Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel – March 2014


Thursday, March 20th, 2014. 3:08am

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel met on the 19th of March 2014. I observed, filmed, and used the public participation slot, at the meeting.

Positive outcomes:

  • Acting Chair Cllr Ablewhite announced the panel will call in the Centre for Public Scrutiny to assist them with coming up with a scrutiny plan; apparently in recognition of the fact that the panel has been in operation for a year and a half and is yet to conduct a significant piece of scrutiny work, and hasn’t even considered anything the commissioner hasn’t volunteered to put before them.
  • The panel resolved to instruct their chairman, Cllr McGuire, to write to those members who are not attending meetings. This was prompted by the absence, for a whole year, of independent member Raja Ali, who the panel themselves appointed. Chairman Cllr McGuire may have to write to himself as he has been absent without explanation from the last two meetings.
  • Despite vehemently opposing the suggestion when it was made at the previous meeting, panel member Cllr Curtis reluctantly accepted the panel ought consider taking an interest in matters beyond those it is statutorily required to consider.

Disappointments:

  • The panel meeting was very poorly attended. Only six (of thirteen) members wre present when the meeting started. Cambridge’s representative Cllr Bick left the room for most of the substantive part of the meeting. 8/13 members made an appearance at some point.
  • There was almost no discussion of either the Commissioner’s decisions which were being reported or the future agenda plan; both substantive items being dispatched within a total of 14 minutes.
  • The panel declined to expand their public participation agenda item to permit people to make statements or suggest items for scrutiny, with Cllr Ablewhite claiming it would turn panel meetings into public meetings. This is despite Cambridgeshire County Council allowing anyone to suggest an item for scrutiny, and Cambridge City Council allowing anyone to make statements in person at meetings during public speaking agenda items.
  • Panel members declined to place notices on their agendas pointing to their rules for using the public participation slots; declined to relax the notice period required for questions so questions can be submitted after the publication of the meeting papers and even declined to place up-to-date contact information on the panel website.
  • The panel approved the times and dates of it’s upcoming meetings but failed to consider their locations, despite having previously stated they will move around the policing area. All but one meeting of the panel to-date has been held in Huntingdon.
  • The panel secretariat, when asked directly by the acting chairman, denied ever having rejected questions from members of the public. (Implying the exchange posted on my website by Mr Lythgoe has been fabricated.
  • The panel colluded to approve minutes of their February meeting which did not record that the public participation item was interrupted by a point of order from Cllr Curtis questioning if the submission was in order, after which no supplementary questions were permitted.
  • The panel failed to require the publication of the commissioner’s written responses which they had asked him to provide at the last meeting. The responses were not even mentioned or discussed. (I have requested the release of two such responses via a FOI request).
  • Independent member Christine Graham indicated an intent to declare an interest in relation to one of the decisions to be reported by the Police and Crime Commissioner and to leave the room for that item. She never declared the interest or left the room
  • The submitted questions were not circulated to those members of the public present at the meeting (me and public questioner Cllr Curtis). There were no other members of the public present, no professional press. The Police and Crime Commissioner brought of his five officers and his deputy with him.

Meetings of the panel are relatively rare occurrences and the panel are the only people empowered to hold Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright to account, and require him to answer questions. Despite this panel members appeared disinterested and sped rapidly through proceedings. After spending around twenty minutes on the public participation agenda item the rest of the agenda was dispatched within just 14 minutes.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Good afternoon. Light on numbers, high on quality I would say. So…

Members: “Hear hear…”, “Absolutely”.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Right, we’ll move to apologies for absence please.

Support Officer Paulina Ford: Thank you chair. We’ve had apologies for absence from Cllr McGuire, and Cllr Bullen who is sitting on an appointments committee and Cllr Todd is also absent due to ill health and at the moment that’s it.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: OK.

Support Officer Paulina Ford: Councillor, I have got apologies from Cllr Elsey but I’ve also had a note saying he was going to be in attendance so I’m not sure.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: It’s nice to see he’s covered both. Right, OK, declarations of interest.

Cllr Tim Bick: Chair.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Oh. Sorry councillor.

Cllr Tim Bick: A question on that. I think there’s one member, one we’ve co-opted, who we haven’t seen for a year. Do we have a process for dealing with that? It does seem that in a lot of our bodies there has been competition to be present at these panel meetings and a year is a really long time and a lot of meetings not to have attended. Is there something we can do about it?

Support Officer Paulina Ford: I’ll have a check.. [inaudible]

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: In the mean-time I’ll, we’ll, ask the chairman to write to any individual who has not attended as well because it’s actually right as you say there’s a finite amount of seats at this table so it’s only right and proper.
[Member walks in late]
Good afternoon. That’s all right, no problem.

