Role of the PFCC

The main statutory responsibilities and powers of Commissioners, focusing on the key duties and powers.

Where are PCC statutory duties set out?

There is no single piece of legislation where this is all set out.

Police legislation has evolved over many years, and some of the laws applicable to PCCs go back several decades. In addition, local government legislation plays a part in regulating what PCCs can do, particularly in relation to some aspects of finance.

However, the key duties of PCCs are mainly set out in two Acts:

  • the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011(PRSRA) and
  • the Police Act 1996 as amended.

The former Act established PCCs and set out their main functions, while the latter sets out many of the duties which were transferred to PCCs from predecessor organisations.

More recently the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (P&CA) also impacts the powers and responsibilities of PCCs, which is still in the process of implementation.

What are a PCC’s most important statutory functions?

These are the main PCC functions and the associated legislation where these are found:

  • The PCC for a police area must secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force for the area. [PRSRA, S1(6)]
  • The PCC for a police area must hold the relevant Chief Constable to account for the exercise of the Chief Constable’s functions and those under the direction and control of the Chief Constable. [PRSRA, S1(7)]
  • The PCC has powers in relation to bringing together Community Safety and Criminal Justice partners, with mutual duties to co-operate and formulate and implement strategies across the police area. [PRSRA, S10 and S88; and Schedule 11]
  • The PCC has commissioning and grant-making powers, primarily aimed to tackle crime reduction/prevention, and support victims and vulnerable people, or those affected by crime. [PRSRA, S9; and Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, S143]
  • The PCC can take on responsibility for the emergency services collaboration and for the fire and rescue service (or play a role in local authority fire governance). [P&CA, S6-8]
  • The PCC will also have a strengthened role in dealing with police complaints. [P&CA, S13-24]

What other statutory responsibilities does the PCC have?

This section lists PCC powers and duties in key areas of activity. It is by no means exhaustive but sets out the main points that PCCs, the public and others interested in the role of PCCs may wish to know.

Police and Crime Panels

Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) are made up of local councillors and some independent members. They were put in place to scrutinise and support the work of their local PCC and can require the PCC to appear before the PCP to answer their questions.

The PCP is required to support the PCC and provide a check and balance in relation to the performance of the PCC.

The PCP does not scrutinise the Chief Constable – it scrutinises the PCC’s exercise of their statutory functions.

While the PCP has a role in challenging the PCC, it must also exercise its functions with a view to supporting the effective exercise of the PCC’s functions.

The Policing Protocol goes on to provide a list of the main functions and powers of the PCP, the most important of which are:

  • a power of veto over the precept;
  • a power of veto over the appointment of a Chief Constable;
  • a power to hold confirmation hearings (but not veto) in relation to other senior PCC staff (Chief Executive, Chief Finance Officer and Deputy PCC);
  • a power to appoint an acting PCC where the incumbent PCC is incapacitated, resigns or is disqualified;
  • responsibility for complaints about a PCC, although serious complaints and conduct matters must be passed to the IOPC; and
  • responsibility to review and make recommendations on the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan.

If the PCP seeks to scrutinise the PCC on an operational matter, the Chief Constable may be invited (but cannot be required) to attend alongside the PCC to offer factual accounts and clarity (if needed) of the Chief Constable’s actions and decisions.

The accountability of the Chief Constable remains firmly to the PCC and not to the PCP.

Police and Crime Plans

The PCC must issue a Police and Crime Plan as soon as possible after the PCC takes office. It should cover the PCC’s full term of office but may be revised at any time.

The PCC must consult the chief officer of police (i.e the Chief Constable or Police Commissioner in some areas) and have regard to the PCP in making or revising the plan. The plan must set out the PCCs policing and crime objectives, details of grants made to partners, resources the chief police officer will be given and how he/she will be held to account/assessed.

The plan must have regard to the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) and both PCC and chief officer must have regard to the lan. [PRSRA, S5, 7 and 8]

Funding/finance

The PCC must hold the police fund and other grants from central or local government. PCCs must set the policing precept (an element of Council Tax) for their area. Note that the PCP has powers of veto over the precept.

Further information on finance and audit aspects can be found in the separate briefing notes. [PRSRA, S21-27; Schedule 5; and Local Government and Finance Act 1992, S39-43]

Transparency and engagement

PCCs must obtain the views of local people and victims of crime before the Police and Crime Plan is issued and before the precept is set (the latter must also including obtaining the views of rate payers).

