1. The Chairman and the Commissioner agreed that the two main updates for this item in relation to new powers for Police and Crime Commissioners arising from the Police and Crime Act, be provided separately.
Fire & Rescue Governance
2. The Commissioner noted that the changes to Fire and Rescue service governance was one of the more controversial elements of the Act because it allowed Police and Crime Commissioners, providing that they have Home Office approval and public support, to consider a range of different approaches including becoming a single employer of both Police and Fire services or abolishing and replacing the Fire Authority. The Commissioner had, in consultation with the Fire Authority, taken the decision to join as a Member at this time, with a view to working collaboratively across joint goals and improving both services. The Commissioner advised the Panel that the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner was due to be the first to become a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, taking on the full governance responsibilities for both. The Commissioner explained that he had advised his Essex colleague that it would be important to ensure that any subsequent changes did not negatively impact on the existing collaboration between Kent and Essex Police. The Commissioner re-iterated his support for the Representation model, joining the Fire Authority as a Member.
3. Responding to questions, the Commissioner recognised that joint working with the Ambulance service was not as developed as the collaboration between Police and Fire services but explained that the Ambulance Service was becoming more involved in collaboration, with some positive steps already being made such as consideration of shared estate use. He advised the Panel that he was due to meet the Chief Executive Officer of the South East Coast Ambulance service in November to explore further collaborative opportunities. The Commissioner commented that there were additional challenges involved in working with the Ambulance service, compared with the existing collaboration with the fire service such as not having co-terminus service borders.
4. Responding to questions, the Commissioner reassured the Panel that he was confident that his chosen approach of joining the Fire Authority was appropriate as it focused on co-operation and discussion on shared priorities and future improvement which was how he preferred to fulfil his role as Commissioner.
5. The Chairman highlighted the important role of the Kent Community Safety Team in the ongoing joint work between relevant partners, which the Commissioner agreed with and noted.
6. The Commissioner explained that the government had offered PCCs a choice on how to manage police complaints in the future, rather than imposing one model. One of the elements was mandatory, but the other two models were optional and allowed a PCC to go further. The PCC explained that his office had prepared a business case, but he had not taken a decision as yet and so would welcome the Panel’s views on which model would be most appropriate. He advised the Panel that further guidance was expected from government but that this would not be available until secondary legislation could be introduced, which was not expected before late October 2017.
7. Members commented on the significant resource implications of the additional work involved in some of the models, advising the Commissioner to await further guidance from government to help in assessing viability.
8. Responding to questions regarding the impact of complaint handling on the Commissioner’s public representative role, the Commissioner agreed that there was a risk involved in taking a greater role in managing police complaints and that this would be an important factor in his considerations about which model to pursue.
9. Members commented on the expected increase in Police complaints, with the definition being broadened out to include corporate or strategic complaints, rather than those solely about the conduct of individual police officers. Mr Harper reassured the Panel that responsibility for investigating complaints would remain with the Chief Constable but it was accepted that the additional work involved in complaint appeals and recording functions would have an impact on the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
RESOLVED that the Panel note the update on new responsibilities for Police and Crime Commissioners arising from the Police and Crime Act 2017.