Calls for fairer representation

The Mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond (left) with Spencer Austin at the Victoria Park Picture by FRANK REID. IRN
The Mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond (left) with Spencer Austin at the Victoria Park Picture by FRANK REID. IRN

HARTLEPOOL councillors have called for fairness on a new panel which will scrutinise the powerful post of Police and Crime Commissioner.

In November, the Cleveland Police Authority (CPA) will be disbanded when the new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is elected.

The powerful PCC will have control over the force budget and the ability to sack and appoint chief constables.

As part of the changes, the CPA is being replaced by a Police and Crime Panel (PCP) made up of 12 councillors plus residents, who will scrutinise the decisions and actions of the PCC.

But the authority and accountability will rest solely on the PCC through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which the Government says will take power away from Whitehall and into the hands of the public.

Speaking at a recent meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee, councillors have called for fair representation on the PCP.

The proposal is for Stockton to have four councillor positions, Redcar and Middlesbrough to have three each and Hartlepool just two.

The proposals are based on population figures.

Mayor Stuart Drummond, chair of CPA, said it is only fair that Hartlepool is equally represented on the PCP, which must be made up of at least 10 councillors and two residents.

The panel will receive the annual report, holding a public meeting and making recommendations and will give general overview and scrutiny of PCC’s decisions and actions.

Panel members will also approve or can veto appointment of chief constable and precept, the amount police take from council tax.

Stockton Borough Council is leading on the PCP and the November election.

Mayor Drummond, who declared a non-prejudicial interest at cabinet, said: “This is about protecting Hartlepool.

“The only fair way is to have three members from each local authority.

“If there is power to veto then every local authority needs to have a fair say in that.

“I have no problem with the rest of the report but I would suggest that we go back to Stockton and say it has to be three members each or we won’t sign up to it.”

Mayor Drummond added that the changes are very much in their “infancy” and that the transition period will start in earnest this week.

Regarding the proposal for two members, Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said: “It does not make any sense whatsoever.”

The Mayor said the government has made it clear that it is up to each area to “sort it out” amongst themselves.

Labour councillor Ged Hall said there had been reservations nationally about the new set-up but added: “I would trust us in Hartlepool to get this right but I’m not sure about people in other places.”

Mayor Drummond, who has not ruled himself out of the running for the PCC post, last week said: “As far as the police authority is concerned, as chair I am committed to getting us through this transition.”