Police changes 'will do nothing to stop crime': Terry Kirby reports on a rising tide of opposition to government proposals

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GOVERNMENT PLANS to reform police authorities were condemned yesterday for doing nothing to halt the rise in crime and for centralising power over the police.

The protests from local authority leaders over the Home Office's White Paper follow the rejection by all ranks within the police of the Sheehy report on their pay and responsibilities.

Yesterday, leaders of 40 of the 43 police authorities in England and Wales attended a joint conference in London designed to vent their anger at the plans, which would allow home secretaries to appoint the chairmen and half the members of police authorities.

The White Paper also proposes to reduce the size of authorities by about half, to 16 members, give chief constables greater powers over their budget and make authorities responsible for local policing plans and performance indicators.

Tony Blair, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said the planned reforms were absurd, and, taken together, marked a shift towards centralisation. The debate on the White Paper, the Sheehy report and the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice must focus on their impact on fighting crime, he said.

Stephen Murphy, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Committee and chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, said the proposals would give chief constables too much control over how their budgets were spent, allowing the Home Office to control expenditure through their appointees. 'It takes accountability away from the elected representatives. We intend to make the public aware of what is being done to reduce local accountability.'