It is clear that Political based Police and Crime Commissioners are a very poor quality approach to this role. The fact that the origins of the PCCs from the Conservative Party and initially adopted by the Labour Party for them to be Independent of Party Politics is one clear reason. However when the Government along with Conservative and Labour MPs speak in Parliament about their PCCs as we approach elections is also a very clear justification that PCCs must be Independent. One example of this came from Priti Patel with one of her friends in the London area on Monday in the House of Commons. Of course their concern is related to the Mayoral election in London so it is also a question that perhaps Mayors should also be Independent? As is clear below they are blaming the current London Mayor for the closure of some London Police Stations. We need to grasp that there have been a very significant number of Police Stations and also Courts across the whole of our nation that have been closed over the last 10 years. The reasons are varied and as a consequence of different issues. One of the most significant reasons is the heavy reduction of the funding for Police Forces that began in 2010 and even now has not been fixed fully. As for the funding of Courts, the problems began long before the 2010 election. When I was Chair of the Surrey and Sussex Courts Board, we worked hard to find ways to reduce the closures and to enable rural settings to find spaces for some of the Court provisions. There are similar challenges with Police Offices. The cost of keeping a Police Office open in every community is significant and there are many reasons why modern policing needs to be run in a different way. Indeed here in Sussex there have been a significant number of closures and indeed that has happened while the Conservative PCC has been elected. There have however been several local town based solutions including a number that were determined long before the PCC creation. However if Priti Patel is going to blame the London Mayor for closing London Police Stations she needs to accept that many Conservative PCCs and Mayors including Sussex PCC have also closed Police Stations. The reality of course is that such decisions are not political and they involve a number of agencies including the Police themselves. However back to Mondays debate on the theme of Crime Reduction which took place on Monday and involved 6 Tory MPs all asking the same question “What steps her Department is taking to reduce crime.” Felicity Buchan the MP for Kensington then asked her second question
Knife and gang crime is sadly an issue in my constituency, but, at the same time, two police stations in the north of it are under threat. One is Notting Hill police station, which the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is planning to sell—he closed its front counter a couple of years ago—and the other is Lancaster Road, where the lease is due to expire. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given this Government’s huge investment in the police, we need physical police stations in London and in the north of my constituency?
The response from Priti Patel was
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to her because she is an incredible constituency MP. I spent time with her on patrol, where she joined me very much in backing and supporting the police. I am incredibly disappointed by what she said about police stations closing in her constituency. It is a fact that they are a vital lifeline to protect communities and the public. She will know that police and crime commissioners are elected to be accountable to the communities they serve, and with that, they also need to be a strong voice when it comes to fighting crime and dealing with, as she rightly highlighted, the issue of knife crime, drug crime and attacks on young people.
It is clear to me that the sooner we can return to a significant number of Independent Police and Crime Commissioners, the better our nation will be for that element of its work.