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Row over political make-up of policing panel
HOME Secretary Theresa May will be asked to increase the size of the body which will hold Wiltshire’s new police and crime commissioner to account, due to a political row at Swindon Council.
An election will be held in November 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, must initially have 10 members drawn from Wiltshire and Swindon Councils – and must represent the overall political make-up of the authorities.
Wiltshire Council appointed five Conservatives and two Lib Dems – reflecting its balance – and 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 means Labour will be under-represented and the Conservatives will be over-respresented, because to reflect the overall political make-up of both councils, the panel should have should be six Conservatives, two Lib Dems and two Labour.
At Wednesday’s full council meeting, Labour demanded that Swindon field two Labour and one Conservative members, but the Tories put forward two Conservative nominees.
To solve the issue, council leader Coun Rod Bluh has asked the Government if the Wiltshire panel could be especially increased to 11 members, to allow Labour to have a second representative.
Coun Jim Grant, the Labour group leader, said: “Swindon has an allocation of three. In order for this panel to be politically balanced across the place, it would need one Conservative member from Swindon and two Labour members to be elected on to this panel, and I strongly urge that this council takes that way forward.”
Coun Bluh, responding, said: “We do recognise that with what Wiltshire have done, it should be two Labour members. This is only a shadow panel at this point in time and therefore I’ve got agreement with Wiltshire to increase the membership of the panel from 10 to 11.
“And therefore, when that’s granted, it has got to go to the Home Secretary, but I have been assured it will be noted tonight that extra space will go to Labour.
“The reason we couldn’t do this at the outset is because we have to have a panel of 10 in place before we can make a request, but I have assurance that the extra place will be granted.”