Elected police and crime commissioners provide accountable and visible leadership, which I hear the whole House now supports. PCCs are an excellent body taking the lead role, as we have just heard, in driving collaboration between forces and other emergency services to deliver more effective services and better value for money.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. In West Mercia, the main advantages of having commissioners are accountability and transparency, which local people very much appreciate. We have just selected our new Conservative candidate, Mr Campion, who, if elected, will do an excellent job. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will continue to look at ways to devolve power and responsibility to police and crime commissioners, as this experiment is working?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point and I wish Mr Campion well in his bid to represent his community as a PCC. We will soon be introducing legislation that will allow more collaboration and more help to be brought to the police, fire and ambulance services—that is the sort of thing we would expect.
That is exactly what we would like them to be doing. All too often, complaints go all the way through the system when they could actually be dealt with locally.
Rother District Council is one of only 17 remaining local authorities that have not decriminalised on-street parking offences, meaning that the Sussex police and crime commissioner is required to provide police resources to ticket cars that stay longer than two hours in a bay. Will the Minister consider freeing up police resources by requiring those remaining local authorities that enforce in their own car parks to additionally enforce on-street parking?
Although this is a matter for the local government department, I want as much capability as possible on the streets in every constituency. I do not think issuing parking tickets is a role for a police officer.
It is anticipated that Government cuts to Merseyside police could reach £27 million next year. This has been brought to my notice by the police and crime commissioner for Merseyside. Police community support officers and the mounted police section are under threat of disappearing altogether. Teams tackling sex offences, hate crimes and serious and organised crime are also likely to be seriously affected. Does the Minister share my concern about the impact the cuts could have on crime rates?
Can I first say to the hon. Lady that my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the police officer lost on Merseyside? I had the honour and privilege of going to Merseyside to pay my own respects, as well as meeting with officers.
I fully understand different PCCs trying to negotiate a position, but scaremongering is not the best way forward. I will come back with further ideas—that is what the consultation is all about, and that is what I promised I would do when I started it.
The turnout in north Wales for the police and crime commissioner elections last time was 14.83%, which under the Trade Union Bill would make them null and void. Will the Minister look at how he can improve turnout, perhaps by considering again what he refused to do last time—a freepost in all PCC elections?
I have a great deal of respect for the right hon. Gentleman and his work in his role as a Minister, but we did that during the west midlands by-election and it made absolutely no difference to the turnout. What will make a difference to the turnout, without any shadow of a doubt, is having that coincide with other elections, which is what is going to happen this time. I am really pleased that the Labour Opposition now realise the work that PCCs do and are now supporting them, rather than trying to abolish them.
I echo what the Minister said about the tragedy in Merseyside last week, but I disagree profoundly with his description of Jane Kennedy’s comments as “scaremongering”. The impact on Merseyside of the proposed changes to the police grant will be very damaging. Will he meet her and Merseyside Members to discuss the matter?
I will meet again with Jane Kennedy. She knows my door and has my personal phone number and personal email, as do all the PCCs—I made sure of that from day one. I am saying that no one knows exactly what we will end up with in the formula. We have consulted and said it would change. We have come back with other ideas. I expect other ideas to come back. No one knows the numbers. No one knows the size of the cuts, so let us wait and see. As I said, the consultation continues.
I recently joined Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner and other local MPs to call for greater integration of the back-office functions of our police and fire services. That option was presented to avoid front-line fire services being cut, but we have now seen fire engines removed from both Cannock and Rugeley stations. What are the Government doing to encourage police and fire authorities to share back-office services?
We are already seeing around the country the sort of innovations my hon. Friend talks about, and I have no idea why they are not doing it in that part of the world. It is common sense to break down silos and get the emergency services working together to secure more money for the front line. It is what we would all expect.