So we move to declarations of interest

Christine Graham: Mr chair I have to declare an interest in one of the decisions [inaudable] and I’ll have to leave when that one is discussed.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: OK. Any others to receive? No. Duly noted. Item three, minutes of the meeting held on the 5th of February. There is one slight alteration in there, an amendment to it. Bear with me. Bedfordshire provided technical services, Cambridgeshire was leading on HR, Finances and IT, and Hertfordshire were leading on organisational support which is call centres and detention centres.

Cllr Martin Curtis: Could you give us a page chairman?

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Which is page 5 and it’s under the memorandum of understanding. I thought you’d know it off by heart.

Cllr Martin Curtis: But not the page numbers…

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: The reality is Bedfordshire are leading on protective services, Cambridgeshire are leading on organisational support which includes HR, Finance and IT and Hertfordshire are leading on operational support, call centres and we said now detention centres, so with those, with that point clarified is it your wish that I sign those as a true record with that amendment?

Member: Agreed.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much. OK. Item four is public questions. We’ve received a couple this time. Aren’t we lucky. The first one is from Richard Taylor. You will see in your packs the the two questions which he has asked. Richard welcome once again.

Richard Taylor: Thank you.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Would you like to go through your questions?

Richard Taylor: So I’d like to ask about the restrictive rules the panel have put in place in relation to the public participation slot at these meetings. I tried to use the public participation slot at the last meeting and I found it quite difficult to do so because I didn’t want to do the only thing which you actually have a procedure for which is to ask an individual panel member a question. What I wanted to do was make some suggestions about the way the panel could operate, the way you could look for items to scrutinise and to make some suggestions for items for you to look into. What I’m suggesting is you expand your rules to allow the public to make statements to the panel, and to allow members of the public to submit suggested items for scrutiny to the panel.

Now I’m in a relatively privileged position; I’ve had a good education and I’m reasonably literate but I found it impossible to meet the panel’s requirements under your rules of procedure to make a submission which was acceptable. Those of you who were here will remember the point of order raised to complain that I wasn’t speaking in questions. If you ask members of the public to come here and speak only in questions that raises the barrier to participation very high in my view and it turns it into something akin to a sort of ridiculous channel [radio] four [panel show].

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Richard can I, because you’ve already outlined question one, would you like an answer to that?

Richard Taylor: Yes.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite:

So through the chair if you’ll indulge me; obviously this is a scrutiny panel which is open to the public, but it isn’t a public meeting and I think the two are very different in terms of coming to a meeting, making suggestions, and being allowed to do so. However there is absolutely nothing to stop any member of the public lobbying a member of this panel to ask a question on their behalf, no different from any other council or lobbying group, actually does work. So is there any other person who would like to add to that? … No?

Richard Taylor: Can I respond? As a supplementary question?

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: A very quick supplementary.

Richard Taylor: Well I’m not suggesting making this into a public meeting; what I’m suggesting is making the public participation slot more accessible. Other ways you could do it .. you could point to your rules of procedure from your agenda; you don’t make clear the public participation slot requires these complicated rules to be followed, also you require questions to be submitted a week in advance; there’s no guarantee your papers will be published a week in advance, I see no reason why you can’t take questions if they come in at the meeting, you should be prepared to answer questions on agenda items. And you’re not even publishing an up-to-date email address the email address associated with the web-page for this meeting is that of an officer who left last year so you’re not getting the basics right about getting this meeting accessible for the public participation slot. I also don’t think you’re following your rules of procedure on getting rejected questions submitted to the panel. My own questions were initially rejected by the officers acting alone last time, and I’m aware of other people who claim to have submitted questions to this panel which have been rejected but they haven’t been reported as the rules of procedure say they should have been.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Well I’m not aware of any public questions which have come to this panel which have been rejected. Are you aware of any?

Support Officer Paulina Ford: No.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: No. OK. Right and 2. “Which aspects of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role does the panel consider are for the electorate, rather than the panel, to hold the commissioner to account in relation to?”

Richard Taylor: So this was something I was very surprised at hearing the acting chairman make a ruling on at the last meeting: that some things are outside of your scope and for the electorate but not the panel. That’s not how I want to see the panel operating, I want to see the panel acting on whatever the public ask for the panel’s help on, to hold the commissioner to account. I’d like to find out a bit more about that ruling. What is it that’s not inside the panel’s remit and it’s only for the electorate. I’ve given the example there of the commissioner’s diary. I’ve suggested the panel could look at the commissioner’s diary as a way of finding items to scrutinise the commissioner on. You were prepared to make a recommendation at the last meeting in relation to the upcoming events that the commissioner’s outreach officer will be attending, but you rejected the idea of discussing the upcoming events which the commissioner is attending, so I’d like to find out, well to me that seems inconsistent so where are you drawing this boundary and why are you drawing this boundary?

