Q&A: Police and crime commissioners
A quick guide to November's elections for police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.
Elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will take place on 15 November in 41 police force areas across England and Wales. London is not included. The elections have been described as the biggest shake-up of policing for almost 50 years.
What will police and crime commissioners do?
Commissioners will be responsible for appointing the chief constable of their force, setting out local policing priorities, reporting annually on progress, and setting out the force budget and community safety grants. The government says commissioners are not there to run local police forces but to hold them to account.
How did the idea come about?
The idea of giving local people more of a say in how the police in their area are run has been championed for years by some Conservatives as a way of boosting local democracy - but it only became party policy at the 2010 election. The coalition agreement contained a pledge to make the police "more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual". The proposal was fleshed out in the white paper "Policing in the 21st Century" and enacted in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which became law in 2011.
Doesn't the idea come from the US?
The proposed elected officials have sometimes been described as "US-style elected commissioners" but most police commissioners in the United States are not elected. They are appointed by city mayors. Directly elected sheriffs carry out law enforcement for villages, towns and cities within counties that do not have police departments.
How will the elections be run?
Elections will be held in each police force area in England and Wales outside London, with all registered voters in the area entitled to take part. The supplementary vote system will be used in all force areas with more than two candidates standing, with voters marking the ballot paper with their first and second choice of candidate. If no candidate gets a majority of first preference votes, the top two candidates go on to a second round when second preference votes are allocated to them to produce a winner. This is the system used to elect London's mayor. In Dyfed-Powys, North Yorkshire and Staffordshire, where just two candidates are standing in each poll, registered voters will be presented with a familiar "first past the post" ballot paper.
Who are the candidates?
The major parties are getting involved in the election, with Labour and the Conservatives putting up candidates in all force areas. The Liberal Democrats are not centrally supporting candidates but have not barred their members from standing. Plaid Cymru is not putting up candidates in Wales but will be supporting independents. Only 42 of 192 candidates are not linked to a political party.
Was there oversight of the police before?
Yes. Police authorities, first established in 1964 to hold chief constables to account, currently oversee the police. They are made up of local councillors and independent, appointed members. The government's white paper concluded that police authorities were "invisible" and needed replacing with elected commissioners and police and crime panels.
What are police and crime panels?
Police and crime panels are intended hold the elected commissioner to account. In England they will be mainly made up of representatives from each local authority in a police force area. In Wales they will be free-standing public bodies, set up and maintained by the secretary of state, rather than local authority committees.
What do supporters say?
Supporters have argued that elected commissioners will make policing more accountable and responsive to local needs. They will consult with victims of crime when setting policing priorities. They could bring valuable outside experience to bear. The elections will take power from Whitehall and put it in the hands of local people.
What do critics say?
Opponents of the plans have warned they could lead to the politicisation of the police, with commissioners favouring headline-grabbing initiatives over tackling serious crime. They also fear commissioners could start interfering with the running of police forces. Critics also question if they will have real legitimacy in the event of a low turnout in November's elections.
How much will it cost?
Ministers say that the cost of commissioners and police and crime panels will be no greater than the cost of running existing police authorities. There will be an additional cost incurred by the elections which will be centrally funded. Commissioners are likely to be paid between £65,000 and £100,000 per year depending on the police force area.
Why isn't London included?
London has a directly elected mayor, who acts as the police and crime commissioner for the Metropolitan police area. The police and crime panel is formed from a committee of elected London Assembly members. The commissioner of the Metropolitan police will continue to be a Royal appointment on the advice of the home secretary.