Police, fire and crime panels: independent member recruitment … – GOV.UK

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Updated 23 January 2023

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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-and-crime-panels/police-fire-and-crime-panels-independent-member-recruitment-guidance
Police, Fire and Crime Panels (hereafter referred to as ‘panels’) are an integral part of the local policing governance landscape and, where applicable, the fire governance landscape in England and Wales.
The role and functions of panels are defined by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (the 2011 Act), in particular, sections 28 to 30 and Schedules 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8. In each force area, they play a vital role in scrutinising the actions and decisions of the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC), or Combined Authority Mayor with PCC functions. The Metropolitan Police and City of London Police are subject to separate arrangements.
Panels provide a crucial element of transparency to the public, hosting meetings publicly where possible, whilst ensuring that appropriate information is available to enable the local electorate to hold their PCC or PFCC to account.
All 41 panels across England and Wales, who have either a PCC, PFCC or a Combined Authority Mayor with PCC functions, are required to have a minimum of two independent members who sit alongside elected local authority members. Independent members bring a unique set of expertise, ensuring that the necessary skills and knowledge are available for a panel to discharge its scrutiny function effectively.
This recruitment pack has been produced for panel chairs, members and supporting officers, and other officers from relevant local authorities who work regularly with panels. It is designed to support and add value to the recruitment process for independent panel members.
Panels are obliged to carry out periodical recruitment exercises for independent members. This need can arise for a variety of reasons, such as when serving members voluntarily step down. Alternatively, panels may wish to recruit additional independent members when exercising their duty to meet the “balanced appointment objective” more effectively, providing agreement has first been sought from the Secretary of State.
In July 2020 a 2-part, internal PCC review was announced by the Home Office, to deliver on the government’s manifesto commitment to strengthen and expand the role of PCCs. Through the review, the Home Office found that panels can encounter challenges in attracting, recruiting and retaining suitably qualified candidates.
A further survey of panels carried out by the Home Office in October 2022 indicated that access to pre-existing resources would make recruiting independent members easier. Through the publication of this recruitment pack, the Home Office intends to support panels to perform recruitment processes more effectively, whilst simultaneously providing material to help boost public interest in the role of independent members.
The Home Office would also like to thank panel chairs, members and supporting officers for their ongoing contribution to the vital work of panels in England and Wales.
The 2-part, internal PCC review was announced in July 2020, to deliver on the government’s manifesto commitment to strengthen and expand the role of PCCs.
Recommendations from Part One of the review were announced on 16 March 2021, delivering a package of reforms to sharpen the accountability, visibility, and transparency of PCCs. Recommendations from Part Two of the Review were announced on 7 March 2022, recommending measures to ensure that PCCs have the tools and levers they need to cut crime in their local areas, as well as building on accountability measures recommended in Part One.
The review concluded that panels have the appropriate powers to effectively scrutinise the actions and decisions of PCCs and enable the public to hold PCCs to account. However, improvements could be made to the quality and consistency of the scrutiny undertaken by panels. The recommendations arising from Part One of the review therefore took steps to improve panels’ understanding of their role and the application of their existing powers, to make their scrutiny function more effective.
As a result, the Home Office published new central guidance for panels in May 2022, alongside 3 supplementary quick reference guides.
During Part Two of the review, the evidence gathered pointed towards the importance of independent panel members. It was found that independent members broaden the skills, experience and diversity of panels and provide a different perspective. Additionally, further evidence highlighted how independent members provide the continuity and corporate memory necessary for panels to function most effectively, whilst mitigating against the more regular churn of elected panel members.
That is why, through the recommendations arising from Part Two of the PCC review, the Home Office committed to working alongside the Local Government Association (LGA) to improve the recruitment and retention of independent members. The publication of this recruitment pack delivers on that commitment.
The aim of this and the following section is to provide panels with a template Role Description and Person Specification to use at their discretion in the future recruitment of independent members.
Independent members are full voting members of the panel. They are treated equally to the elected local authority members and have the same responsibilities and duties. Independent members will have access to the same level of support and information as elected members on the panel.
The core role of independent members on a panel, as with all members, is to act as a critical friend to the PCC, offering a balance of support and constructive challenge, using appropriate data, evidence and resources. Independent members will be expected to:
Additionally, independent members will be expected to:
Coming from a policing or fire (where relevant) background is not a requirement for being an independent member on a panel. There are many different sectors which provide prospective candidates with useful skills to be an effective independent member, and current and past independent members have come from a wide range of backgrounds.
The following suggestions regarding the ideal skills, knowledge and experience of independent members are not exhaustive. You may have particular expertise in one area only, or potentially a different background which nonetheless would make you a strong candidate. It is advised that candidates should meet at least one of the criteria listed below to perform the independent member role effectively.
These FAQs are aimed at prospective applicants for a vacant independent member post. They provide potential motivation for applying to the role, an insight into what the day-to-day role is like, as well as information on the application process. A panel may wish to include these FAQs in future recruitment rounds.
As an independent member of the panel, you would play a key role in providing transparency and accountability for the public on the activities of the PCC. It is an important and challenging role which offers you the chance to review the key strategic actions and decisions taken by the PCC.
This will include scrutinising whether the PCC has achieved the objectives set out in their Police and Crime Plan, and reviewing the PCC’s annual report, whilst regularly contributing to reports and recommendations made by the panel.
The Panel also plays an integral statutory role in reviewing the PCC’s annual proposed precept, resolving non-criminal complaints about the conduct of the PCC, and reviewing the proposed appointment of senior staff.
Independent members have full voting rights and are encouraged to get involved in all areas of the panel’s work.
The commitment required from an independent member will depend on the work programme approved by the panel, but typically might average 1 day a month, including preparation time.
Whether you receive payment is for your local panel to decide. However, your expenses, such as mileage or transport to get to panel meetings, should be covered. Some panels choose to pay their independent members a discretionary allowance on top of their expenses, but that would be a decision for your local panel.
Your length of service is for your local panel to decide. Research conducted by the Home Office found that the average panel mandated a term of 4 years for their independent members.
It is recommended that panels impose a 2-term limit for their independent members. This is to ensure that the panel brings in fresh ideas and experience on a semi-regular basis. Taking this together with the average length of service, an independent member could be on the panel for up to 8 years if they decide to serve 2 terms.
You must be at least 18 years old and live or work within the local force area.
The following may not be an independent member on the panel:
Home Office research has found that many panels offer their independent members comprehensive training, including an induction when they start. Research found that independent members were offered the same opportunities as elected members.
Some panels even offer their independent members a bespoke development pathway during their tenure, with opportunities to attend conferences and workshops.
The application process is for your local panel to decide but it will generally involve a short application form for the interested applicant to fill out, detailing how they fulfil the person specification.
Successful applicants will then be invited to an interview. Interview panels are usually conducted by a recruitment sub-committee of a panel, normally made up of 2 or 3 people, often panel members and panel supporting officers who have been tasked with the recruitment campaign.
The interview panel will decide a fair process for scoring candidates before the interviews take place. This scoring process will be applied to each candidate during the interview and the highest scoring candidate will be offered the role.
This section is aimed at panel supporting officers who have the responsibility of running a recruitment campaign for an independent member.
Home Office research found that panels struggle to get a significant number of applicants when trying to recruit an independent member. It is critical to the success of the panel that a diverse range of candidates apply for the role, as this ensures that panels can recruit exemplary members who bring a diversity of skills and experience.
Successful recruitment campaigns incorporate a variety of methods to advertise the role, to reach as many potential candidates as possible. Home Office research found that the below methods were useful for panels when conducting recent campaigns:
Using a combination of the above methods would be the best approach.
If possible, it is advised to work with your local authority’s marketing or public engagement team to create a visually compelling job advert, alongside core lines about the role. This advert and the core lines can then be shared with representatives from the above examples, making it easier for your partners and contacts to advertise the role.
Putting in as much effort as possible can reap rewards in recruitment, as the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel found when they sent out letters to over 100 organisations and individuals who had engaged with the panel through their scrutiny work or registered an interest in the role and directed them towards the available opportunity. A method such as this ensures a diverse range of candidates apply to the role.
