Another Police and Crime Commissioner is discredited and another politician responds with a call to ‘sack them all’. To me that seems a pretty knee-jerk reaction as we approach only the second anniversary of the role.
Do we really need more upheaval?
In fairness, the Labour Party opposed PCCs from the word ‘go’. What is new and disappointing is the Liberal Democrats jumping on the bandwagon in the form of their Home Affairs spokesman Julian Huppert and now party leader Nick Clegg.
Although both are part of the coalition that introduced the post, according to Mr. Huppert, PCCs are failing and we need a police watchdog which is more accountable to the public. Yet where is his evidence?
Whether we like it or not, PCCs are now public figures.
My in-tray is bulging. My police and crime plan – the blueprint for policing in Gloucestershire – for the first time ever involves not just the police but criminal justice services, community and voluntary sectors as well. Over 100 local organisations have received grants from the Commissioner’s Fund to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in their local communities because I firmly believe we can all play a part in making our county even better.
Would replacing all that with another anonymous committee be more accountable?
Prior to 2012, Gloucestershire had three chief constables in two years and an array of acting or temporary chief officers. It now has a permanent Chief Constable and chief officer group who have worked closely with my office to bring stability to the head of the force.
Important projects that were dormant under the old Police Authority are now under way.
I also recall, prior to 2012, one of those previous Chief Constables saying the Constabulary’s finances were ‘on a cliff edge’. Although police funding from the Government has fallen in the region of 20% over the last four years, thanks to careful management by my office and the Constabulary, we are now in a sound financial position. Of course the Constabulary must live within its means like everyone else, but rather than clinging on by our fingertips we are well placed to weather the inevitable cuts that we have been told to expect after the next election, irrespective of which party is in power.
I am sure the old Police Authority acted in the Constabulary’s best interests but streamlining the decision-making process has had an immediate impact. After years of delay, a new custody suite is nearing completion; a new investigative base has been secured and the long awaited relocation from Lansdown Road in Cheltenham is underway.
Ill-informed opponents of PCCs who call for greater accountability ignore meetings where I have held the Constabulary to account over finances and its handling of the badger cull that were open to the public through live online webcasts.
I carry no torch for the South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright in light of the Rotherham child abuse scandal but there is a lot of unseen good work being carried out by many of my other colleagues, so let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater