The Government has decided to press ahead with plans to give all Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) – including Mayors with PCC functions – a wider functional power of competence in line with those that are held by fire and rescue authorities [FRAs] and most mayoral combined authorities (MCAs, such as in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire) and by the London Mayor.
In Giving Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) greater powers of competence: government response, the Home Office said there was strong support for the move in the consultation, and it was the favoured approach overall.
It said: “This wider functional power will include the power to charge and trade, as well as to do things indirectly related to PCC functions, no matter how many times removed. For example, FRAs can do anything which they consider is directly related or indirectly incidental to their functions and can enter into commercial arrangements.”
The Home Office suggested that giving PCCs a wider functional power of competence would give them the confidence to act where there may be doubt. “A wider power would also encourage greater ambition, innovation and creativity in their approaches to tackling crime and public safety issues. It will also enable them to play a wider role in the Criminal Justice System, particularly in the respect of offender management by providing them with the tools and levers to enhance wider public service delivery through forming effective partnerships with housing, education, health partners.”
By way of example the government response said the move could give PCCs the ability to tackle issues outside of policing, such as community safety, or enable them to have more influence over criminal justice agencies where there are evident shared priorities and outcomes locally.
“Preserving the link between these wider powers and PCC’s core crime and policing functions will also minimise any risk of distraction from their core purpose whilst permitting greater freedoms,” the Home Office added.
The response said it was the Government’s intention that mayors who hold PCC functions (such as in London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire) would have the same power of competence as other PCCs to maintain consistency of powers in the police governance model.
“This would also bring them into line with the wider functional powers these mayors hold in respect of their general functions and with the powers held by most other mayors of combined authorities. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and West of England Mayors are the only two mayors to hold a general power of competence (granted through local consent mechanisms), but neither currently exercise PCC functions.”
The Home Office said that on balance it was satisfied that the existing scrutiny and accountability arrangements within the PCC model, coupled with the existing safeguards that apply to FRAs and most MCAs who exercise the wider functional power of competence, were sufficient.
The Home Office has proposed to mirror the powers and limitations of the FRA and mayoral functional power of competence, as appropriate in the PCC context.
Additionally, during the consultation the Home Office asked respondents to consider whether there were any equality impacts with granting PCCs with either a wider functional power or a general power of competence. It said that whilst it was recognised that equality impacts would need to be considered carefully on a case-by-case basis as PCCs used these powers and that PCCs were bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty when they did so, no specific negative impacts were identified under the equality duty.
The government response confirmed that primary legislation was necessary to provide PCCs with these wider powers, and that it would seek to implement the measures through the next appropriate legislative vehicle. The Home Office intends to provide both English and Welsh PCCs with the same wider power of competence.