Is the time ripe for such changes?
Next May, if things go to plan, there’ll be a whole new set of elections all over England with the exception of London. These are for the directly-elected police commissioners of which there will be 41. They take over the functions of the existing police authorities and will be very much the public faces of policing in their areas.
The electorates for the new jobs will be all those on the electoral roll in the area covered by each police force. In some cases this will be in the millions.
The salary package has been set at Â£122k which makes it an attractive “retirement job” for ex-ministers or prominent MPs who see their chances of preferment dwindling. Another possible source could be senior councillors.
Quite whether this will improve policing who knows? But to bring in change like this at an annual cost of Â£130m is, as Sir Humphrey might say, “courageous”.
This has been very much a Tory initiative which the Lib Dems are supporting because of the coalition.
Assuming it goes through it adds another level of patronage within the system which the party machines will use to their best advantage. The Labour choice in Greater Manchester, for instance, must be a shoo-in as will the Tory one in Thames Valley.
It’s also possible that this could create a spate of Westminster by-election vacancies with MPs being happy to give up their seats for those six-figure salaries.
Those big salaries really have to be looked at again. At a time when the government wants to cut police numbers this looks like an unnecessary extravagance particularly as many of the likely winners will already be in receipt of state-funded pensions.