Power check report

Police and Crime Panels have clearly had some successes in their first term, a new report by Frontline Consulting and Grant Thornton shows, and examples of good practice across the sector illustrate how all panels can strengthen their work and effectiveness over the next four years.

The report, ‘Power Check: reviewing the effectiveness of police accountability’ (see here) looks at panels' effectiveness and the strength of their relationships with Police and Crime Commissioners. The review also considers the impact of panels’ work across wider policing. 

The findings of the report are drawn from surveys sent to all 41 PCPs, PCCs and Chief Constables in England and Wales. We received responses from 95% of PCCs and 71% of PCPs. Chief Constables are further removed from the work of PCPs, but 25% of them also provided survey responses and comments on the impact of Panels on wider policing.  

The report combines data and comments from our surveys with insights, shared during private meetings, national conferences and regional seminars held by both Frontline Consulting and Grant Thornton throughout the first term.

The report focuses on the perceptions by both PCPs and PCCs of the effectiveness of panels, and their differing perceptions of the barriers to the effectiveness of panels. 96% of panel respondents saw themselves as, at least, moderately effectively, and none considered themselves as wholly ineffective. PCCs, by contrast, were less positive: while 82% felt their panels were at least occasionally effective in challenging and supporting their work, 18% viewed their panels as rarely effective at challenge and 4% considered their panel was never effective in supporting their work.

Panels and PCCs differed too on the barriers to panel effectiveness. 93% of panels still see limited powers as the biggest barrier to their effectiveness, with their budget coming second (at 41%) and the timeliness and availability of information the third biggest barrier at 26% each. PCCs on the other hand viewed the staffing support for panels as the largest barrier to effectiveness (40%), closely followed by limited powers (37%) and panel members’ political allegiances third at 34%. 

The report illustrates its findings throughout by the use of (anonymised) quotes from both panels and PCCs. To assist with improving practice in the second term, it provides a checklist of good practice, based on the successful experiences and examples of work of a range of panels. Among the suggestions are:

  • ensuring there is a range of skills, knowledge and experience among the panel, in order to carry out its work effectively 
  • a greater emphasis on training, especially for new panel members
  • having champions in the panel to lead on different topics
  • developing a structured programme of proactive scrutiny, using whatever methods are most appropriate, to provide both challenge and support to the PCC
  • sharing work programmes with the OPCC to ensure that work is co-ordinated and information available when needed
  • networking with other panels and scrutiny bodies, to keep abreast of good practice and address issues collaboratively where appropriate 

Published: 01 June 2016

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