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New county police and crime panel will now be bigger
THE Home Secretary has agreed to increase the size of the body that will hold Wiltshire’s new police and crime commissioner to account – following a political row at Swindon Council.
An election will be held on November 15 for Wiltshire’s first commissioner, who will replace the police authority and will have the power to hire and fire chief constables, and set the force’s budget and strategy.
A new joint police and crime panel, which will hold the new official to account, was recently established with 10 members drawn from Wiltshire and Swindon Councils – and was supposed to represent the overall political make-up of the authorities.
Wiltshire Council appointed five Conservatives and two Lib Dems – reflecting its balance – then in June Swindon Council filled the remaining posts with two Conservatives and one Labour, reflecting its make-up.
However, across Wiltshire as a whole, the shortage of posts meant Labour was under-represented and the Conservatives were over-represented, because to reflect the overall political make-up of both councils, the panel should have had six Conservatives, two Lib Dems and two Labour.
To solve the issue, which resurfaced in a debate at Thursday’s full council meeting, council leader Rod Bluh asked the Government if the Wiltshire panel could be increased to 11 members, to allow Labour to have a second representative. This application has since been specially granted by the Home Secretary Theresa May.
Coun Mark Dempsey, Labour group’s deputy leader, said: “It was obviously right because we need to make sure that there’s a fair representation of all the political parties on the committee and that’s what Labour was highlighting on Thursday night.”
Coun Bluh was originally on the panel but resigned and was replaced on Thursday by Coun Andrew Bennett (Con, Ridgeway). Coun Bluh said he thought it inappropriate for a council leader to scrutinise the police commissioner, with whom he would have to work.