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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK
Analysis: Control of policing

By Mark Easton
BBC News home editor

David Blunkett
The High Court ruled Mr Blunkett was entitled to force suspension
David Blunkett was once asked about the relative powers of chief constables, police authorities and the home secretary.

He said the chief constable gets all the power, the police authority gets all the money and the home secretary gets all the blame.

There is perhaps some truth in that.

After all, until a month ago he could get pilloried in parliament for, as in this case, the effectiveness of a national child safety register and yet do little or nothing about a chief constable whose local failings were causing national problems.

Since 1 June he has given himself these new powers which mean that he can effectively force the suspension, and ultimately the removal, of a chief constable, but only if recognised failings are causing national problems.

Tension

David Westwood
Mr Westwood is suspended while an inquiry is carried out
Some people would regard Mr Blunkett as a control freak.

They would point to things like the national police priorities that he signed off on, which affect every police force in England and Wales.

They would point to the police standards unit, which monitors in great detail the work of the hundreds of local crime units and can, on the home secretary's power, intervene in those cases.

But on the other hand, he is also the man who is very active now in trying to introduce more power at street level for neighbourhood representatives to shape local policing.

There is a tension between local democracy and government's need to retain control so that they can step in if things go wrong.




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