Social media is a vital tool in a recruitment campaign. It is the most likely place where candidates will see your job advert. Indeed, many panels are increasingly making use of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for recruitment purposes.
This section provides top tips for a range of these social media platforms. It is important to note that each site is different and will therefore require a tailored approach. Making use of a combination of platforms is necessary to reach a diverse audience. However, if your experience of using social media for recruitment is limited, you may wish to start out with one site to grow your confidence, before branching out to using multiple platforms simultaneously.
Twitter is a microblogging site where users can post Tweets to their followers. It is best to have an open rather than private account so that your tweets can be seen beyond your followers. Tweets have a 280-character limit so it may be necessary to create threads of Tweets to reveal necessary information.
1. Use hashtags such as #vacancy or #opportunity on your job adverts as this will ensure it appears in searches. Hashtag your location to make it easier for people looking for roles in your area.
2. Add a call to action to your job adverts such as “apply today”, and link directly to the role available rather than a general careers page.
3. Use short videos and images to make your advert eye-catching.
Facebook is a social networking service primarily focused on posts from its users. It is best to create a specific page for your panel and make sure this is set to public so anyone can view it.
1. Although Facebook does not have a character limit like Twitter, it is still important to ensure that your advert is written in an engaging way. Use short sentences and paragraphs, as well as images and short videos.
2. While there is a cost, Facebook allows posts to be advertised and targeted. It may be worth paying for this feature to extend the reach of your candidate search.
3. Share your advert in relevant Facebook groups. These could be local community groups, groups based around certain professions or career focused groups.
LinkedIn is an employment focused online social platform. It has similarities to Facebook with its use of posts, but also has unique features like a user’s profile acting as an online CV for recruiters to see.
1. Similarly to Facebook, LinkedIn has groups you can join to promote your role. There are groups themed around industries and skillsets so there should be plenty to join which align well with skills required for an independent member.
2. You can actively search for candidates among LinkedIn members by searching on keywords for people with the required skills/qualifications listed in their LinkedIn profile. You can then send a message to potential candidates directly.
3. Again, much like Facebook, you can make use of paid-for advertising. With LinkedIn Ads, you can target a specific audience by job title and function, industry and company size, seniority and LinkedIn groups.
Finally, it is recommended that panels build relationships with their PCC and the Office of the PCC and ask them to share recruitment posts on their social media, given they often have a wide reach.
To complement this recruitment pack, the Home Office has separately published a new digital learning resource recorded by a serving independent panel member.
The Home Office is grateful to Sheila Murphy from the Essex Police, Fire and Crime Panel for sharing her experience of the role, responsibilities and behaviours required to perform the independent member role effectively.
You can find the video on the Home Office YouTube channel.
Panel supporting officers are welcome to use this link in their own recruitment packs.
The 2011 Act requires that the members of a panel reflect the political make-up of the local authorities covered by the panel’s force area, represent all parts of the relevant police force area, and possess the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary for the panel to discharge its functions effectively, so far as is reasonably practicable.
There is a duty placed upon panels to decide, from time to time, whether increasing the number of co-opted local authority or independent members would enable the balanced appointment objective to be met more effectively.
Panels are therefore required to regularly review their membership and, if necessary, utilise their ability to co-opt additional independent members, to either adjust or maintain the skills, knowledge and experience brought to the panel.
Given the additional responsibility of Police, Fire and Crime Panels for scrutiny of their Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, the Home Office requires those panels to ensure they include the necessary expertise on fire and rescue services, in accordance with the “fire and rescue expertise objective” of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This could be achieved by exercising the ability to co-opt additional independent members, alongside additional learning and development for existing members.
When seeking to increase its number of co-opted members, a panel must first seek agreement from the Secretary of State and provide notification of how an increase in membership would further the balanced appointment objective. More information on this, including the co-option form, can be found in the Police and Crime Panel Guidance.
Prior to undertaking a recruitment exercise for additional members, it is good practice for a panel supporting officer to undertake a skills audit.
