Defiant Gloucestershire police and crime commissioner Martin Surl has said that criticisms of the elected role nationally do not apply in the county.
Police commissioners are ‘on probation’ because of a failure to cut through to the public, a powerful committee of MPs has concluded.
The Home Affairs Select Committee said in a report the case for police and crime commissioners has yet to be made, after low election turnouts and the failure of some commissioners – known as PCCs – to live up to the expectations of the public.
PCCs were elected for the first time in November 2012 on very poor turnouts of less than 15 per cent. They were intended to replace police authorities drawn from local councils.
But Gloucestershire’s commissioner Martin Surl said: “I welcome the report which is timely bearing in mind commissioners have been in office for some 18 months now.
“I’m pleased to say that the examples put forward by the committee as areas for concern do not apply here where the police, criminal justice services, community and voluntary sectors and myself are all working hard together to reduce crime and make the county a better place to live.
“Setting up a brand new structure was never going to be straight forward especially at a time of falling budgets, but it’s going well and I never thought it was going to be easy anyway.”
Reforms suggested by the committee include putting the names of deputy PCCs on the election ballot, allowing teams to be elected as a single ticket in a bid to boost transparency and prevent claims of nepotism.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “The concept of police and crime commissioners is still very much on probation.
“Some commissioners have fallen well short of the public’s expectations and urgent reforms are needed to ensure that this concept does not put at risk public trust and engagement in the police, the very objectives for which PCCs were brought in.
“Deputies should not be cronies that are given their job on the basis of nepotism. By electing them on the same ticket we ensure that the public will be able to have their say on someone who often acts with the powers of the commissioner.
“Though we welcome good working relationships between chief constables and PCCs, the arrangement should never be too cosy. The setting of targets by PCCs must not promote the manipulation of crime figures.”
The Government remains confident that PCCs are working. A Home Office spokesman said: “Police reforms are working and crime has fallen by 10 per cent under this Government. The introduction of police and crime commissioners has been the most significant democratic reform of policing and they are working hard to ensure communities have a stronger voice in policing.”