Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Walks Out of West Central Area Committee Meeting During Policing Item

Friday, January 11th, 2013. 1:59am

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright made an appearance at the Cambridge’s West Central Area Committee on the 10th of January 2013. Mr Bright made a speech and took some questions, but didn’t stay to observe councillors set the new local police priorities for the area or see them hold the police to account for their performance on the previous priorities.

I was astonished when Mr Bright stood up and walked out. Commissioner Bright started to get ready to leave as councillors were discussing the enforcement of the city’s 20mph limits. Bright waved, grinned and left while a member of the public from Newnham was expressing concern about a recent rise in burglary levels shown in the latest police statistics. I thought this was not only very rude, but showed a contempt for, and lack of interest in, the views of Cambridge residents, and Cambridge’s elected representatives, on police and crime matters. Those items discussed after Mr Bright left included violent crime in the city centre, cycle crime, and even his favourite topic “anti-social behaviour”.

Bright’s Invitation

Agenda excerpt from West Central Area Committee 1st November 2012 -  (Q3) Richard Taylor : Would the committee invite the Police and Crime Commissioner to the next West Central Area Committee?<br />
Members agreed that this was a good idea.
At the West Central Area Committee on the first of November 2012 I suggested to councillors on the committee that it would be a good idea for them to invite Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner to their next police priority setting meeting. I explained I thought it would be a good idea for the committee to hear from the commissioner, particularly on the question of if he supported the system of local councillors democratically setting local police priorities, and holding the police to account for their performance against them, to continue. Councillors agreed, an invitation was issued, and the Commissioner turned up to the meeting on the 11th of January 2013.

The Commissioner had not previously attended any of the local police priority setting meetings in the county since his election; this was also I believe the first time he has taken questions, in public, from the public, since his election.

When I was given the opportunity to question the commissioner I specifically urged Mr Bright to stay and observe councillors setting the police priorities and to consider rolling out democratically set local priorities across the county. He ignored, and rejected, this. He also failed to address my key question of if he supported councillors setting the local priorities that evening. He did say he might set his own priorities, but left councillors unsure of if them setting priorities would have any effect or if he would unilaterally usurp their decisions without even having had the courtesy to listen to the views of the Cambridge councillors and members of the public.

Cambridge News reporter Chris Havergal summarised his interpretation of what Mr Bright had said about how priority setting will work with him as commissioner as:

The implication appears to be that devolution to our local councillors has, or will, stop. I will continue to strongly oppose this.

Neighbourhood Watch and Parish Councils

Commissioner Bright made clear that he wanted to focus on, and empower, Neighbourhood Watch and Parish Councils. He made this the key element of his speech so when I was allowed to comment I noted that Cambridge has few active Neighbourhood Watch groups and no parish councils. Only one neighbourhood watch group has been active enough to attend a police priority setting meeting in the city to my knowledge, the Whitehill Close Neighbourhood Watch and even they managed to exist for a year before finding out where their local priorities were set. At a recent North Area Committee meeting I asked the police and fire service how many Neighbourhood Watch organisations existed in that area, and the response was: “none”.

The Chair of Cambridge’s Federation of Residents Associations, Morcom Lunt, spoke to say a recent survey by the police revealed around seventy people in Cambridge who consider themselves active neighbourhood watch co-ordinators. I wonder if many of these are like some of Mr Lunt’s Residents Associations and individuals don’t necessarily have an organisation to co-ordinate. Cllr Reid claimed there was active neighbourhood watch in her ward.

Despite saying he wanted to empower Neighbourhood Watch the Commissioner admitted all his own local Neighbourhood Watch does is: “drink tea and natter”, he also said many were primarily social groups.

2 comments/updates on “Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Walks Out of West Central Area Committee Meeting During Policing Item

  1. Paul Lythgoe

    It is by now fairly clear that Sir Graham has little, or no knowledge of policing. He is not interested in turning up at key meetings related to his brief such as the first meeting of PCC’s with the Home Secretary and then the executive Board meeting of the Cambridgeshire police. At this meeting the first he has attended since election where he could listen to local councillors discussing policing issues in Cambridge he walks out after his own contribution. He continues to tell us that he will listen to Parish Councils and Neighbouhood Watch groups that are either self selected, or don’t exist. His first statements prior to election spoke of fear that Cambridgeshire residents have in leaving their homes which had no basis in fact, and he has never since provided any evidence to support this. He ducks one of the most intrinsic strategic issues in modern policing by claiming that arming our police with tasers is just an operational matter. It is clearly not. Will it be just an operational matter if our police chose to arm themselves with rubber bullets, water canon, or distribute guns to all? He concerns himself almost exclusively with criminalising low level misbehaviour rather than serious crime. He should , for example, be concerned about the drug barons and not their victims. Unfortunately by listening to the neighbouhood watch and the parish council he gets anecdotal evidence of crime that may or may not have happened and extrapolates to the whole of the county.He would do better to get real numbers of real crimes , and base his judgements on real documented evidence. Instead he continues to create bogus fears, of which, the dangerous cyclist is only the latest. Did he bother before putting his efforts here to identify just how many incidents of pedestrians being hurt by cyclists there have been in Cambridge, or how many cyclists had been hit by cars. Instead he prefers prejudice instead of knowledge.

    Hopefully whilst he is failing to communicate on policing priorities he is getting on with providing the policing plan and budget. His progress on this we won’t know until he delivers. Presumably at some point his overseers, the police and crime panel, will see fit to meet and overview his actions to date and his progress on the budget, or will they just leave him to it? Perhaps its better not to organise formal meetings of a body that is in any case overwhelmingly Conservative. I can’t believe that there are not nformal discussions going on that avoid FOI requests, and your video camera.

    So, the next opportuntiy to meet our PCC for Cambridge residents will be on the 24th January in Cambourne by appointment. By holding his Cambridge surgery in Cambourne he has probably discouraged most participation. Richard, I look forward to your next video, hopefully on this subject.

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