This will help to identify strengths and gaps around skills, knowledge, and experience, and understand where further expertise is needed to be able to scrutinise the PCC on particular areas of interest.
When preparing recruitment materials for independent members, a panel might find it helpful to clearly set out its expectations in terms of the expertise being sought after, to maximise interest from individuals with relevant knowledge and experience.
When interviewing prospective candidates for independent member roles, it is important to explore the applicant’s motivations, experience and understanding of the role. A panel should expect any applicant to demonstrate how they would improve and add value to the scrutiny process.
For the purposes of the interview, members of the interview panel may wish to keep the questions general, whilst adapting them to each candidate’s competencies and experience. Some examples are provided below.
A thorough induction will help independent members get up to speed with their role and carry out their responsibilities effectively. It is important that new members are supported to prepare for and ask relevant questions at panel meetings.
The panel supporting officer should help to identify any immediate or ongoing training needs as part of the induction. Time should be set aside for new members to engage with relevant learning and development, including how to take advantage of available guidance and learning resources.
A tour or in-person introduction will help new members to quickly build relationships with the panel chair and members. Panel members tend to operate more effectively when they invest time and energy in establishing a rapport with the PCC and the Office of the PCC, so consider making introductions with a wider group of key stakeholders as part of the induction process.
A strong organisational structure that supports scrutiny work is important for panels. It is important that both elected and independent members create an environment conducive to effective scrutiny.
Through the evidence gathered for the PCC review, it was clear that PCCs recognised the role of the Panel as critical friends, and welcomed the value that scrutiny, support and challenge can bring.
Given that scrutiny of the PCC’s annual report and Police and Crime Plan sits at the heart of a panel’s role, it is therefore vital that panels are cognisant of the role and responsibilities of PCCs, to determine what effective evaluation looks like.
Panels should ensure early and regular discussion takes place with the Office of the PCC, especially regarding forward agenda items for discussion at panel meetings. Both parties should enjoy a collaborative relationship.
At all times, panel members should bear in mind that adopting an independent mindset is fundamental to carrying out their scrutiny role effectively.
Inevitably, some elected panel members will come from the same political party as the PCC who they are scrutinising. However, all members of the panel are expected to perform their scrutiny duties independently, objectively and in the public interest, in accordance with the Nolan Principles of public life.
It is recommended that panels impose a two-term limit for their independent members. This is to ensure that fresh ideas, perspectives and experience are injected into the panel on a semi-regular basis.
While it is appreciated that historic difficulties with recruitment have made term limits less desirable, it is expected that this pack will improve and streamline the recruitment process for panels. In doing so, panels will be better equipped to recruit and become less reliant on retaining existing independent members for multiple terms.
As highlighted above (see page 13), it can be useful for panels to periodically conduct a skills audit to identify any gaps around skills, knowledge and experience. Having term limits ensures there is always an upcoming opportunity to enact the recommendations from a skills audit and thus strengthen the performance of the panel.
All panels should offer departing independent members an exit interview. This is to assess the outgoing independent member’s overall experience of their time on the panel. These interviews can identify areas of improvement and ensure future panel members receive more holistic support.
Exit interviews do not need to be long and can be conducted virtually. For example, it could take the format of a video call between the panel supporting officer and the independent member. Example questions which could be asked include:
This pack was produced by the Home Office with thanks to engagement from key stakeholders via a survey and interviews, as well as utilising the materials listed in the ‘further resources’ section below.
A survey was sent out to the supporting officers of all 41 panels, seeking their experiences in terms of recruitment and retention of independent members. 30 panels out of the 41 responded to the survey, meaning a response rate of 73.2%.
Numerous interviews with stakeholders took place to inform this work, as listed below. It should also be noted that ad hoc calls and email communications took place with several other panels. These engagements were supplemented by discussions with Home Office Policy Officials and HR colleagues.
Below is a list of the materials reviewed to create this recruitment pack, and suggested further reading:
For further advice, guidance or information on the content of this recruitment pack, please contact PCC Partners enquiries.
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