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: I don’t think from the last meeting anyone was drawing a boundary at all. I think in terms of where does the electorate come into this process. I mean knowing MPs, knowing members of the European Parliament and knowing councillors, the way that you get involved in this process is that you go out to the ballot box that’s the whole point of having somebody that is politically accountable.

Richard Taylor: Can I use my supplementary just to quote from the chairman at the last meeting:

“the commissioner’s diary, that’s not, frankly, our concern at all. That’s a politically accountable thing and it’s up to the electorate if they feel that’s the case and not a scrutiny panel to all intents and purposes. “

It seemed to me there was a boundary being drawn at the last meeting and I obviously disagree with the answer I received from the chairman when he said there was no boundry. But certainly if you’re saying from now on there are no limits that’s obviously an encouraging statement.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much. Any other comments on that. Yes. Tim.

Cllr Tim Bick:
On that subject that was raised last time about the commissioner’s diary. I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonably question for the panel to expect an answer for, I don’t know what level of detail, confidentiality, may be part of it but I think there is a desire on the part of the public, for a new institution like this to understand how functions are working, how time is allocated and that sort of thing and it doesn’t seem to me to be something outside the scope of the panel specifically here to scrutinise the post of police commissioner. I just wondered whether we could persist with that question.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Persist. OK. Any other comments? … Thank you Richard.

I think it moves in to the next set of questions from the scrutiny panel Hutingdonshire District Council, and I’ve got councillor Norman Curtis who is going to present this. Welcome in. And there are two questions on there as well.

Public Speaker Cllr Curtis: As the chairman has indicated I’m asking these questions on behalf of the overview and scrutiny panel social well-being at HDC. The first question is: “Given the national research indicates that Police and Crime Commissioners are not engaging with their communities, what action is the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel taking to ensure the police and crime commissioner is engaging with the public, over and above statutory organisations.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much. Any comments on that?

Panel Member Cllr Curtis: I just. I mean. An example is what we did at the last Police and Crime Panel, asking and challenging around what outreach he is doing which is, I would see, as the community engagement arm of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Anyone else? For me I know that in terms of what I do here we have an engagement strategy in terms of the public, what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, relationships with press etc. it’s all part of that norm. Can I ask the commissioner if the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has an engagement strategy, actually has a strategy.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Indeed it does. One of the reasons I’ve just appointed a new communications director who takes her place I think first of May is to be really up-front and looking ahead and engaging the public, listening to what they have to say, and yes we are we are quite, very proactive about that.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: So I don’t think it would be unreasonable for this panel to have sight of that strategy.

Christine Graham: Interesting chair just to say at a previous meeting I did ask at the engagement strategy and when the report came it talked about the work but the strategy was never produced but that’s specifically what I asked at a previous meeting.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: That’s a specific from this meeting into the next then. If we could have the engagement strategy that would be quite helpful.

Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Dorothy Gregson What would be useful is when we ask you with the forthcoming agenda things captured so we know what date we want to bring these things to the board.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: OK, we can do that can’t we. Yes certainly.

Cllr Nazim Khan: Maybe I can go slightly further along the lines because I think we may have well enough enguagement strategy from the commissioner’s point but what we are missing at the moment is when there was Cambridgeshire Police Authority there was engagement with the constabulary now I think that is missing because I was going to ask a question and I was told it was an operational question particularly the proposed EDL march in Peterborough and there has been up today no engagement from the constabulary either to the local ward councillors with it’s own plan and made the link. I think we would probably like to see how we can engage not as a panel, but as how the constabulary is engaging with the public as well as the commissioner’s engagement strategy.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: OK, right, do you want to comment?

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well, I mean, if it’s operational it’s the Chief Constable and maybe we can put that to him and see what answer he gives.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: On that specific, but actually in terms of the engagement strategy in terms of your office

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: If you read the Police and Crime plan it sets out what I’ve said and then follow that plan to the newspapers? because that’s where I hold him to account and that sets out the whole structure

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: So there’s obviously not a specific public engagement strategy from your office that’s just within the plan.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: It’s in the plan.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: So what I think we’re asking for is the specific engagement strategy.

Cllr Nazim Khan: Chair, I know the difference between operational and engagement. Nobody is asking that the commissioner or the chief constable on how they are going to handle that situation this is how they’re going to engage with the community that is going to be affected. There are two separate issues. I’m not very exiting with you hiding behind the operational matter. That is not the operational back up that is there [mumbles]. I know last time when this happened there was quite a lot of proactive work from the constabulary that this is happening and this is how we can avoid it or not. This time it is totally silent. That’s the big question.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: There’s a lot going on. Of course I’ve spoken to the Chief Constable about it. To ensure that they have addressed it. They really have addressed it. That’s my answer.

