Senior Labour representatives from across Sussex have criticised the recent announcement that the scheduled meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, which is supposed to put the county's current Tory Police and Crime Commissioner to account, has been cancelled.
The Sussex Police and Crime Panel was scheduled to meet on Friday, 22nd April in Lewes.
- However panel members were recently notified by the clerk to the Panel that without consultation with them, the meeting had been cancelled;
- That means that the Tory Commissioner Katy Bourne will only have been held to account for her role three times for the entire year, despite her significant role in police governance;
- The Sussex Police and Crime Panel only has an annual budget of £72,000 a year to hold to account the Commissioner and her office, with its annual current cost of over £1.2 million, and
- Under the current legislation, Brighton and Hove is massively under-represented for its population size, with only 2 out of the total of 20 representatives.
Michael Jones, Labour's candidate for the PCC election in May, and Cabinet Member for Public Protection at Crawley Borough Council, slated the decision, saying: "Only in the Tory party's vision of democracy do we have less scrutiny of an elected representative as influential as the PCC in election year.
"This is a failure in scrutiny, and one of the major weaknesses of the Government's system of PCCs, which is seriously in need of reform. We need to bring policing closer to the real views of Sussex people, and one of my priorities if elected as Sussex's PCC would be to see that through.
"The current poor levels of public participation at the meetings of the Panel speaks volumes. There are rarely questions raised and the public are only allowed to ask questions in person at one meeting a year, which few take up.
"Until people feel included, and the system works more successfully, they will continue to vote with their feet".
Mr Jones' views were echoed by fellow Labour panel members for Brighton and Hove Cllr Emma Daniel, and for Hastings Cllr Warren Davies.
Cllr Daniel, Chair of the Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities committee at Brighton and Hove City Council said: "No-one asked us as panel members whether we agreed to the cancellation, which I think is rather high-handed. There's plenty I wanted to ask the PCC about how she is causing the planned significant cuts to my local PCSOs and neighbourhood policing teams recently revealed, but she appears to have escaped that. Brighton and Hove,and Sussex as a whole will suffer for that lack of challenge."
Cllr Davies, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Amenities at Hastings Borough Council added: "This lack of accountability is embarrassing. Running the Police, and issues of crime, are things that directly impact on every man, woman and child in Sussex. Yet we only get four opportunities a year to raise this on behalf of our residents, and now even fewer this year. It's a farce."