• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Crime panel chair appointed but political divide remains

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 28, 2022

THAMES Valley’s Police and Crime Panel ended a near three-month hiatus by finally agreeing on the appointment of a new chair but political divisions remain.

The panel, made up of representatives from councils across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, examines and reviews how Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Barber ensures that Thames Valley Police runs effectively.

It is seen as a scrutiny function with members meant to remain politically neutral while holding the PCC to account.

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That spirit went up in smoke in June when a deadlocked tie for who should chair the meetings pitted Conservatives against Labour, Green Party and Liberal Democrat councillors.

Both independent members of the panel, neither of whom were councillors, have since resigned.

Panel members can only vote if they attend in person and the Conservatives this time had the numbers in the room – nine to eight – to elect Councillor Keith McLean as chair.

Councillor Eddie Reeves, who is also the leader of the Tory opposition at Oxfordshire County Council, was voted in as vice-chair.

Such appointments are generally agreed without dissent but despite the inevitability of the numbers, both sides stuck to their guns before more uncomfortable discussions over which authority should host the meetings.

The host authority, currently Oxfordshire County Council, can be decided by the panel annually.

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It does not dictate where the meetings take place – the panel this week agreed to continue to gather in Aylesbury – but which of the councils on the Thames Valley patch administers the meetings and manages the grant funding from the Home Office that pays for the panel to function.

Cllr Reeves proposed that Buckinghamshire Council should host, “at least for the rest of the municipal year”, with Councillor Robin Bradburn and scrutiny officer Khalid Ahmed stating that the host had conventionally passed over to the chair’s authority after six months.

Councillor Simon Rouse interjected to read out the rules which give the panel the scope to select an authority.

Mr Ahmed advised that talks should take place between chief executives at various councils before decisions are made, citing that West Oxfordshire District Council did not wish to take the responsibility of being host when its representative was in the chair.

“It is not just a case of switching in name, there is all the behind-the-scenes stuff that has to be changed regarding the grants, officers, etc,” he said.

“It would be difficult if you made a decision that the chief executives did not agree with.”

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Cllr Rouse replied: “I would just like to confirm that Buckinghamshire is happy to take on being the host authority.”

The decision was deferred to the panel’s next meeting in November.

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