New Year is always a great time to start afresh. Last week, I launched my Police and Crime Prevention Plan, which will dictate the Constabulary’s priorities over the next few years.

It has taken me eight months to craft this plan, based on my campaign manifesto and melded with all I have learnt since my election.  Crime and public safety is a complex and ever changing world!

My plan is all about creating safer and more empowered communities, strengthening our constabulary, focusing more on the causes of crime and looking after its many victims – many of whom who are too frightened to speak out – and makes tackling Violence Against Women and Girls one of my six priorities.

My Plan is accompanied by my budget, which is still out for public consultation, and will be finalised early next month. When I assumed this appointment as your Commissioner, I was disappointed to inherit a ‘challenging’ budget, with an in-year overspend of almost £2m, predicted to create a £10m hole over the next three years.  IT had suffered from under investment, forcing me to spend £2.4m at short notice to shore up our systems.

My predecessor’s building programme of some £30m had also depleted our reserves and in some cases provided poor value for money, money that might more usefully have been spent fighting crime. That was one of the main reasons the Constabulary received a very critical report from HM Inspectorate, so on top of getting to grips with an overheating budget, I had to find the headroom to invest in the Force Control Room and improve crime data recording.  This will inevitably all mean it takes longer to increase officer and staff numbers and strengthen our Constabulary.

Although the budget is under severe pressure, I still plan to grow the force by over 390 personnel, using a combination of volunteer and full time staff.  I am also determined to keep spending on our Community Fund, as facilitating stronger communities is one of my core principles and should help reduce the crime we face on a daily basis. This fund was also launched last week, offering grants of up to £5,000 a year, for up to two years, for projects that help to reduce crime.  The deadline to apply is 16 February.

All in all, a busy start to my year but one which I hope will lead to safer communities.