As a shortlisted candidate for the Kent PCC Conservative nomination, I look forward to receiving and answering questions from residents across Kent about my approach and focus if selected as the Prospective Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate on November 21st. Here are the first questions I have received:
1.What are your 5 key priorities for Kent Police for 2016/2017 ?
As Police & Crime Commissioner my role would be to challenge the Chief Constable on how effectively Kent Police are delivering the priorities of Kent residents – which are reflected in Community Safety Partnership priorities – adequate community policing, tackling anti social behaviour, domestic abuse, substance misuse, road safety and rural crime, as well as education protecting our children and the vulnerable against cyber crime, and specialist support for victims and reducing reoffending.
2.How do you view the ongoing cuts in the policing budget ? Are they too much ? Will further cuts of 25% -40% be acceptable in the next spending review .
As a former Conservative councillor in Thanet, I have experienced first hand the impact of major cuts to local government budgets for many years and also the transformational work which has happened as a direct result. It has led to more effective working practices, and the best councils have improved their services whilst saving their residents money. The PCC role was created to be a catalyst for similar changes in the Police Service, where working and employment practices and have remained unreformed for decades. Our government was elected in a time of austerity to restore the health of the country’s finances, and that means tough decisions which we have to work with: as a Conservative I believe this is the right thing to do, as Kent PCC I will fight for extra funding to deliver innovation and for specific priorities or circumstances where a credible business case can be made.
The budget for 2016/17 will have been allocated prior to the election of the PCC, so the first months will provide an opportunity for forensic analysis of value for money and opportunities for further back office efficiencies. I will also be looking at discretionary funding and evidence of results for residents.
I understand the expectation is that further cuts may be around 23%, which will clearly make it difficult to maintain current staffing levels when over 80% of the total budget is for staff costs. As the funding formula is also being altered, it will be important to understand what the absolute bottom line is for Kent Police to have the operational capacity to deliver effective policing in Kent, and as PCC this is the most important ongoing conversation I will have with the Chief Constable.
3.How will you make representation to Government about Policing budgets ?
In order to champion Policing budgets I will need the Chief Constable to make the business case for minimum levels of funding below which Kent Policing effectiveness is at risk. Once I am convinced of that business case I will lobby ministers and work closely with our 17 local Members of Parliament to ensure Kent’s case is made across government departments. I do believe that as the gateway to Britain, Kent has specific challenges which mean a higher cost of policing.
4.How will you retain your independence in challenging the Chief Constable and building a truly independent challenging PCC team ?
As a candidate with a business and community background rather than a career in the police, I will not be conflicted in my focus and loyalty – which is to the people of Kent. I will build a strong team with a range of professional competences and with a clear commitment to a reform agenda. I believe the public needs to have confidence in the competence and independence of the office of the PCC . Ann Barnes has damaged public confidence in the PCC and, because of the closeness of her relationship with Kent Police, many say that the reputation of Kent Police has been damaged, too. The current PCC office appears to be (both physically and in its online identity and branding) a department within Kent Police. Mrs Barnes was the former chairman of the internally focussed Police Authority so she has failed to make the transition to become an outward facing, independent and challenging PCC. I would rebrand the PCC’s office so that when residents contact me, the email address is not a police email. I would also look at the possible relocation of the PCC’s office, subject to cost and identifying a suitable alternative location.
5.Do you agree to maintain PCSO’s numbers and frontline Police numbers vital to our Communities over the next 4 years .If not how will you approach front line policing ?
I believe that PCSOs are a vital element of our local policing model and are welcomed and valued by local communities – especially rural villages where they provide a vital lifeline. I will fight to maintain PCSO numbers and grow the number of Specials to increase grassroots engagement, improve community safety and grow the pipeline for future recruitment. The numbers of warranted officers on the beat and in specialist units needs to be aligned to ongoing reforms. That said, operational decisions are the responsibility of the Chief Constable, and the role of the PCC is to hold him to account on behalf of the community.
6.How will you specifically address urban v rural priorities ?
The geography of the county of Kent with its mix of urban, rural and coastal communities presents a complex challenge for policing. That said, the top priorities of all 13 Community Safety Partnerships are almost identical, and many of the agencies involved in those partnerships have county wide remits. Many of the priorities are the same in urban,rural and coastal communities. Models of engagement with communities via parish councils, local town and district councils and the local partners in the Community Safety Partnerships are also the same. However, I know there is concern in rural areas that visible policing is reducing with the police becoming more reactive and that the increased use of predictive policing means crime hotspots are the main focus of activity. I will look at the evidence on this.