Damian Green MP answers our questions on Police and Crime Commissioners

Damian Green ( Policing minister ) visits the Advertiser office
Damian Green ( Policing minister ) visits the Advertiser office

GOVERNMENT Minister for Police and Social Justice Damian Green visited Rugby on Tuesday to promote the forthcoming elections for police commissioners.

He also gave his support to Conservative Fraser Pithie’s election bid.

Two other candidates are standing with Mr Pithie, Labour’s James Plaskitt and independent Ron Ball. Elections will take place at polling stations across Rugby on November 15. During their visit Mr Green and Mr Pithie spoke about why the elections were important and what differences PCCs could make in Rugby.

Why is the role of PCC important?

Damian Green: “Everyone has an opinion about police and crime and that’s why these elections are important. Rather than people just having to put up with what they’re not happy with, or moaning about it in the pub, they will have someone who can do something constructive about it.

“The problem with the current police authority system is that despite their hard work, authorities are mostly invisible.”

How has the commissioner model worked in other countries?

Damian Green: “New York and elsewhere in the United States have had some real success with commissioners. I think they will work in the UK because when the person in charge of things like the crime plan, performance and the police’s share of council tax, are elected and accountable, it drives up performance.”

How much difference will the new PCC system make?

Fraser Pithie: “It will make a big difference. Right now, few people know who is on their police authority and suggestions made by councillors are often turned down and the process would usually end there. But with commissioners that is not always the case. An example of this in practice would be Rugby’s Community Safety Partnership’s request to re-open police cells in Rugby at the weekend. This was refused by police, but as commissioner I intend to re-open them on Friday and Saturday nights to save police from having to ferry offenders up to Nuneaton.

“Commissioners will have an opportunity to ask more detailed questions and get results rather than just accept the first answer. A vital part of the commissioner’s role will be making sure organisations talk to each other and get the best from each other. Currently, this can be a problem.” [James Plaskitt and Ron Ball have also pledged to re-open Rugby’s cells.]

What type of crimes are people most concerned about?

Damian Green: “The big thing people are concerned about is anti-social behaviour and crime related to drink and drugs.

“What you find is different regions, counties and towns have different sorts of problems, which is one of the problems with a top-down approach to crime and one of the advantages of having a police commissioner. Approaches to crime can be tailor-made for each town and people can get the kind of police service that they need.”

Police commissioners will not be able to be party-political once in office, so why are so many being backed by political parties?

Fraser Pithie: “Being a Conservative tells people what my beliefs are and that I see public services as something which should be delivered properly, but efficiently. The roles themselves are non-political, and there are laws in place to ensure that. But since commissioners will be elected, and influencing how public money is spent, then politics has to be part of the equation somehow.”

Damian Green: “It is worth noting that the legislation behind commissioners is the first ever in the UK to legally protect the police’s independence.”

Are approaches to rehabilitation that are used by the likes of Rugby Community Safety Partnership compatible with Conservative values?

Damian Green: “What we are keen on is intelligent approaches to rehabilitation. If someone deserves to be sent to prison, then we believe they should be. But you cannot escape the fact that when you are successful in rehabilitating offenders, as RCSP has been, then crime can be reduced dramatically. We cannot ignore that if we’re serious about reducing crime.”