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Home Office stewardship of Met set to end

THE END of the Home Office role as the police authority for London is among the structural reforms of the police being examined by Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary.

Mr Clarke is said to have acknowledged that there is a logical case for putting the Metropolitan Police on the same footing as other forces if the structure of police authorities is changed. A detailed statement is due within the next few weeks and the Police Bill will follow in the autumn.

The idea will be welcomed by those who have long argued that the force is less accountable than others which answer to authorities comprising a mixture of local councillors and magistrates. But approval is mixed with criticism that the new bodies will no longer be truly representative as they are expected to comprise a mix of local politicians with business and voluntary sector representatives, who would be directly appointed by Whitehall.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North and leader of the London group of Labour MPs, said last night: 'A London police authority should comprise the directly elected representatives of the boroughs. Other members could be co-opted.' Since relationships between police and local authorities in many parts of London had recently improved, there was experience on both sides on which to build.

Derek Sawyer, policing spokesman for the Association of London Authorities, said a centrally appointed body could be a step back. 'We do have some consultative input into financing of the force; a non-elected body could simply become another barrier to elected representatives.'

Although publicly the Metropolitan Police supports the status quo, a growing number of senior officers consider a police authority is vital to maintaining public confidence.

Commander Alec Marnoch, now retired, former head of the Plus Programme of internal reforms, said yesterday: 'The existing borough consultative committees form the best basis for a London police authority.'