Worried about our hospitals – hmmmmm…. I think we should be

In the next few days the NHS will be rocked by the publication of the final report into the events at Mid Staffordshire.  The first report concluded that ‘there was an atmosphere in which front line staff and managers were led to believe that if the targets were not met they would be in danger of losing their jobs’. 

Put another and rather more stark and brutal way – killing patients was less likely to be career limiting than missing a target. Many other reports into the NHS have made similar points (in a rather less emotive way) but the time has come to challenge those who run the NHS, who seem to have lost sight of its purpose.  Senior NHS officials turned up to the Mid Staffs Inquiry and tried to tell the Chairman of the Inquiry, Robert Francis QC, that Mid Staffs was a one off.  Other, rather more compelling evidence was given, that whilst its scale may have been one off, other hospitals have problems.  Those of you who know me will be aware that I was Chair of ULHT, our local hospitals trust and resigned over concerns that staff were being put under pressure to meet targets at the expense of safety.  I was vilified by the NHS for so doing but it has an all too familiar ring………

Even more worrying ULHT have spent £0.5m on gagging its former Chief Executive, Gary Walker, who claims he was ousted for refusing to put targets before safety. Under the deal 3,000 pages of documents to support his claims have been locked away from us, the public.  Such secrecy from an organisation supposed to serve us is worrying.  To add insult to injury they used money intended for patient care to fund this cover up.  This does not inspire confidence.  Worse the Trust has relatively high mortality rates as reported by the BBC here based upon research by Dr Foster which can be found here.  In addition a number of FOI’s have not been answered and journalists have complained that serious incident data published by many other hospitals has been denied to them by ULHT.

ULHT may not be on the scale of a Mid Staffs – I think the staff are too good to allow that to happen – but the pressures they are put under, the mortality data and the lack of openness their leaders show is worrying to put it mildly.

Do you want to go to hospitals where its managers may be more focused on the latest target rather than the quality of your care?  I think we should be worried.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

INVESTING IN REDUCING CRIME AND RE-OFFENDING

During my campaign, talking to people in Lincolnshire, some common themes emerge.  Lincolnshire has some of the highest levels of criminal damage and disorderly behaviour of any shire county.  The public have real frustration with low-level antisocial behaviour and there is real anger that the courts seem so powerless to deal decisively with repeat offenders who are released into the community to offend again.  There is a real deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the way that our politicians have over the last 30 years allowed our whole criminal justice system to fall into such disrepute.

Whilst it is a normal human reaction to call for tougher sanctions (and they are more than justified) we should of course also focus on helping prevent crime in the first instance and so reduce the number of victims of crime.  many of the things we can do to reduce crime and re-offending are in the hand of other agencies such as the NHS or Social Services.

I have commented upon this issue before and my manifesto has links setting out more details of my approach which includes the following:

The Young and Young Adults

Evidence shows that if by the time an individual has reached the age of 18 they have not already embarked on a life of crime, then they are unlikely to become a serious repeat offender.  It is inevitable therefore that the focus on trying to reduce crime in the first place should be on working with the young.

A starting point is to actually help troubled families and seek to ensure that they can instil effective values within their family unit and discourage their young from antisocial, disruptive or even criminal behaviour.  Where this intervention and support fails there are a series of sanctions that can be used against parents who allow their children to create concern and anxiety in their neighbourhoods.  I will encourage the swift and decisive use of these powers against problem families who have not taken the advantage of appropriate support.

There are organisations like Positive Futures which can help the young move away from antisocial and criminal behaviour and lead more fulfilled lives.  I would encourage other partners to maintain such services in spite of reductions in expenditure.

Lincolnshire is lucky in having a good and highly regarded Youth Offending Team.  Again this needs to be supported and where possible developed and enhanced to reduce crime in the first instance.

Other agencies and organisations including schools and social services also have a role to play.  The recent decision of the police not to visit schools is regrettable because it is essential that we build mutual trust and respect between the young and our police force.  I would wish to reinstate those visits.

In the early stages of unacceptable behaviour such as petty vandalism, schemes such as the Restorative Justice where, with the consent of the victim, apologies are given and restitution carried out, can help prevent the young getting a criminal record for that offence and discourage further offences.

Drugs and Alcohol

These are two of the main reasons for offending and anti social behaviour.

Drug intervention strategies and education along with early access to rehabilitation services are essential.  Likewise discouraging excessive use of alcohol and educating those at risk about its dangers must be part of any integrated approach to reducing crime.

Lincolnshire has relatively low funding for both of these and during the period of austerity it is important that the current budgets are protected and preferably enhanced.

Repeat Offenders

When early intervention has failed and serious offending arises then there are programs such as Integrated Offender Management which can help turn repeat offenders into valuable members of the community.

Strategies such as police targeting repeat offenders, which is very intensive of use of police time, can have dramatic albeit not sustained reduction in some crimes, such as burglary.

To reduce reoffending is not sensible to send a drug addict to a drug riddled prison.  An addict who goes in for acquisitive crime and comes out an addict will revert to acquisitive crime.  We must challenge the effectiveness of the judicial and prison system in these areas.

Mental Health

There is the troubling issue of mental health.  Lincolnshire traditionally has invested relatively little in mental health and all too often those with mental health issues get caught up in the criminal justice system.  Not only is this bad for them but it also deflects the police from one of their core purposes, which is enforcement of the law.

Detection and Deterrence

A significant way by which crime can be reduced is by have high detection rates and strong deterrence.  We must have real and effective sanctions for those repeat offenders who make the lives of others a misery.  At the moment over 50% of tagging orders are breached and over 25% of community sentences are not completed.  Whilst there is contempt for the police, the courts and their sanctions there will continue to be contempt for ones neighbours.  The first part of my policy is that if you receive a sanction from the courts or the police you WILL comply and if you do not there WILL be genuine consequences.  It has been said that certainty and swiftness of sanctions is more critical than the severity; we need to change our soft and slow approach.

There is some compelling evidence that many of the above initiatives can help reduce crime and reduce instances of reoffending.  Where that evidence supports the programs or indeed points to the need for other programs then it is essential that the Commissioner, either directly through the force or through working with other agencies, ensures that such programs are developed and enhanced.

But these are tough times.  Many of the lead agencies on the initiatives above (local government and the NHS) are having their budgets cut.  We all need to work smarter and use public funds better.  It would be so easy to cut spending in these areas but if we do we may all pay in the longer term….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Re-energising our approach to Anti-Social Behaviour

When I have met with voters antisocial behaviour and failing to tackle it effectively is one of the biggest issues raised.  People seem to have different understandings or definitions of ASB; some regard vandalism as ASB when of course it is criminal.  Common parlance is such that many of the public now refer to low level petty crime and unacceptable (non criminal) behaviour as ASB.

Criminal or not they want it fixed.

We will not make a step change in resolving ASB by only tackling its causes.  We must also have real and effective sanctions for those repeat offenders who make the lives of others a misery.  At the moment over 50% of tagging orders are breached and over 25% of community sentences are not completed.  Whilst there is contempt for the police, the courts and their sanctions there will continue to be contempt for ones neighbours.  The first part of my policy is that if you receive a sanction from the courts or the police you WILL comply and if you do not there WILL be genuine consequences.  It has been said that certainty and swiftness of sanctions is more critical than the severity; we need to change our soft and slow approach.

There are however some developments in government policy which I wholeheartedly support.  For example: putting in place steps to prevent vulnerable people, repeatedly targeted by vandals and hooligans, being overlooked as they have been in the past.  I also agree with the proposed ‘community trigger’ where residents can come together and demand that public authorities act against anti-social behaviour.  It is a sad reflection on society that we have got to such a point that a community trigger is needed; but do something we must, to avoid vigilantes gathering and taking matters into their own hands.

