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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Tories unveil police reform plan
Conservatives have suggested a national force be set up
Police would become more accountable to communities, with residents having the right to summon senior officers to meetings, under Conservative plans.

Other suggestions in the party's policy review include setting up a National Crime Force to deal with serious crime, and also having elected commissioners.

Tory leader David Cameron said forces must be "accountable to local people".

The plans were unveiled as Labour and the Lib Dems both focus their English local election campaigns on crime.

The Conservatives are publishing a consultation paper which includes pay, training and hierarchy.

It suggests that the 43 police forces in England and Wales must either co-operate more on serious crime or a national serious crime force should be established.

People want to see officers on the streets and at the moment they're spending more time doing paperwork than on the streets and that's unacceptable
Nick Herbert
Conservative police reform spokesman

They want the public to have the right to discuss crime with their police officers at regular US-style "beat meetings".

They also want stronger local accountability, with directly elected police commissioners to replace police authorities.

The elected commissioners would control budgets, target setting and policing plans, while chief constables would be in "operational control" of their force.

'Drive up performance'

Mr Cameron said: "We are not talking about merging police forces but making them more accountable to local people."

Asked whether the proposals in the review would become official party policy, he replied: "I think people are fed up of a government which produces policies just for newspaper headlines....

"I'm absolutely determined we are going to take this steadily throughout and get it right."

Tory police reform spokesman Nick Herbert said: "People don't feel they're getting value for money... people want to see officers on the streets and at the moment they're spending more time doing paperwork than on the streets and that's unacceptable."

He said increasing the accountability of the police was important, as was the need to "drive up performance" of the police by modernising work practices.

"We need to recognise that policing has changed and society has changed and we need a differently shaped workforce to respond to today's needs."

On serious crime, Mr Herbert said one option was to establish a national serious crime force.

"We're either saying that the 43 forces must co-operate much more, that the fiefdoms must come down, the forces should share services both to save money and to enable better action to deal with serious crime and incidents that cross their borders," Mr Herbert said.

"Or there should be a national force. The advantage of a national force would be that police forces can then focus on the local issues and respond to local concerns much more."

Staff training

The report says police are being thwarted from doing their job properly by a combination of "excessive bureaucracy and central intervention, an inflexible workforce, inefficient processes and political correctness".

It calls for more graduate recruits as well as professionals from outside the force, a new military-style senior staff college and a revamped promotion system.

Performance-related pay and a cut in the 243 million bill for the 8,000 officers at present on full pay for restricted duties, is also suggested.

The interim 250-page report from the police reform taskforce will not necessarily become party policy, but Mr Herbert did say it "contained some very serious proposals" for consultation.


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