fair to say that the electorate didn’t go to the polls in droves to vote for their PCC, at least you now know who to go to when you want to have your say on policing in your area. Many of them have also driven down costs and waste in a way the old police authorities could never have done.
Unfortunately though, some PCCs appear to be costing taxpayers more than they should. In just over a year from when he first took office in November 2012, Tony Hogg, the PCC for Devon and Cornwall, has spent nearly £700,000 on bringing in consultants and agency staff to handle the change.‘The transition between Police Authority and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner [OPCC] has involved a great deal of new policy and governance work,’ explains its chief executive, ‘and it was only right and proper that we brought in, for a limited time, people with specific expertise in some areas.’This does not impress the chairman of the Police Federation who quite rightly points out that the whole process was sold to the taxpayers of Devon and Cornwall as ‘cost neutral.’
‘We’re not here to criticise [the PCC] but the apparent spiralling costs of the office are concerning,’ he says. ‘What value is it adding to the force—or is it even value for money? At a time when officers are under real constraints, there are some question marks.’ In the meantime, some 500 officers have been cut from frontline policing across the region.
This criticism comes hot on the heels of further complaints of the new Devon and Cornwall PCC spending more on backroom staff than the old police authority. Seven more desk jobs have been created in the last year at an extra cost of £105,000—an increase of almost 12% on the budget of the previous year’s expenditure by the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.
We pay our taxes to the police to be protected on the frontline, not to fund bloated bureaucracies – something Mr Hogg needs to reflect on.