Timed to coincide with the proposed creation of 11 new councils in 2011 there is currently a public consultation underway which should produce significant changes to the current local accountability mechanisms on policing. The consultation document doesn’t appear to online at the NIO, but the recommended option it proposed would see the 26 Community Safety Partnerships and the 26 District Policing Partnerships, and 4 Belfast sub-groups, replaced by 11 single “Crime Reduction Partnerships” each with a separate Policing Monitoring Committee – made up of councillors and independent members – which would be accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, through the local council. The consultation period ends on 6 May 2010. From the consultation document
The local council would be required to set up a local forum, or fora – which could subsume existing structures and engagement mechanisms – for the purposes of engaging with the public on the full range of issues to be addressed by the Crime Reduction Partnership, including policing matters. Depending on local circumstances, this could be on a thematic or geographic basis. The remit of the fora would have the potential to expand in the future as community planning is introduced.
The example in the document also details the membership of the Crime Reduction Partnership – up to 8 members from each of four sectors, elected representatives, statutory organisations, community and voluntary sector (“which could include the business community and/or faith based organisations”) and independent members.
Elected members would be nominated by local councils proportional to their party representations. For the purposes of this example we have suggested the Chair would be an elected member proposed by the local council, bringing the total number of elected members to nine.
Statutory members would be nominated by their respective organisations and would be of a sufficiently high rank to be able to take decisions on behalf of their organisation and to implement actions on behalf of the partnership. While some organisations could be specified in the legislation (for example the Police Service of Northern Ireland, other justice agencies, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and relevant health and education organisations) there would be a degree of local flexibility built in to allow for a specific response to locally identified issues.
The independent members would be appointed by the Northern Ireland Policing Board. For the purposes of ensuring that the Policing Monitoring Group remains representative of the local community, we would envisage this following a similar process to that currently used for appointing independent DPP members.
The membership from the community and voluntary sector may vary depending on the local council location and the specific locally identified issues. Some views were expressed, during the pre-consultation process, that it would be difficult to fully represent all interest groups on the partnership itself. It was further suggested that the views of this sector should also be sought through the Local Issues Forum (or Fora) suggested in this model.
Additionally, on the recommended option
The Partnership Plan would be monitored by the strategic tier of the Crime Reduction Partnership. The Local Policing Plan would be monitored by a separate Policing Monitoring Group, reporting to the Northern Ireland Polcing Board. It would also communicate with teh Crime Reduction Partnership to ensure alignment. This group would be made up of councillors and independent members.
Engagement and Consultation
The Crime Reduction Partnership would be responsible for ensuring that effective public engagement and consultation across the area, including identification of the issues of concern for the constituent neighbourhoods. This would include the establishment of a Local Issues Forum, providing a dialogue between the Partnership and the community. The structure of such a forum (or fora) would vary depending on local cirumstances and, size of area, etc and may well incorporate a network of existing community engagement structures. The Partnership would be required to hold regular public meetings, which would include a wide community safety and policing agenda, and to explore other methods of engagement and consultation, including with those groups representing section 75 interests.