Hunts District Cllrs Get Opportunity to Grill Commissioner Bright

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013. 11:37pm

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright

Huntingdonshire District Council have invited Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright to lead the council’s “headline debate” at its meeting on Wednesday the 26th of June. The show starts at 7pm and 45 minutes have been scheduled for councillors to grill Commissioner Bright.

Huntingdonshire District Council is “in the process of reviewing the Neighbourhood Forums in Huntingdonshire“. There is no structure in place for local police priority setting, and holding the police to account for their performance against local priorities in the area. This is an area where the district is getting a particularly poor deal, particularly when compared to Cambridge where democratically elected councillors set the priorities. Finding out the Commissioner’s plans to fill this void in local democratic influence and oversight of policing in Huntingdonshire is one of the top things I would like to see addressed.

I would hope Huntingdonshire District councillors might also press Commissioner Graham Bright on some of the more general matters, which affect, but are not specific to, Huntingdonshire. I’ve put together ten additional questions I think it would worth putting to the Commissioner Bright:

  1. How does the commissioner justify increasing the police share of council tax despite standing on a manifesto promising no extra burden on council tax?

    This is something Cllr Martin Curtis has raised at the Police and Crime Panel, though the panel itself has not asked the commissioner to provide a written explanation, and has not taken a view on this behaviour.

    The commissioner has stated he views his rise as being “below inflation” and so no-extra burden. I think this is nonsense particularly in an environment where many people’s incomes are not rising in line with inflation.

    Questions need to be asked now about if the commissioner plans to break his clear election pledge again next year.

  2. What exactly is the proposed new technology system the commissioner has described as “ALERT”?
    Will it provide near comprehensive and near real-time information from the police incident log to the public via the web, mobile apps and email?
    Is it the Neighbourhoood Alert service from VISAV Ltd which is operating elsewhere? Why has the Commissioner claimed he has no responsibility for the current ECops system, yet he considers ALERT one of his flagship projects?
  3. The Police Authority cost £838,000 to run in 2011/12. Commissioner Bright has budgeted £866,000 for running his office. Why, despite these figures, does he repeatedly claim he’s going to be 10% cheaper than the Police Authority?
  4. Since the budgeting process Commissioner Bright has decided to further expand his office with the appointments of a strategic advisor and outreach workers. Commissioner Bright appears to be planning to delegate key aspects of his role including meeting local councillors and residents, and co-ordinating work between the police and other public bodies including local councils? Why is Commissioner Bright planning to appoint people to do core aspect of his role? How has this affected his budget?
  5. On the 12th of June 2013 Police and Crime Commissioner Bright told Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel they You have a complete list of decisions. Was this a lie? Has the Commissioner been selecting decisions for the Police and Crime Panel to scrutinise? Where were the decisions relating to taking on more staff (and retaining the current staff)? What about the decisions to take out expensive “advertorials” in local magazines and buying car park signs for himself and his Chief Executive?
  6. The Police and Crime Commissioner’s published spending data does not include any expenses for the commissioner and deputy commissioner. Are expenses being accrued but not claimed, resulting in the published data being misleading?
  7. Why has Commissioner Bright decided to run his key decision making body, his Business Coordination Board in secret behind closed doors? His other committees are run in a similar manner; papers are released but only well after the event and sometimes only after prompting via Freedom of Information Requests.
  8. Commissioner Bright has claimed to have solved the problems which existed with the 101 non-emergency number; will he publish the information on which he bases these claims; and commit to routinely pro-actively publishing call answering and other performance data on a regular basis?
  9. Commissioner Bright has not listed his attendance at Huntingdonshire District Council in the events section of his website, and worse the events section does not carry a warning it is not comprehensive. The commissioner has failed to respond to a FOI request for his diary. Will the Commissioner proactively publish his official diary so the public can find out about events at which he is expected to attend?
  10. In May 2013 Cambridgeshire Police announced the roll out of TASER weapons to non-firearms officers. Neither the Commissioner or Chief Constable commented, with the Chief Constable worryingly saying he did not know enough about the subject. Why was there such a vacuum at the top of the police on this crucial day? Why has the commissioner deemed such a dramatic, strategic, change to public facing policing as being “operational” and not one for him to even comment on never mind take responsibility for?

3 comments/updates on “Hunts District Cllrs Get Opportunity to Grill Commissioner Bright

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Section 17A of the council’s 384 page constitution states:

    Filming, videoing or audio recording of a meeting or photography at a Council meeting shall be permitted only with the consent of the Chairman of the meeting concerned. The necessary consent shall have been obtained and the Head of Paid Service, or in his absence, the Head of Legal and Democratic Services notified by no later than three working days before the meeting.

    From my perspective this makes it harder to report and act on the any responses by the commissioner.

    Despite being Conservative run, the council’s position appears to be at odds with Minister Pickles’ statements, encouraging filming.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Minister Eric Pickles has tweeted me to say three days notice to film is not required:

      My understanding is Minister Pickles has merely issued guidance and has not introduced a law giving people the right to film council meetings. Given Pickles’ expression of his view in public via Twitter, copying the council which is run by his Conservative colleagues, it may be interesting to see what happens in practice.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    Something else I’d like to see addressed by Commissioner Bright soon is the arrangements for his proposed “star chambers” for scrutinising community safety partnership spending. Will these be held in public? Will the results be made public? Who will decide which projects are scrutinised?

    The Police and Crime Plan states:

    At the star chambers partners will be asked to share information relating to performance, finance and proposals for more efficient working individually, collectively and with new partners

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