This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PCCs: the rarefied Westminster air is now thick with chickens coming home to roost.

The headlines this morning are all about the position of the South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner and calls for him to resign. Shaun Wright, former chair of the relevant council committee while the abuse was continuing, has reiterated his apology for the collective failure during his time of office in Rotherham. He has just resigned from the Labour Party and is now operating as an independent PCC. However he is (so far) refusing to reliquish his position as PCC. (Summary news here)

Commentary on this state of affairs is ballooning, including blog posts from my colleagues Bernard Rix and Sam Chapman. On Sam's blog, I have added this comment:
Whilst I have lots of sympathies with the points you make Sam, it is my understanding that the whole dire CSE business in Rotherham was well covered by the press before the election of PCCs and Mr Wright’s role as Chair of the relevant committee was also known. (Here is one blog post about the matter for example)
Despite this information being in the public domain, he ~was~ elected by the people – so he has their mandate.
Whilst I am happy to be corrected, I do not think this week’s report has revealed anything substantially more about his role in the whole business.
So on this basis, he (like all other PCCs) will account to his electorate in 2016, although now presumably as an independent candidate (he resigned from the Labour Party earlier this evening).
We all know how toothless the PCPs are – so they will huff and puff at their next meeting but it will make no difference. And as I have been told by many a supporter of PCC based governance, the ballot box every four years is the ultimate accountability… It is what PCCs were created for.
Now to be clear: I think his position as PCC will become increasingly tenuous but I won't predict whether Mr Wright will, in fact, resign or not. (I think he should.) I think matters could go either way. He would not be the first politician to brazen things out and wait for the media heat to dissipate. Like others, I will be watching this space. 

But whither... wither PCC based governance now?

Last week we had just over 10% of the electorate voting to replace (the irreplaceable) Bob Jones as the West Midlands PCC. This week we have this controversy over Mr Wright and his accountability. If the public didn't realise it yet, they will very soon understand just how much singular and unchecked power PCCs have. And of course we have a series of past (and pending) PCC stories which I can't even bother to list. 

As I have written before, all of my comments about PCC based governance have nothing to do with the fine quality of many PCCs themselves, who have been earnestly doing what they can to improve policing & public engagement. 

But... please can we now start thinking about how to reform police & crime governance properly. This requires serious analysis, careful thought and something more than just a tweaking of the existing legislation. 

Indeed if Mr Wright should now go as a result of his past role and leadership decisions, should there not be a similar accountability for those who designed this flawed model of governance in the first place?

PS: My next post will all be about the REAL issue: the abuse that happened, the imperative to support its victims and the pressing need to understand (really) how this appalling state of affairs was allowed to continue for so long with so many consequences...

PPS: I have decided to live tweet my reading of the Independent Report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. You can follow this at #LTRR

UPDATE 1557 | 280814: Clairvoyance? And with reference to "should there not be a similar accountability for those who designed this flawed model of governance in the first place?" above, it would appear that Douglas Carswell has resigned from the Conservative Party and as MP for Clacton, to stand again as a candidate for UKIP. Perhaps he read what I wrote?(!)

Naturally, Mr Carswell and I disagree on many issues, but I do respect his decision to stand again and not just to switch parties.


  1. Look forward to the next one Jon. As you say, we all knew this would happen one day and of course the PCC can raise 2 metaphorical fingers to the world. Ridiculous.

  2. Jon,

    Apart from reading the Jay Report on CSE @ Rotherham, it would be worth looking at teh local website that alone IIRC reported what was rotten about Rotherham's politicians: