Labour MP Nick Brown urges party not to axe police and crime commissioners

Former Cabinet Minister Nick Brown urged his party to rethink plans to axe police commissioners, saying they were successful in the North East

Nick Brown MP
Nick Brown MP, a former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

A leading Labour MP has urged his party to rethink plans to axe Police and Crime Commissioners in the North East.

Newcastle MP Nick Brown, a former cabinet minister, said the region’s three commissioners performed a valuable service.

And he said that where commissioners were successful, as in the North East, it was too soon to consider abolishing the post.

It follows confirmation by Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, that a Labour government would scrap directly-elected police commissioners and set up new policing boards involving council leaders instead.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Mr Brown praised Vera Baird, police and crime commissioner for the Northumbria Police force area, as well as Northumbria’s Chief Constable, for taking action over concern that the force historically failed to record crimes properly and may have wrongly concluded that no crime took place in some rape cases.

Northumbria Police looked at 153 cases and identified 54 as requiring needing investigation.

Each case has been reopened as a crime and will be re-investigated by a review team, which will contact victims and work jointly with a local rape support group to ensure they receive the support they need.

Mr Brown told MPs it was essential to take action - but praised the force for doing so.

Police Commissioner Vera Baird,
Police Commissioner Vera Baird,
 

He said: “The proactive good governance and strong challenge provided by Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner, working closely and well with the chief constable, have brought about that swift and responsive action.

“It was the objective of Northumbria police to ensure that the force takes crime seriously and that, when issues emerge, it responds promptly and properly.

“Nowhere is that more important than with brutal crimes of violence against the vulnerable and defenceless, who are almost always women.”

Mr Brown, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East who was previously Chief Whip and Minister for the North East, said the positive role played by Mrs Baird illustrated the benefits a commissioner could bring.

He said: “In Northumbria police, we have an example of an able police and crime commissioner working closely with an able chief constable to achieve the results that the public want.

“All three police and crime commissioners in the North East of England are making an effective contribution to the role, so much so that, at least in our region, we should give this new idea a chance to bed in.

“Contemplating abolishing the role and reverting to the previous arrangements is premature.”

The policy of the Labour front bench was set out by Mrs Cooper during the party’s annual conference in September.

She said at the time: “We need a better system. With stronger accountability to victims, local communities and local government in a new devolution settlement for England and Wales. Better accountability and saving money too.

“So the next Labour government will abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and put the savings back into frontline policing instead.”

Shadow Police Minister Jack Dromey, speaking on behalf of Labour in the debate, did not respond directly to Mr Brown’s comment but praised “the excellent work of Vera Baird in Northumbria”.

Mr Brown also highlighted the impact of funding cuts on the police.

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