It has to be down to him and not to me. I just take an interest like you do. It is a serious, obviously serious, operation and one that could easily explode and I’m absolutely convinced that they’ve got that all to hand.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: So I think on that one I’ve just had a chat to my right here and in terms of going forward of that she will let your office what we require for the next meeting through the work schedule. OK.

Cllr Ben Shelton Thank you chairman. Just on communication and engagement I see it as a two way thing as well. That our role, my role, on this panel is to get people to come to meetings that I’m involved with and to get people to explain what’s going on within the police and crime office at parish council meetings for example, at partnership review meetings, at events within a parish where you can get that level of engagement so yes there’s a responsibility for the commissioner’s office to engage but I see it as my role as a member to get them out to as many people at the electorate as well to show what you’re doing and what we’re doing as well as a panel member. Thank you chair.

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: I’d be interested to know [inaudible] our future work for the summer having satisfied ourselves up to a point [inaudible]

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Excellent. Moving this on then. There’s a supplementary – what changes will the Police and Crime Panel recommend. I suggest to the panel we wait to see the engagement strategy and then comment or add to that when that comes back. Agreed? Thank you very much.

Public Speaker Cllr Curtis: Can I just add something to what you’ve been talking about. I think that the police in Huntingdonshire are proactive in the way they are working and that’s a great credit to them; genuinely they are coming out to parishes, and they are engaging with parishes and talking and finding that very helpful. So I just want to thank them for that.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Question two.

Public Speaker Cllr Curtis: Question two is, is the panel satisfied the commissioner is fully responding to public expectations by taking political decisions on priorities for funding and allocation of policing resource rather than passing them off as operational?

Cllr Tim Bick: I didn’t understand.

Cllr Michael Shellens: I think I’d like to request the question again please.

Cllr Tim Bick: What’s he asking for in his question.

Cllr Martin Curtis: I think because obviously Cllr Curt is my brother. It’s not true by the way. I’m telling a joke.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Only their mother can tell them apart.

Cllr Martin Curtis: I think the question he’s asking is whether there are decisions being, or questions or challenge that are being made, that are being passed across and claimed to be operational decisions when in reality they could be decisions for a police and crime commissioner. I think that’s the point. The thing I know is all over the country this challenge about where the boundary between operational political effectively is one that is being challenged and so it is something I think we as a panel have to keep a continuous eye on so that the balance is in the right place. Ensuring it is right is you know as I said nationally it is a…

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Is that clarification from the panel OK? Right excellent. So in-terms of that one of the things which came up from the last meeting was our role within the scrutiny process and what are we scrutinising, how are we scrutinising, and it does beg the question and I’ve checked with what we’re actually doing and what we’re doing is covering the legality of what we should be doing as a panel and its actually that scrutiny that’s missing and what we need to do therefore is formalise a proper scrutiny plan for our panel for the forthcoming year and there needs to be an emphasis I think on performance against objectives and things like that; a bit like we do you know before our local councils where we scrutinise and we go out and scrutinise our outside partners also so what I’m going to suggest from this question is that between this meeting and the next that a meeting is set up between the chair, the vice-chairman, and anybody else that would like to get involved around the panel to formalise a scrutiny plan for the forthcoming year. Would that be positive way forward do you think? I thought you might agree. And that we include someone from the Centre of Public Scrutiny in that as well to help us with that process which I think will be helpful. Is there any indications outside myself and the chairman who I have nominated in his absence of course that’s always one of the rigors of not turning out for a meeting, that would like to be involved in that process.
Christine, Tim and Ben Shelton then. OK.

Public Speaker Cllr Curtis: So the way forward and I think that would be quite positive.

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much. Excellent.

[Cambridge Representative Cllr Tim Bick leaves]

Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Moving on then to the formal part of the meeting.
Decisions of the Commissioner. Pages 15-40.

OK so the panel is recommended to indicate whether it would wish to further review and scrutinise the decisions taken by the Police and Crime Commissioner. In these circumstances further information would be provided for a future meeting.

So as we go down to “5″ on the key issues just indicate if you want to speak on any of these.

  • To approve the proposed Capital Programme for 2014-15.

[silence]

  • To approve:
    • The grant of a Wayleave to Virginmedia and,
    • Completion of the MOTO giving Cambridgeshire County Council occupation of part of St Ives Police Station.

[Chair turns to County Council leader Cllr Curtis and says:] That’s very good of them.

Onto page 16

  • move out of Ministry of Justice national funding arrangements with victim support.
  • Christine Graham: Obviously there’s a fair bit of detail here. My question is around if my interpretation of what is presented is correct, it’s what we’re talking about is the moving away from having an independent support from victims of crime that we’re moving towards it becoming part of the police and it talks about support for people who don’t want to report to the police. I guess my question is around is people aren’t going to report to the police if they feel they’re going to be able to access support that is being provided from the police and just that my question is that, that relationship, with victim support and if we are losing that independent support for victims of crime.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: At the moment we are a pilot scheme and we are looking at ways we can do this. Firstly that’s it’s worth dealing with this in time. We’ve got partners, we’ve still got the victim support organisation, we’re still using them, and the idea of a hub is to make sure you trigger almost immediately the need for supporting them. Now it is very much a pilot and obviously we monitor it very carefully as to what we’re doing. And we’re piloting also for our partners [inaudible] so that we are going to be looking at shreville property as well.

