Over the past weeks, as I continue my tour of the county with the Chief Constable, I have had time to reflect on how this new role of Police and Crime Commissioner is being judged by the people of Suffolk.
I can hardly believe I am now nearly halfway through my first term of office.
One very important aspect of the commissioner’s role is to make sure I am available to the public as much as possible and I believe that is about me making the effort to go and see the public rather than the other way round. Over the summer months the Chief Constable, Douglas Paxton, and I will be touring the county on a series of road shows. There is one planned in each of the districts and boroughs in Suffolk. We have had one in Eye, there was one in Lowestoft on Friday and the next one is in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday, August 6. We’ll be at the entrance to the arc shopping centre between 11am and 2pm and would encourage you to come and ask questions and raise concerns; I will be pleased to discuss any matter that arises.
So far these events have been very successful and they are extremely important to me. The direct feedback from yourselves helps shape policing in the county. The dead hand of government-driven targets has been scrapped and I think we are seeing the benefit of the democratic mandate and local influence accordingly. I believe it is a very positive step forward that as a county we are more in control of our own destiny as opposed to being directed by some remote body. After all it is patently obvious that our policing requirements in our beautiful county are very different to those of (say) London or Swansea.
As your PCC, I am here to look after the public interest for policing and to hold the Chief Constable to account for policing activity on your behalf. PCCs throughout England and Wales are responsible for the totality of policing and we’re the primary holder of the policing budget; in my case is £124 million.
I am also responsible for victims’ services and the distribution of the £700,000 Community Safety Fund. This important fund uses taxpayer’s money to support a wide range of activities largely carried out by the voluntary sector. I allocate funds to organisations working with young people, dealing with addiction, vulnerable people as well as more specific initiatives on awful crimes such as domestic abuse and serious sexual offences. Many of these pieces of work have been carried out as a direct result of public engagement and I’m deeply appreciative of the many residents and businesses who take the time to talk to meet with us formally and informally.
I don’t have a magic wand to meet all our challenges head on but I can promise you I do take note of public concern. A very good example of this was the work carried out following the tremendous response we had to our speeding survey last year. Speeding has been the main topic of concern at most of the roadshows and public meetings. You told me that you want to see more enforcement in our residential areas – in our towns and villages where people are walking and cycling – and for that reason the Chief Constable has moved enforcement from the 60 and 70mph roads to the 30mph areas where you have the most concerns. This is an excellent example of where the Constabulary and the office of the PCC work together for the greater good and where we listened to the public.
I am delighted to now be able to speak to Bury Free Press readers every month via this column and would hope that you will accept the invite to meet me in the town centre on August 6 but if you can’t make it you can always contact me at my office at Police Headquarters in Martlesham or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.