These are small steps and I believe there is much more that could be done.  There are three areas not fully under the control of the police where I would seek urgent action:

  • Greater control of street drinking.  Current legislation is aimed at allowing the police to remove alcohol rather than outright bans.  I want local authorities to have widespread powers to actually ban street drinking.
  • Control of alcohol licenses.  Local authorities must have greater powers to reject applications for alcohol licences and be more forceful in their removal.  I want tougher sanctions against those who breach their licenses and sell to the young or intoxicated.
  • Require Lincolnshire’s NHS to invest more in mental health services and treatment facilities which are generally underfunded.  We need to ensure that those with mental health problems are supported and do not get caught up in ASB or the broader criminal justice system.  There should be financial and legal sanctions against the NHS if it fails to deliver.

There are areas where we need to do more and protect from reductions in expenditure as far as we can.  These include:

Work with vulnerable young people to ensure that they are involved in constructive activities.  Organisations such as Positive Futures can make a real difference and in spite of the pressures on budgets these sorts of organisations should continue to be supported.  Career criminals are often formed by the age of 18.

Help parents and make them more accountable. It is well known that a key element in antisocial behaviour are problem families; parents who refuse to take responsibility for the actions of their children on the one hand and others who struggle with complex issues like drugs.  We must both challenge and support troubled families and ensure that Social Services Departments and others are resourced sufficiently to play their part.  Where help is turned down or is ineffective there must be more prompt and decisive action taken against the parents with much stronger Parenting Orders overseen by the Courts.

Ensure drug and alcohol rehabilitation is effective.  We must do more to make sure that these intervention programs are successful.  We must remember addiction is an illness but only 75% of alcohol abuse programmes are completed and for drug rehabilitation it is even worse at 55%.   And of course drug rehabilitation programmes will always flounder when the suppliers of street drugs are at liberty; the gangs who profit from the vulnerable should targeted if we want to reduce drug related crime.

Support neighbourhood watch and increase investment in community special constables or locally based retained police officers.  These can all have an impact and nip the young shoots of antisocial behaviour in the bud.  I want to create a new type of special constable, a community special constable (or even retained community police officer) and support organisations like NhW to help them grow.

However one of the biggest areas for strengthening is at the non criminal end of ASB where it often requires the involvement of others such as landlords and social services often dealing with problem families who make the lives of others miserable.  From conversations with the public at times that joint working is superb and effective and at other times it is not.  Joint agency working needs to be strengthened to be consistently good and provide fast and rapid responses to issues of concern.  The police do and will need to continue to play a part in that.

Better still we want less crime and fewer victims.  I have published some separate thoughts  on reducing reoffending and the number of victims of crime.

When you vote – why go for the same old failed political parties – we need new ideas, fresh perspectives and a re-energised approach.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

That’s NOT the way to do it

Police morale and motivation is at an all-time low.  I know this not just from media reports but also from direct discussions with many serving officers. Indeed Lord Stevens who is leading a review into the future of policing is on record as saying that a recent survey of 14,000 officers showed that ‘we have a national crisis of morale which threatens to undermine the work our officers are doing’.

It is inevitable that many employees in both the public sector and private sector should be feeling under pressure and undervalued with terms and conditions of employment under threat and even worse the loss of jobs.

However many police officers recall Theresa May on 19 May 2010 when she said at the Police Federation Conference  ‘I will always back you, I will always support you, I will always fight for you’.

This ‘backing’ and ‘support’ was followed by the Winsor Report proposing radical changes to their terms and conditions of employment.  Many serving officers see little correlation between the rhetoric of Theresa May and the reality of the way the Windsor report was produced and the lack of open dialogue and consultation around the proposals within it.