    Now the whole idea is that we trigger off very rapidly; now I was concerned about the time lag, and then having that there we should be picking things up literally as they happen, and then we can guage with our partners, who will most certainly be victim support, but we will extend that out to others as well, so any victim will get the support and help that they require and the idea is to get it more rapidly than they do at the moment.

    Christine Graham:
    And that’s to be welcomed, but the initial contact will be made from within the police organisation.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright:
    The police organisation will pick that up without contact being made because they’ll see a crime and they’ll understand there’s a problem needed there and they will then flag this up straight away in order to get someone to talk to about it, so it won’t be the police. And the hub, I say, I hope we continue to develop that by sharing it with partners as well, at the moment we’re running it because it is a pilot but the whole idea is that we want to create that so it is arms length, and we’ve got other partners coming along there and working alongside to make sure that works. Dorothy actually to give her praise has done quite a lot of work on this nationally which is why we’ve ended up with the pilot scheme in Cambridge and we are looking very carefully at what we do and how we do it and we’re also scrutinised if you like by the best in the region, who are looking to us to see how it works and we want to roll that across the whole of the region.

    Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Dorothy Gregson: If I may, what you highlight is the risk of this model. The model that we have at the moment has that independence which in terms of timely response about things keeping people up to date the external agency has to ring us and keep other people up and this is trying to sort that out. So it should improve the system for many. The issue is does it create a risk for some. We are very aware of that. What we are trying to find out at the moment is how many people are seeking that independent support; there’s no indication that’s large numbers but we need to get better at understanding that, we may have to keep back a certain element of independent services to complement we don’t know if that’s point one percent, one percent, or more. But it highlights in the paper, it recognises this.

    Christine Graham: I think. Thank you for that. What I do welcome from this is what it appears now is people will receive support dependent on the risk, not dependent on the crime, whereas we’ve had the position before …

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: That’s absolutely right.

    Christine Graham: a young man in his 20s who has had is car broken into is offered victim support when he’s not at all bothered and an old lady who has eggs thrown at her front door isn’t offered support and I think to change that disparity I think that is welcome. Can I ask chair as this is a pilot and I realise I’m asking questions about work that is in progress is that when we’re looking at that work programme we actually look at reviewing this as time goes on and the issues raised with us by the public are about public engagement and this is about that front line service to victims of crime and I think we should really keep an eye on the progress of the pilot as a panel.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: We are also working with MoJ on this.

    Cllr Martin Curtis: I would also say that victim support is one of those areas that in the past has been criticised, not because of itsself as an organisation I hasten to add, but because just because people very often believe that victims of crime are very often ignored in the whole crime process so if this is something new which starts overcoming the perception, I think that’s important too and it’s important we keep an eye on it too, to make sure of that.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much.

    Cllr Ben Shelton: Can I just ask, the Ministry for Justice, are they, happy to support this fully, is there any update on that at all?

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: Well they’ve given me quite a lot of money to do it.

    Cllr Ben Shelton: Right.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s Chief Finance Officer: It’s theri money.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright: They are obviously aware that it’s happening and if they were looking for some pilot schemes, obviously we are one, and we’re working with them on this, so we will report back because it is an investment from their point of view as well as ours to make sure it works. We’re of the opinion that what we’re doing should work but until you’ve done it you don’t know. We’re monitoring every single thing and who knows, our pilot may be a template for the rest of the country.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much. Moving further down the programme:

    • Victim disaster identification unit.

    I hope we don’t need this. Obviously has to, has to, ease things. I visited the old one in the old nuclear bunker in Alconbury, obviously under new ownership now but that used to be the regional identification place at the time. Any comments?

    • Transfer Order 2 Staff Transfer Scheme

    [silence]

    • Providing Support for Victims in Cambridgeshire

    [silence]

    • The Programme Metis – Mobile Working Solutions

    [silence]

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: OK, thank you very much. So item 6 is the Police and Crime Plan variation, 41-46, we’re being asked to agree the variation to appendix one of the Police and Crime Plan provided with our report.

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s Chief Finance Officer: I think we’ve handled this already Mr…

    Commissioner’s Chief of Staff Dorothy Gregson: The appendix is an update plan from the budgetary information you approved last time. I think the only additional information is the grants, it highlights the grants, much of this is the project, you saw the budget, the variation of the plan therefore needs to come back to you.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: All clear? Any comments?

    Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s Chief Finance Officer: The police and crime plan is bespoke, it needs reviewing, and this is all part of that process.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Absolutely.

    Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Graham’s Friend Brian If I may make a comment on the the MTFB there is a slight variance between the figure here and the figure shared with you last time, and approved by yourselves, and it relates to the difference, in the collection of contribution rate backwards and forward, it’s not a matter of budgetary substance obviously its useful if the collection agencies have proved not successful but nevertheless there is a bit of a variation there that’s in favour so-to-speak but that’s the only matter which has changed.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Any comments? We’ll move to the recommendation then at 2.1 that the panel agree the variation. All agreed? Thank you very much.

    Item 7, the agenda plan, 47-48, any comments or are you happy to note?

    Cllr Martin Curtis: Can I just, it’s the conversation that was had earlier about revisiting what we’re doing over and above would I be right in saying this is subject to change?

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Yes it is. I think the first question we’d ask is are the panel going forward happy with the dates and times of these meetings? Good. Yep. OK.

    Cllr Gavin Elsey: I’m not going to make the November one, or Tuesday the 4th of February.

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: But apart from that you’re absolutely fine. Excellent well done. So we’re adding in what we’ve already talked about, a meeting between the two, to set up a scrutiny plan together, that will I think alter some of that as well, and we could very well have some sub-groups that we ask people to go on to further scrutinise some of the decisions, so all in agreement?

    [Cllr Bick returns to the room]

    Acting Chairman Cllr Jason Ablewhite: Thank you very much indeed. I think that finally concludes the meeting. Thank you very much for your attendance.

    Cllr Gavin Elsey: Fastest ever.

Commissioner’s Engagement Strategy

The commissioner’s engagement strategy is Published by the Commissioner on his website; while the document is from April 2013 it appears to be current as it was recently submitted to the March 2014 thematic review of Police and Crime Commissioners by CoPaCC (Compares Police and Crime Commissioners); it appears the panel are unaware of what the commissioner is publishing on his website or are unwilling to read material unless the commissioner formally sends it to them.

12 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel – March 2014

  1. anadapter

    So, once again, this committee might just as well not exist or meet for all they do. Perhaps some members have drawn this conclusion and stayed away?

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The meeting in numbers:

    Cllr Michael Shellens spoke only once: to request a question be repeated.
    Cllr Gavin Elsey only spoke once too: to say he wouldn’t make two of the planned future meetings.

    The Police and Crime Commissioner volunteered seven of his decisions for scrutiny, only one of these was discussed at all by the panel.

    Cllr Bick was out of the room between 22m40s and 34m40s of the 34m48s long meeting. He was absent for 34% of the meeting.

    My contribution, and the responses to it, were from 3m25s to 10m07s a total of 6m42s
    The other public speaker’s section took from 10m15s to 22m35s a total of 12m20s

    The time spent by the panel on agenda items other than the public questions was just 15m46s.

    Scrutiny of the seven decisions ran from 22m46s to 31m20s that’s 8m26s; on average 1m12 seconds per commissioner’s decision (though all but one had no debate at all).

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    It’s not clear yet if the scrutiny plan meeting and the sub-groups for conducting detailed scrutiny will be held in public or not. I hope that the panel doesn’t delegate core areas of its work to secret, private, meetings. I would certainly not like to see any meetings where panel members question the Police and Crime Commissioner to be held in secret, and I don’t think the panel can, by law, hold such meetings in private unless there is confidential material being discussed.

  4. Paul Lythgoe

    Richard,
    To confirm I submitted a series of question for the panel meeting, however, i made the mistake of directing them at the PCC – if I had known that wasn’t correct I would have directed them to the panel. So strictly speaking Pauline Ford is correct, but I took it that after the initial rejection I couldn’t redirect them.Here is the mail from Pauline Ford. I knew there was a public question spot, but had no idea of the rules and procedure. This panel is clearly designed to minimise public engagement and oversight of the PCC – and the councillors on the panel don’t take their role seriously, and have little or no impact. I have written to councillors Bick and Khan asking them to consider raising issues at the panel meetings with no response.
    Dear Mr Lythgoe
    Thank you for your email and questions. I have consulted with the Rules of Procedure regarding questions for the Panel and also the Lead Officer supporting the Police and Crime Panel regarding your questions and he has responded as below:
    “The questions submitted by Mr Lythgoe are inappropriate for the Panel for the following reasons:
    1. It is addressed to the Commissioner. Public questions to the Police and Crime Panel are questions for the Panel about its roles and responsibilities; not questions for the Commissioner.
    2. It is a series of multiple questions which is in breach of the rules of procedure.
    “No person may submit more than two questions to a Panel meeting and no more than two such questions may be asked on behalf of one organisation.”
    3. The only aspect over which the Commissioner could reasonably be asked to comment (and not in this format) is the distinction between ‘priority setting and non-interference in operational matters’. All of the other issues raised are operational issues.
    The most appropriate and effective way for the author to have his question answered is for it to be tabled to the Commissioner in writing by the author or addressed to one of the Panel members in their scrutiny role or and in an amended format which meets the rules of procedure.”
    I hope that this has been of help to you. If you have any questions with regard to this response please come back to me.
    Regards
    Paulina Ford
    Senior Governance Officer Scrutiny
    Democratic Services Team
    Legal and Governance
    Peterborough City Council
    Town Hall
    Bridge Street
    Peterborough
    PE1 1HQ
    Email: paulina.ford@peterborough.gov.uk
    Tel: 01733 452508

