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Does it matter if the MPA is scrapped?

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Guy Smith | 14:53 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

We always knew it was on the cards.

And today Boris Johnson spelled it out in a little more detail. There are plans to scrap the Metropolitan Police Authority.

He announced proposals to divide the functions of the MPA between himself and the London Assembly.

Sir Paul Stephenson before the Mayor and the MPA

In it's place he wants a Policing Board for London. London's mayor would take on the executive functions.

The government now needs to sign off the plans.

But what does it all mean? And why should we care?

Well, currently the MPA, which was set up a decade ago, has a dual purpose. It acts as both the executive board and also scrutinises and holds the Met to account.

The Conservative mayor says this has "led to confusion", with some MPA members publicly criticising decisions they themselves helped make.

This is from Boris' policy document:

"The Mayor should be, or should be given the power to appoint, the chair of a new Policing Board based in the GLA. The Mayor would also appoint the other Board members.

"Under the Mayor's leadership, the Policing Board would set overall policing policy and strategic priorities, and ensure an efficient and effective police service for London.

"The Mayor would retain responsibility for monitoring and managing the police budget, and for monitoring performance on crime and the Policing Plan targets.

"The Home Secretary and the Mayor would jointly appoint the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The Commissioner would then appoint the Deputy Commissioner and other members of the MPS's senior management team."

Politicians on the current MPA are naturally cautious.

Dee Doocey (Lib Dem) agrees that the Commissioner should be able to decide his top team.

Currently, the MPA does that job and also has the power to discipline senior officers.

But she says:

"I'm worried about political interference in operational matters.

"I feel uncomfortable that if the mayor or one of his nominees takes control and is calling all the shots then you could get a situation where the commissioner will be worrying about his political masters and not doing what he thinks is right."

Jenny Jones (Green), who's been a member from its inception in 2000, says the MPA in its current form has been too "obstreperous, difficult and challenging" for the Met.

"We have pestered them and demanded answers, " she says. "So they'll be delighted if the changes go ahead.

"Any board he (Boris) appoints won't have the breadth, knowledge or viewpoints to challenge the police. It just won't have the validity."

A former Chair of the MPA, Lord Toby Harris (Labour) believes "independent advice is critical".

"The key thing is you create a structure that enables enough independent advice," he says.

"The current structure requires a political balance and that independent element is appointed with transparency."

What do think? Do you have any potential concerns about the changes?


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