But that’s not all.  I am surprised the current conservative led Police Authority was not more open in its dialogue with all of its staff.  I am also concerned there are suggestions that the way that G4S are handing their planned redundancy programme has caused even more anxiety with slow decision taking and prolonged uncertainty amongst their staff.

I regret that one of my opponents has made some somewhat derogatory and demeaning comments about the police which would not give them an easy start either.  They may not be quite on the scale of the infamous alleged Plebs comment by a certain former Chief Whip but they are nevertheless unhelpful.

Any incoming Commissioner will therefore have a major task in terms of raising the morale and motivation of the workforce.  It would be somewhat easier if you’re not a Conservative.

So what would I do?

I would:-

  • hold early meetings with all key staff representatives to decide how we get effective staff engagement going forward.
  • I would also like to assure myself that within the force (as opposed to the Commissioners Office) there is also an open dialogue with senior management and help the force create a culture where staff feel supported.
  • I would ensure that staff representatives have a place at the top table; with input and involvement in all key decisions, including the budget, which is not to give a right of veto but to build mutual understanding of why decisions are being taken, even if they disagree with them.
  • bring clarity to what we can and cannot do; all too often staff are caught in the middle as the authority has not been clear with the public about the reality of policing in austerity.  We should not be dishonest with our staff and we should not be dishonest with the public.
  • I would want to encourage a national review of the IPCC arrangements for dealing with complaints which seem unduly threatening, time consuming and complex.  The nature of their role means that Police will often have ‘frivolous’ tit for tat complaints against them. We cannot waste huge amounts of police time on such complaints.  The effort should be more proportionate to the complaint.
  • review how G4S are handling staffing issues; staff may have been TUPE transferred but high staff turnover or a demoralised G4S workforce is not good either for the staff concerned, G4S or for the police they are working with and supporting.
  • never behave like a politician – which is to scapegoat the police and play the blame game – we are in it together.
  • fight for a fair share of the national funding cake to help blunt the cuts.

People who have worked with me know that I am not a soft touch.  I will disagree with the Police Federation and other Unions and they will disagree with me but it will always be in the context of mutual respect and above all trust.

I cannot entirely undo the damage the government and others have done but I can seek to rebuild some of that trust and respect necessary at a local level to have an even more committed and dedicated workforce.  We do after all have a shared interest – the best police force we can have for the money available.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conservatives start to line up to criticise idea of politicians as Police Commissioners…..

It is clear that many politicians, from all parties, do not like the idea of Police Commissioners being drawn from their own ranks.  They believe it is essential that that such posts should not become ‘politicised’; however it is equally clear that many of them are reticent to make such comments public.

My hat goes off then to Stephen Bett, the conservative chair of Norfolk Police Authority who on announcing his resignation from the party is quoted as saying ‘I don’t believe that local policing should be entangled with party politics‘.

This follows on from the warnings of Conservative MP, and Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell.  Sir Peter, the MP for Horncastle, Louth and Woodhall Spa, said: “I am not at all keen on the idea of elected police commissioners. I think it will lead to the politicising of police. Of course the way you prevent the politicising of the police is not to vote for a politician for the role.

Now we have Lord Tebbit, former chairman of the Conservative Party, reportedly saying that the role “could go horribly wrong” if the chosen candidate attempted to make a mark politically.

It is so refreshing to have some politicians say what they feel rather than what they have been told to say.  Long may that last – but I fear it won’t.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stopping the rot of antisocial behaviour

picture of 2 youthsAnti-Social Behaviour(ASB) doesn’t sound that bad, does it, sort of “not quite polite” or “not very nice”. It doesn’t sound criminal, indeed some of it is not, or like a real crime, and what’s wrong with going out and having a few on a Saturday night, or playing music a bit loud?  But we know that ASB can and does wreck lives – tragic though it is the recent case of suicide of a Leicestershire woman and her daughter fortunately is a rare and extreme example, but there are thousands of others whose lives are made hell by the actions of others .