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      But the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel rules of procedure state, in section 7.6:

      If the Secretariat feels that a question is:

      • (a) not about a matter for which the Panel has a responsibility;
      • (b) illegal, improper, irregular, frivolous or offensive;
      • (c) substantially the same as a question which has been put at a meeting of the Panel in the past six months; or
      • (d) requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information;

      she/he shall inform the Chairman who will then decide whether or not to allow the question to be put. If the Chairman decides not to allow a question his or her reasons will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting and will not be open to debate.

      This safeguard ought to have come into operation with the rejection of the questions directed to the Police and Crime Commissioner. The panel members ought, according to their rules of proceedure, be able to see how many people are seeking to ask questions to the commissioner through the panel; and might well influence both what questions they themselves ask of the commissioner and perhaps prompt them to adjust their rules of proceedure or hold events at which the public can question the commissioner.

  5. Paul Lythgoe

    You quote Christine Graham extensively in your piece. From your past attendance record at previous meetings how vocal has she been. It is interesting that she has chosen to talk at length on th subject of Victim Support. One wonders if that is the area at which she felt she had a conflict of interest. I would suggest that given the Commsioners new reponsibilities in this area there are conflicts of interest that may well suggest that it is inapropriate that she sits on this panel. Her webiste states clearly, “The aim of the company is to provide training, support and consultancy that contributes to the development and improvement of services provided to victims, perpetrators and communities and develop the skills of those working within community safety. ” This would suggest that her presence on the panel could be construed as little more than a networking opportunity for her with locally one of the biggest budget holder in her chosen business field.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      As the Police and Crime Panel’s rules of procedure allow questions to be asked of individual panel members a good one for next time might be:

      To: Christine Graham
      Which of the Commissioner’s decisions on the agenda for the panel’s March 2014 meeting did you intend to declare an interest in, and leave the room for the consideration of? Why did you not declare the interest and leave the room as you indicated you would?

      Given Christine Graham spoke on the Victim Support item surely that makes it the least likely to be the one she has an interest in, given she said she wouldn’t participate in the consideration of the item related to her interest.

      The phrasing of her exchange on victim support suggests her line of questioning was aimed at improving her own understanding of the commissioner’s action.

      It is notable this usually very quiet member of the panel appeared to have been brought to life by this subject.

      I will write to Christine Graham, in public, via Twitter inviting her to address this question here, so freeing up the public participation item at the next panel meeting for other matters.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    Member of the Police and Crime Panel Cllr Shellens asked a question of his fellow Police and Crime Panel member Cllr McGuire at the Cambridgeshire County Council Full Council meeting on 25 March 2014:

    Cllr Shellens: This is for Cllr McGuire by way of a complete change. Attending this month’s meeting of the Crime and Commissioner Panel of Huntingdon with the commissioner, his deputy, his finance officer and his chief exec, all traveling from Cambourne, neither of the last two spoke. A committee secretary and a councillor from Peterborough, our very own Cllr Curtis, who was soon to make a very exciting announcement and a loose scattering of other councillors. There were two questions from Huntingdonshire District Council where the answer was everything was wonderful. The only bit of interest for me was a brief compliant from Peterborough that nobody had bothered to tell him of the forthcoming EDL march in his ward to which the answer was well that’s not my job. The meeting lasted just 45 minutes. The most interesting questions in previous meetings have been met with: “This is an operational matter” and as such is not the business of this meeting. Would Cllr McGuire agree with me that 1. The five members of the committee that did not attend this meeting had made a wise decision as this was not good investment of time. 2. That the continuing failure of the commissioner not to attend this council is greatly to be regretted. 3. That the democratic oversight model for the police is completely broken and 4. That this council should initiate a quick and dirty survey of surrounding councils to see if the problem is general or if there is something we can implement to provide an improved service to our community.

