Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Confirmation Hearing

In the recent reshuffle, Kit Malthouse was appointed Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, replacing Boris. This afternoon he spent almost two hours being grilled by the Assembly's cross party hearings committee.

It was an accomplished performance. Since we first interviewed him almost two years ago Kit has really grown into the policing role. He has also become calmer under fire and at no stage did he give the impression of being even slightly rattled.


Kit listed his policing priorities as:

Dealing with violence, including knife crime, disorder and domestic violence. He felt that violent crime was the greatest cause of fear in the city and was determined to clamp down on offenders.

Tackling burglary, which had increased over the year, particularly in suburban boroughs. He was confident that the crime wave had peaked and was declining following the arrest of several prolific offenders.

Cutting 'social crime' including hate crimes perpetrated against elements of our community. Whilst the police could deal with the criminals, Kit felt that a wider response across other agencies was important.

Managing the budget, in the face of tightening resources. Kit felt that the MPA board could do with a few more accountants, whilst accepting that financial prudence would not make meetings 'exciting'. A falling budget coupled with falling crime was the combination he was aiming for, but an increase in either would be bad news.

Preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games which present a unique policing challenge although fewer officers might be needed than originally envisaged.

For the MPA, Kit had three priorities:

It needed to be more relevant to Londoners.

The relationship with the Met Police was 'semi detached' and should be improved.

The organisation could do with a higher profile to improve its accountability.

The terrorist threat was still very real but Kit said that dealing with it should not distract police from the day to day work of cutting crime - a subtle but welcome change of emphasis.

New Structures

A lot of time was taken up discussing possible new structures for managing the police. With the Conservatives examining alternatives, a change of government would lead to changes across the country as well as in London. Kit favoured separating executive control from scrutiny, with the former carried out by a police board appointed by the Mayor and the latter becoming a key responsibility of the London Assembly. In this situation the Assembly would constitute a policing committee to take responsibility for the work.

He valued the expertise of the independent MPA members but worried that a lack of democratic accountability created a division between them and the Assembly Members currently on the board. Generally boards should comprise all elected or all appointed members.

Operation Herald

There were questions about plans to civilianise work in custody suites. The operation expected to release some 900 officers from current duties, with around half of those going back on patrol. Civilianisation would also reduce the custody suite reception time from four to just one hour, allowing patrols to return to duty more swiftly.

Kit also wanted to see a growth in the number of special constables - fully warranted officers who would be used on patrol and provide a vital link with their own communities. He undertook to maintain neighbourhood teams and street patrols, reassuring Londoners in the face of claims that they would be cut.

Time Commitment

Members had some questions about the pressure on Kit's time. In addition to this role he is a deputy mayor, Assembly Member for West Central, and he chairs the Mayor's Hydrogen Partnership, as well as having private business interests and promoting the case for the 'Boris Island' estuary airport. Kit is a genuine workaholic and the committee were satisfied that he could take on the extra commitment.

We were pleased to recommend his appointment on a cross party basis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As always, white collar crime doesn't get a look in. Nothing about corrupt accountants and cooked solicitors, for instance.

My point is that is simplistically seen as middle class worries about the lower classes. And why nothing about loan-sharking hitting people already in poverty, as well? If you go after that sort of crime with publicity, you find it - but no-one ever does.