The point about ASB is that it is the thin end of the wedge – fundamentally its a lack of respect for oneself, other people and property.  Without these core values society gradually disintegrates – criminality becomes more acceptable, normal even.

Is enough done to tackle ASB?  In the Leicestershire case the victims made 33 calls for help – something wasn’t working.   Turning a blind eye, not taking anti-social behaviour seriously, not trying to instill a sense of respect and decency in offenders is a short cut to disaster – both for the victims of the behaviour and for the exponents: if they are not challenged how do they know it is wrong?  If they have alcohol or drug dependencies how can they get out of them?  If they have mental health issues what support do they get?  We need to do more to tackle ASB – and we need to treat the causes, not just the symptoms.

My policy on ASB has a series of practical measures designed to stop the rot.  Remove some of the causes – toughen up on underage access to alcohol, stop street drinking; provide more support to vulnerable people;  give youths something worthwhile and positive to do; improve community policing.

But there is also a very necessary hard edge.  We have to reverse the contempt that some show for the police, the courts and the sanctions they are given.  Around a quarter of community service orders were not completed and 55% flouted the terms of their tagging conditions.  £60m of fines were written off.  We need zero tolerance for those who flout their non custodial sentences.  If you have a tagging order and a curfew you WILL comply with it.  If you have a community sentence you WILL complete it.  If you do not the consequences should be swift and severe.

Download and read some more detailed views on ASB. I would welcome your comments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Campaign for better funding starts at No.10

David Bowles being interviewed by the BBC outside No10 Downing St

David Bowles being Interviewed by the BBC outside Number 10 Downing St

I have made it clear that Lincolnshire’s police are grossly underfunded so I have started to do something about it. With the support of broadcaster and former Independent MP, Martin Bell I have brought together other Independent candidates from rural police forces elsewhere in England and Wales and am challenging the Government about the way they fund rural police forces like Lincolnshire.  We presented a letter of protest to David Cameron earlier today. A copy of that letter is here. Letter to No10 (pdf format file size 258k)

It is a myth that our grant is low because the crime rates are low; they are not.  Excluding London they are on a par with much of the rest of the country and for burglary and shoplifting one of the highest of all the shire counties and yet we have fewer officers per head of population than any other part of the country. We have 1.65 officers per 1000 population whilst the national average is over 50% higher.  Just look at the south east.  Kent, Herts, Essex, Sussex and Surrey have on average a 6% lower crime rate than Lincolnshire but 18% more police per head of population.  You would think that with all these extra police their council tax would be high.  Not at all, to make matters worse their grants from central government are so high that their council tax is around 25% lower. OUR taxes are paying for their higher policing levels and to add insult to injury keeping their council tax bills down.

I am experienced in public sector finance and have led national negotiating teams which gives me a unique perspective on the issue.  Looking at the way we in Lincolnshire are treated in a complicated formula I have assessed a shortfall of well over £7m p.a; enough for around another 130 police officers with back up and support.

Picture of nearly 130 police officers in a street

This is what nearly 130 Police officers would look like in a street near you.
Police images supplied by http://www.montgomeryestmarketing.co.uk

I know we have to have cuts but we should at least all be starting from a fair position and we are not.

What I have done is bring together other rural areas, which are also poorly funded, such as Dorset, Cumbria and North Wales to lobby and work together. I very much hope to build broad support for action throughout the county as well and hope that politicians from all parties will support the campaign.  Our conservative led police authority has not been able to make progress in this area; we need a different approach of very strong leadership working in the county but also with like minded forces elsewhere. I can and will provide that strong leadership.

Contrast my approach with how the politically led police authority have handled issues of funding.

As I said earlier this week it’s been argued for years the police funding formula doesn’t take into account the increased costs of policing such a large and rural county as Lincolnshire.  So if you were a member of the police authority and the government came along and said ‘we are going to abolish the Police Rural Grant’, one of the few elements of the complex system of finance  designed to help rural areas, you would expect to make a bit of a fuss; especially as the government intended to add this ‘rural focused’ grant into the general grants pot and then re-distribute that grant to all police authorities, rural or not.

