The first ever local elections to give people direct influence over action to tackle crime in their area through new Police and Crime Commissioners and new powers for councils to tackle problem pubs and clubs were among measures unveiled today by the Home Secretary Theresa May.
In a bold shift of power, the Government outlined plans to move decision-making out of Whitehall and end the restrictive era of top-down bureaucracy with a new framework of democratic accountability for the police.
The new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill will also rebalance the Licensing Act to give the public and local agencies an even greater say over policies to tackle crime and disorder.
The Bill includes:
- New police and crime commissioners from May 2012 to be directly elected by the public, set local policing priorities and hold chief constables to account whilst protecting the operational independence of the police
- Measures to give communities and local authorities greater control over alcohol licensing to tackle problem premises. They will have new powers to restrict premises from selling alcohol late at night if necessary and be able to clamp down harder on premises who persistently sell to children - doubling the fine to £20,000
- A stronger local influence on licensing decisions by allowing everyone the option to comment on licensing applications - not just those living close to premises, and ensuring health and policing concerns are considered more widely so that the impact of licensing on crime and disorder or public safety can be taken into account
- Introducing a late night levy allowing councils to charge for late-night licences to pay for extra policing - leaving premises to pay rather than the taxpayer
- Immediate powers to temporarily ban the latest ‘legal highs’ as soon as they become a cause for concern and with tough penalties for those caught trafficking or supplying temporarily banned substances
- Restoring the right to non-violent protest, whilst ensuring that the area around Parliament Square is free from tents and other structures.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘These new measures will place the public back at the heart of our drive to cut crime, giving them a say in how their local area is policed by electing a Police and Crime Commissioner, and strengthening the powers that police and councils need to tackle crime and disorder at a local level.
‘For too long, the fight against crime has been tangled up in a web of centrally imposed red tape that has driven a wedge between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
‘I am determined to rebalance that by giving the public and the police and councils the powers they need to deal with the issues that blight too many of our communities.’
Plans to hold the first elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in May 2012 were set out in a consultation, Policing in the 21st Century, earlier this year. PCCs will have to make forces truly accountable to the communities they serve, ensuring that resources are properly targeted to where they are needed and giving the public a greater say in measures to reduce crime and improve community safety.
- represent and engage with all those who live and work in the communities in their force area and identify their policing needs;
- set priorities that meet those needs by agreeing a local strategic plan for the force;
- hold the Chief Constable to account for achieving these priorities as efficiently and effectively as possible and playing a role in wider questions of community safety
- set the force budget and the policing precept in council tax bills
- appoint - and, where necessary, remove - the Chief Constable
The Bill sets out the checks and balances that will be in place, through the creation of Police and Crime Panels to scrutinise the actions of PCCs. The panels will include District Council members to ensure the voice of local communities is reflected in this process. It also gives details of the specific arrangements for this new system of accountability in London - where the mayor will hold the role of PCC.
The new proposals build on the Government’s commitment to restoring the right to peaceful protest. It will remove the more stringent requirements for police authorisation of static demonstrations in Parliament Square to bring them in line with the rest of the country. This means that people wishing to stage a static demonstration in Parliament Square will no longer need advance police authorisation but officers will still be able to impose conditions on these protests where necessary.
The Bill will also give police and authorised officers of the Greater London Authority and Westminster City Council powers to prevent encampments and other disruptive activity on Parliament Square so that the public are not prevented from accessing or enjoying this site of national importance. These powers will prohibit the use of unauthorised noise amplification equipment, the erection and use of tents, other structures for sleeping and sleeping equipment in a controlled area of Parliament Square and allow police and authorised officers to seize equipment where a person fails to comply with a direction.
Mrs May said: ‘We fully support the public’s right to peaceful protest; however this does not mean allowing individuals to take over a public space, particularly a historic site like Parliament Square, and prevent others from enjoying it.
‘These proposals will put a stop to the most disruptive elements such as tents which have turned Parliament Square into a campsite and prevented tourists and Londoners from enjoying this historic landmark.’
The Bill also delivers on the Government’s commitment to introduce a system of temporary bans for emerging legal highs. The power to quickly ban potentially harmful legal highs on a temporary basis for 12 months will allow us to stay ahead of manufacturers looking to subvert our laws by stopping new drugs gaining a foot hold.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be asked to provide initial advice before a temporary ban is put in place and they will then provide fuller advice on whether a permanent ban is required.
Other measures in the Bill include a requirement for the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to be given before an arrest warrant can be issued in a private prosecution for offences of universal jurisdiction. These offences - which include certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking - can be prosecuted in the UK even if committed outside the country by someone who is not a British national.
Alongside the publication of the Bill, the Government also published its response to the Alcohol consultation ‘Rebalancing the Licensing Act’ launched in July. As part of this, the Home Secretary outlines a package of measures to strengthen local action to clampdown on alcohol related crime and disorder.
- Scrapping the overly bureaucratic and unused alcohol disorder zones;
- Giving licensing authorities the power to refuse licence applications or apply for a licence review without requiring relevant representations from a responsible authority
- A commitment to review the mandatory code within 12 months of its introduction to assess its impact and any unnecessary burdens on business.
Notes to editors
View the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, along with explanatory notes and impact assessments.
A summary of responses to the Policing in the 21st Century consultation is also published today. The consultation set out the Government’s plans for the first elections of Police and Crime Commissioners in May 2012. It also outlined proposals for boosting value for money and efficiency in the police service by slashing bureaucracy, increasing collaboration between forces, reforming the roles of key policing partners and creating a new National Crime Agency to improve policing on both a local and national level. The response document can be viewed on this website.
Also published today is a summary of responses to the Government’s proposals on alcohol licensing - Rebalancing the Licensing Act - a consultation on empowering individuals, families and local communities to shape and determine local licensing. The document can be viewed on this website.
For more information, please contact Home Office Press Office on 020 7035 3535.