The PCC must publish information about their performance and that of the chief officer, and the material required by the Specified Information Order.

The PCC must give the PCP the information it requires to carry out its function and must also publish an annual report which must be presented to the PCP at a public meeting. [PRSRA, S11-14; and Schedule 11]

People

The PCC may appoint, suspend or remove the chief police officer and must be consulted by the chief officer on the appointment of Deputy and Assistant Chief Constables. The PCP has a power of veto over the appointment of the chief officer.

The PCC must appoint to the Office of the PCC (OPCC) a Chief Executive and a Chief Finance Officer (who must be separate people) and may appoint a Deputy PCC: new appointments to all three of these posts are subject to confirmation hearings by the PCP, but unlike the other OPCC posts, a Deputy PCC does not have to be appointed on merit and is not politically restricted.

The PCC may appoint other staff to his or her office as required, without confirmation hearings (including, for instance, assistant PCCs), but these must all be appointed on merit and are all politically restricted posts.

The PCC also has a number of quasijudicial powers in relation to force employment tribunals etc. and oversight of police human resource issues. [PRSRA, S38-40; Schedule 8, S5; Schedule 1, S6-12; and Schedule 15, S6-7]

Emergency services and fire

The P&CA introduced responsibilities to:

  • collaborate across all three emergency services, to improve efficiency or effectiveness;
  • enable PCCs to take on the functions of fire and rescue authorities (FRAs), where a local case is made;
  • enable the PCC to have representation on their local FRA with voting rights, where they do not take on fire and rescue functions; and
  • enable the Mayor of London to take on direct responsibility for the fire and rescue services in London. [P&CA, S6-8]

Police complaints

The PCC has direct responsibility for complaints against the Chief Constable but must hand this to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) to investigate. Once the complaints provisions of the P&CA are implemented, the PCC will also be responsible for handling the reviews of less serious misconduct cases (IOPC handles the more serious cases).

The PCC can put in place additional steps to handle initial contact with the public about complaints and also steps to keep complainants informed about progress. Equally, the PCC can leave these functions with the force and retain oversight of force handling. Under the P&CA the PCC now has a specific duty (previously an implied duty) to hold the Chief Constable to account for force complaints handling. [P&CA S13-24; Parts 2-3 of the Police Reform Act 2002, as amended; and Part IV, Police Act 1996, as amended]

PCC complaints

PCPs are responsible for handling complaints against the PCC. If the allegation is serious (i.e. meets a criminal standard), the PCP must refer it to IOPC to deal with, but if it is not a criminal complaint, the PCP is responsible for ensuring the matter is resolved informally. [PRSRA, S31; and Schedule 7]

What powers does the Home Secretary have in relation to the PCC?

This section highlights the key powers of the Secretary of State in relation to PCCs, which are that the Secretary of State:

  • sets the level of police grant, and other central government grants, and has reserve powers to mandate a minimum PCC budget locally if satisfied that safety and security is compromised; [Police Act 1996, S46-48 (as amended); PRSRA, S22, S24-25 and S27]
  • sets the precept limitations for PCCs; [Local Government and Finance Act 1992, S39]
  • has powers to direct PCCs to take remedial action where either the force or the PCC is failing to discharge functions effectively; [Police Act 1996, S40-41]
  • has general powers to direct, or make orders about contracts, collaboration agreements, and equipment; and [Police Act 1996, S23 and S53]
  • sets the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR), to which PCCs and chief police officers must have regard. [PRSRA, S77; and Police Act 1996, S37A]

The above list sets out the key responsibilities and powers but is by no means exhaustive. The Secretary of State also has powers to make regulations or publish guidance about other key sections of the PRSRA and other legislation.

What other requirements apply to PCCs?

  • PCCs are bound by the terms of the Policing Protocol Order 2011 (‘the Policing Protocol’) which sets out key parameters about the relationship between PCCs, chief officers and PCPs [PRSRA, S79]
  • PCCs must observe the Financial Code of Practice issued by the Secretary of State. [PRSRA, S17(6)]
  • PCCs are bound by the terms of the Specified Information Order, which sets out in detail information they are expected to publish or provide to the public. [PRSRA, S11(2)]
  • PCCs must establish an audit panel jointly with the chief officer. [Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) codes of practice]
  • PCCs must make arrangements for custody visiting to police cells in their area by independent custody visitors. [Police Reform Act 2002, S51]

Various other Acts also apply to the PCC, for instance the Equalities Act 2010, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 2018 etc.