    It’s odd that Cllr Shellens is asking questions at the full council about something he could act on himself as a member of the Police and Crime Panel; he could easily have been the one answering such a question. Mr Shellens’ panel decided for itsself that it wouldn’t hold sessions asking questions of the commissioner, it decides how it runs its own affairs. Mr Shellens’ is just as responsible for the failures of the Police and Crime Panel as its other members. I was disappointed to hear Cllr Shellens reveal that my submission to the meeting was not of interest to him.

    Cllr McGuire: Chairman I think it’s worth reminding council that when the PCP was set up, and remember this is not a committee of this council, and doesn’t technically follow under here

    The question was taken in a slot for chairs of council committees. A usual agenda item for policing questions was not present, perhaps because the Police and Crime Commissioner had declined to attend?

    Cllr McGuire: But I made an offer chairman as one of our representatives on there that if anyone wanted to ask a question they could ask a question of any member because as I say it’s a panel that goes across several authorities as well as having independent members so therefore it’s not accountable to this council as such but as one of the members yes I am.

    No I can’t agree with you because I was one of those five members as you know who for I believe unavoidable in the absence of Cllr Count, he was sunning himself in Australia, I had to as vice chairman of the appointments and remuneration committee to chair that meeting for a very important appointment so therefore had to give my apologies to the PCP so I wasn’t there to hear the debate or to count who was there and who was not but I know it was very ably chaired by Cllr Ablewhite [inaudible] so no I don’t agree that, it’s difficult for me to answer those questions, but I don’t agree because I can’t agree I don’t know the ins and outs.

    Chair : Cllr Shellans do you have a one sentence supplementary question?

    Cllr Shellens: A comment chairman that I think Cllr McGuire has agreed with me that he was doing something useful which he wouldn’t have done if he’d been with us. I want to go back to my question that this council should initiate a quick and dirty survey of surrounding councils to see if it’s a problem is general or if there is something we can implement to provide an improved service to our community.

    Cllr McGuire: I will try not to do anything dirty chairman but what I suggest to Cllr Shellens is he puts that on the agenda for the next meeting of the PCP to do such a thing and that way with the agreement of the other members we can do such a thing. I don’t have the power myself simply as the chairman to carry out or initiate that review.

    I think Cllr McGuire’s response was appropriate and Cllr Shellens had raised his suggestion in the wrong place. It is Cllr Shellens himself, and others on the Police and Crime Panel who ought be looking to see if there is good practice elsewhere they can be following.

  7. Paul Lythgoe

    Whilst Councillor Shellens bemoans the ineffectiveness of the police and crime panel he might like to reflect on how well Panel members prepare themselves for this meeting, and how little Sir Graham brings to the meeting. In the news today is the truly apalling failings of the Cambridgeshire force in terms of their handling of domestic abuse. The force were inspected on the 16th to the 19th of December. The Chief Constable got immediate feedback, and would have known then the extent of their failings in this area. On the 22nd of January, at the latest, Sir Graham would have been made aware of this as it is an item within the Business Co-ordination Board. And yet Sir Graham felt no need to bring these failings to the PCP despite his new responsibilities in relation to victim support. Sir Graham has a duty to hold the Chief Constable to account for the force performance, but the first public statements on this failure are not to our elected representatives but to the Cambridge News. Let us hope that before the next panel meeting the members of the panel decide that they have a function and that they ask Sir Graham what he was doing during his first year to ensure that domestic abuse policing, one of the fundamental tenants of his plan, was being monitored and adhered to. Sir Graham has flanelled on cysclists, unspecified anti-social behaviour, and the introduction of technology. Sir Graham has ignored the implementation of Tazers, and police spying on his electors. Here now in an area that is central to his new responsibilities for victim support he is caught not understanding what is going on in the police force he is responsible for. Will the PCP hold him to account ….. don’t hold your breath.

    http://www.hmic.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/cambridgeshire-approach-to-tackling-domestic-abuse.pdf

    http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/14-01-22-BCB-Agenda-Item-11-Operational-Update.pdf

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Draft minutes have been created which falsely state:

    Christine Graham declared an interest with regard to item 5, Decisions by the Commissioner and in particular decision CPCC 2014-007 – Providing Support for Victims in Cambridgeshire and advised that she would leave the room if that decision was discussed.

    This did not occur; as shown by the transcript and video.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I’ve re-listened to the video I have been able to improve my transcript from:

      Christine Graham: Mr chair I have to declare an interest in one of the decisions [inaudable] and I’ll have to leave when that one is discussed.

      to:

      Christine Graham: Mr chair I have to declare an interest in one of the decisions the police and crime commissioner has made and I’ll have to leave when that one is discussed.

      (the relevant section is 1:45)

      The decision in question was not identified; and neither was the specific interest.

      If the proposed draft minutes reflect the interest Christine Graham has I wonder how there can be an interest in the giving of grants to organisations which support victims; but not in “Local Commissioning of Victim Referrral Mechanisms via a Victim Hub” under which the general approach to supporting victims was discussed.

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