I don’t recall any fuss being created by the Lincolnshire Police Authority when this happened.  Perhaps it was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten?  No, the change was in 2011.  Perhaps it was not for a lot of money then?  No, it will lead to a loss of over £1.8m a year equivalent to over 40 officers. It is embarrassing for my conservative opponent in these elections, Richard Davies, that he was a member of the Police Authority at the time.

As well as failing to recognise the costs of providing services in rural areas the current funding arrangements give great weight to urban deprivation and do not reflect rural deprivation, a point of concern over the past 15 years. In Lincolnshire there is a further issue that remains unrecognised and therefore unfunded. There is a high proportion of unregistered population on the coast both in terms of ‘visitors’ to the seaside and the immigrant population that works mostly in our agricultural industries. The result of this is that costs of services go up but council tax income and grants do not.

Martin Bell has told me:

“It would not be in the public interest for our police forces to fall under the control and influence of party politicians.  That is why it is important that so many well-qualified Independents are putting themselves forward as PCC candidates for the elections in November.  It is also encouraging that, as in this initiative on rural policing, they are cooperating with each other.”

So take interest, its your police force – support the campaign and the petition which will be launched soon with our colleagues from other rural areas up and down the country.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Asleep on the watch – mugged to the tune of £1.8m

It is well known that Lincolnshire police are appallingly funded. In fact the worst funded in the country.

It’s a myth this is due to low crime rates; we have average crime rates for a shire county and for some crimes such as burglary very high crime rates.

It’s been argued for years the police funding formula doesn’t take into account the increased costs of policing such a large and rural county as Lincolnshire.  So if you were a member of the police authority and the government came along and said ‘we are going to abolish the Police Rural Grant’, one of the few elements of the complex system of finance  designed to help rural areas, you would expect to make a bit of a fuss; especially as the government intended to add this ‘rural focused’ grant into the general grants pot and then re-distribute that grant to all police authorities, rural or not.

Well I don’t recall any fuss being created by the Lincolnshire Police Authority when this happened.  Perhaps it was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten?  No, the change was in 2011.  Perhaps it was not for a lot of money then?  No, it will lead to a loss of over £1.8m a year equivalent to over 40 officers.

Where was the uproar and outrage from Lincolnshire Police Authority? There wasn’t any. Why? Perhaps if you are a conservative member of the police authority and it is your own government taking the money away you may not want to protest too much and rock the party boat, or perhaps you were asleep on the watch?

Either way it demonstrates how party politicians are not right for this job.  If they won’t make a fuss about this what will they make a fuss about?

One can only guess at the outcome if a politician gets elected into this role.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The myth of low crime in Lincolnshire

Image of burglar

I have said I will focus on two issues, being tougher on crime and sorting out the forces finances.  As I have looked at finance I have been absolutely staggered at how badly our force is funded.  Words like daylight robbery come to mind.

We spend less per head than any other force because our grant from Whitehall is one of the lowest in the country.

Some people seem resigned to this, excusing successive governments saying ‘well we do have low crime rates’. That’s a myth.  Excluding London our crime rates are on a par with much of the rest of the country, higher than the likes of Hertfordshire, Kent, Sussex and Essex. For burglary, shoplifting and sex crimes Lincolnshire has one of the highest crime rates of all the shire counties; and yet we have fewer officers per head of population than any other part of the country. We have 1.65 per 1000 population whilst the national average is over 50% higher. The Countryside Alliance has reported that in 2011-12 there was one police officer for 1037 people in rural areas compared with 581 people in urban areas.

I know we have to have cuts but we should at least all be starting from a fair position and we are not. The government are not looking at each forces starting position and allocating the cuts accordingly, they are simply cutting all forces by the same percentage.  We are being treated the same as better funded forces with lower crime rates.  That’s not right and that’s not fair.

