Lack of Local Police Priority Setting in Huntingdonshire


Sunday, July 7th, 2013. 12:23am

Prior to Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright attending Huntingdonshire District council on the 26th of June 2013 I suggested the lack of arrangements for local police priority setting, and holding the police to account for their performance against local priorities in Huntingdonshire was an important issue that I would like to see raised. In Cambridge we have democratically set police priorities and local councillors get the opportunity to hold the police to account for their performance against the priorities they have democratically set; there is nothing like this in operation in Huntingdonshire.

Cllr Patrick Kadewere (Huntingdon – North, Labour) asked a question to the Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright on this point. Cllr Kadewere asked:

Before, in Huntingdon, we used to have .. the police used to come for neighbourhood forums but it was stopped because of budget. Now what plans do you have for us to have the police coming back into the community to raise points?

Police and Crime Commissioner Bright replied:

Now I didn’t get all that because my hearing is not too good, but I’m going to get the police to move out and talk to people far more. You’ve heard the area commander is going to get round and talk to people, but we have had feedback from the police because I asked them questions and told them I was coming here and I’m bound to be asked lots of questions is there anything that you want me to say, and the district council were supposed to trial panel meetings in a new format and that was over a year ago. Nothing has happened. So the police do this alone with no support or input from anywhere else. That’s something you might have to look at. I would recommend that you actually talk to the area commander, Mel Dales, the whole idea of having localised policing is that you can identify someone. I think that’s really working well.

Why don’t you have a chat with her and see if you can plug that particular gap. It is obviously an operational matter in terms of whether or not you’ve got the police to do it but from my point of view we want to give every opportunity we can for anyone to come there and to be able to engage with the police. We will be doing more of that and I hope we’ll be having not just the police sitting in the police station but working in Sainsbury’s to have policemen at Sainsbury’s you know in front of the shop so you can go up and talk to them, so we’re trying to address that in every way that we possibly can.

Cllr Kadewere followed up:

The answer is OK with me, but if the District Council comes to you, to the police, are you going to release that budget so they can help us.

Police and Crime Commissioner Bright replied:

That’s an operational matter. If the Chief Constable comes to me and says he needs resources then if we’ve got them we’ll give them to him. That’s the way it is done.

My View

Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright ought be taking a leading role in addressing this key omission in police – public relations in Huntingdonshire. The police have a duty to consult with the public, and presumably, as the Commissioner says, they are finding ways to try and do this, but without the support of the District Council they are not getting input from elected representatives who have a mandate to speak on behalf of the public at large.

There’s a need to identify appropriate groups of councillors, perhaps either at existing meetings, or at specially arranged single purpose meetings, to set police priorities. Those councillors setting the priorities ought hear from the public directly, be told about the outcomes from any relevant public engagement work carried out by the police, councils or others, and have access to (and be offered) the statistical information available which can help them make their decisions.

Cambridgeshire Police split Huntingdonshire into three areas:

  • Huntingdon
  • St Neots
  • St Ives and Ramsey

No maps of these areas are provided either on the Cambridgeshire Police website, or the Police.UK website. From their names it might be assumed these areas relate only to the towns, but surely together they must cover the whole district, so perhaps re-naming them might help?

When the council ran its neighbourhood forums it had one for North-West Huntingdonshire, and separated St Ives and Ramsey; it appears to me that lobbying the police to change their reporting and priority setting areas to match those might be worth discussing.

It may be the groups involved would vary throughout the region, where there are town councils with a significant mandate perhaps they, along with county and district representatives perhaps discussing police priority setting at, or prior to, a town council meeting. Elsewhere other arrangements might suit, for example just district and county councillors having a vote, or perhaps them and a representative from each parish council?

I think the Police and Crime Commissioner himself ought take a leading role in working out the new arrangements; though the local County and District Councillors are probably best placed to propose the make-up, and geographical scope, of priority setting panels/committees in their own areas.

Representatives like Cllr Kadewere ought keep pressing the Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright and insist that their constituents get the same level of service from the police, and the same degree of local influence and oversight, as those in Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

See Also

2 comments/updates on “Lack of Local Police Priority Setting in Huntingdonshire

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have received the following message. I have assumed the confidentially marking and threat that unauthorised disclosure may be unlawful have been mindlessly and unintentionally included as part of a standard email footer and it is appropriate to publish:

    Dear Mr Taylor

    Chief Inspector Mel Dales, Area Commander for Huntingdonshire, has been made aware via the Police & Crime Commissioners Office of your concerns regarding the above subject.

    She is currently on leave but would be happy to meet with you to discuss your concerns further on her return.

    If you would like to arrange a meeting please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will arrange.

    Regards

    Lynn

    Lynn Baldock-Smith

    Executive Support Assistant

    Peterborough, Fenland & Huntingdon

    Direct Dial: 01733 424245

    Email: lynn.baldock at cambs.pnn.police.uk

    ———————————————————————–

    To visit Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s website please follow this link:

    http://www.cambs-police.co.uk/index.asp

    ———————————————————————–

    Internet e-mail is not to be treated as a secure means of communication.
    Cambridgeshire Constabulary monitors all internet e-mail activity and content.
    This communication is confidential and intended for the addressee(s) only.
    Please notify the sender if you have received this in error.
    Unauthorised use or disclosure of the contents may be unlawful.
    Opinions expressed in this document may not be official policy.
    Thank you for your cooperation. (c) Cambridgeshire Constabulary

    ———————————————————————–

    It is interesting to learn that the Police and Crime Commissioner, or someone in his office working on his behalf, reads my website.

    I suggest though that rather than meeting me it would be better if Chief Inspector Dales met with councilors; though without the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner it will presumably be harder than it would otherwise be to reinstate local priority setting and police accountability in Huntingdonshire.

    I suspect perhaps the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office may have pointed the police to my website as a clear record of exchange at the council meeting. No police officers were overtly observing in person.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The lack of local police priority setting in parts of Huntingdon was discussed at the Cambridgeshire County Council policing scrutiny committee on the 19th of December 2013.

    I have made a video of the relevant section available.

    The discussion occurred in the context of “speed watch”; the scheme where volunteers record vehicles travelling over the speed limit and report their registration numbers to the police who might then send the vehicle’s owner a warning letter.

    Cllr Edward Cearns said local police priority setting was the most important thing Cambridge’s Area Committees do; he appeared surprised to be told that not all areas of Huntingdon have local democratic priority setting.

    Despite his support for local police priority setting Cllr Cearns later voted to remove a review of local police priority setting across the county from the scrutiny committee’s future work programme; such a review could have resulted in good practice being identified and shared, I think it’s a pity Cllr Cearns didn’t vote in line with the views he expressed.

    One councillor reported that there is an area where the Neighbourhood Watch set the local policing priorities. (This is something which was in Graham Bright’s manifesto for Police and Crime Commissioner [as point 8] .)

    Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright was invited to the meeting but refused to attend. Had be been present he could have been asked to explain why he is delegating his priority setting responsibilities to the unelected, unaccountable, and self-selecting neighbourhood watch, in part of the county.

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