On November 15 2012, a Police and Crime Commissioner will be elected to take over the accountability of the police service. Here, interim Chief Executive, Cerith Thomas, explains the changes:
On Thursday (3 May) you will be voting for Councillors in your local elections. But did you know that this will not be the only time you can cast your vote this year?
In less than 200 days, you will be asked to cast your vote to elect the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner in South Wales.
This individual, once elected, will replace the Police Authority. He or she will be responsible for ensuring the police service is doing its job properly, by holding the Chief Constable to account.
The changes are big, but there is still a lack of awareness in the public, and this is something we want to fix. I am not here to tell you about the policies of the candidates – that will be their job. However, it is important that you, as the public who will be voting, know what the changes are.
Firstly, the role of the Chief Constable will not change. He remains in charge of the operational side of policing. The Commissioner (or PCC) will be responsible for making sure this is done effectively, and is accountable to the public. The PCC will also be responsible for appointing and, if necessary, dismissing the Chief Constable.
Other duties include setting the local policing priorities and annual plan, based on the views of the public, setting the annual police budget and council tax precept and scrutinising the performance of the force. He or she will also play a leading role in community safety and crime reduction.
There is no denying that this is a big role for one person, who will be paid around £85,000 per year. And how will they be held to account?
Ultimately, you will be holding them to account through the votes at the ballot box. If you do not like the way the PCC is doing something, you can vote for someone else at the next election. But as the elections will take place every four years, this power is limited.
A Police and Crime Panel will be put in place to oversee the PCC and hold him/her to account. The Panel will be made up of ten Councillors, representing the seven local authorities in South Wales, along with two independent members. This could be extended to eight with the permission of the Home Secretary.
The duties of the panel include scrutinising the work of the Commissioner, who can be called to answer questions as part of a public meeting. The panel can also veto the police budget and council tax precept, and the appointment of a Chief Constable.
The changes coming in November will affect everyone in South Wales, and we cannot underestimate that. The PCC will be responsible for representing everyone in South Wales in making sure the police provide the service that our communities require and demand. We want to make sure that you know about what is happening.
To mark the passing of the 200 days to go point on 29 April, we are launching the ‘Ask a Question’ campaign. We want to know what questions you have about the changes, and we will answer them.
If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call us on 01656 869366 or write to South Wales Police Authority, Ty Morgannwg, Police Headquarters, Bridgend, CF31 3SU.