As you get round the county there are many concerns about crime which, when reported, is not even investigated.  It may not all be down to funding but let’s be clear such reports are not surprising if you have the lowest funded and lowest staffed force in the country with pretty average and for some offences high crime rates.

This is one of the reasons I am focusing in on this issue.  Yes we want to be tough on crime but that’s a bit more difficult when the force, already the worst funded in the country, is being cut at the same rate as those better funded forces often with lower crime rates.

So we all need to do something about it.  They would not get away with it in the leafy suburbs of Surrey, where incidentally crime rates are 15% lower and funding 15% higher.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Visible policing against a background of cuts……

Police funding illustrationOn 4th September I launched my campaign with a proposal for a new type of Special Constable, a Community Special Constable, seeking a 3 fold increase in the number of specials.  I asked for feedback and comments on this idea which was part of a broader approach to respond to concerns about visible policing.

So far it’s gone down extremely well.  There are clearly many Special Constables who are young and become a Special to contribute to public service,  improve their experience and CV; some see it as an entry route into the police.  Regardless of how or why they are a Special they do a good and valuable job and need our support.  However there is a lot of support for a form of Community Special Constable who may or may not be  slightly older, who may well put a good few years in to their community as a new breed of Community Special Constable.

The suggestion of Community Special Constables, linked to their communities, assisting with parish council liaison, crime prevention, local anti-social behaviour, working with Neigbourhood and Farm Watch etc has gone down very well.

Some people have commented that they and their friends had thought about establishing some kind of foot patrol for their area to keep an eye on things and clamp down on antisocial behaviour.  Their ideas were not pursued because of concerns about being seen as vigilantes and what they would do if faced with a serious problem, especially given poor mobile phone coverage in parts of the county.  They commented that if there was a community-based Special Constable, they would be quite willing to join them on night patrols round their part of their towns or villages.  Interesting idea.

Others commented about forming ‘special’ Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) in other words voluntary unpaid PCSO’s.  One of the advantages of PCSO is that even though they do not have the power of arrest a Special Constable has, that would be compensated by the fact that they could be recruited more quickly, because of different training requirements, but they would have access to the police communication system and backup.  Again another interesting idea and one which if I am elected I will look at very closely.

As part of the approach to responding to visible policing I want to encourage the Neighbourhood Watch movement throughout the county along with Farm Watch and Business Watch. These groups with modest funding and support already achieve significant benefits.  As Police Commissioner I would be able to assist them grow and develop by way of grants and other support and that will be an urgent priority.

Any candidate who says that they will solve the problem of visible policing, particularly against a background of cuts, is misleading the public.  Will these ideas produce visible policing? No, but it is a first step and what they do is engage with the community more effectively and that is what we need to do.  For example what comes through loud and clear is that there are many elderly people in our communities who have a real and genuine fear and concern about crime to a point that it impacts upon their quality of life.  Supportive Neighbourhood Watch and Community Special Constables or PCSOs could help give the elderly more confidence and assurance within their local communities.

But of course one of the great issues which comes through is that concerns expressed by the public are not solely about ‘visible policing’ in the literal sense but also about minor and petty crime and the failure to even investigate them.  A key reason for this is that police are too tied up in red tape and our courts badly let us and our police down.  Serving police officers tell me of wasted time on paperwork and that in dealing with repeat offenders they have lots of carrots but no stick. I applaud the government for making a start on reducing the paperwork but deplore their failure to tackle the issue of repeat offenders. If we can start to tackle both then police time can be freed up for other important activities including deterring crime in the first place.

Please keep giving me feedback.  I believe that we can only have a truly effective police force if it works well with, and has the support of, its local communities.  Other ideas on how we can build those links would be welcome.

Remember I’m a truly independent candidate; I want to listen to you, I want to hear about  your concerns.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment