Letter: Totalitarian step towards a national police force

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article ('Policing the police', 18 January) displays alarming lack of knowledge, inconsistency and, above all, a disregard for democracy.

You rightly say that successive Conservative governments have caused disquiet by undermining the authority of local government and by creating a large number of undemocratic quangos. Having admirably stated the principle, you then proceed to support the replacement of local authorities as police authorities by quangos appointed by the Home Secretary.

Elected members of police authorities provide a vital public forum in which local policing can be debated. This is crucial in sensitive issues such as the miners' strike and the Toxteth riots. Councillors are a channel of support from the community and a link with other local government services that interact with the police.

The present financing system has been properly criticised by the Audit Commission. The local authority associations unreservedly support the reforms proposed by the Audit Commission. These would remove the obstacles to efficiency that prevent the effective use of resources. The Audit Commission did not propose that police should be funded entirely by central government.

A combination of 100 per cent central government funding and police boards appointed by the Home Secretary would destroy the accountability of chief constables to their local communities and represent a totalitarian step towards a national police force. Any newspaper that purports to support democracy should oppose proposals to replace councillors by ministerially selected businessmen who would assume a decision-taking role in which they would operate in a manner entirely unaccountable to the local community.

Yours sincerely,

JEREMY BEECHAM

Chairman

Association of Metropolitan Authorities

London, SW1

18 January

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