Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner justifies role at public meeting

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway. Picture: Grace Foster

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway. Picture: Grace Foster - Credit: Archant

Police Authority or Police and Crime Commissioner – which is a force to be reckoned with?

The Bedfordshire PCC made a passionate defence of her position when one of the questions at a public meeting in Leighton Buzzard was: “Why do we need a PCC?”

Turning to her record since becoming PCC, Kathryn Holloway said: “If you didn’t have a PCC, you wouldn’t have someone who’s taking the argument to government.

“So you’ve already got £2.98m coming to Bedfordshire Police because I’m taking the argument [to government] about local funding.

“You wouldn’t have someone to take on the police watchdog – the HMIC – that was consistently and unfairly, and in an unbalanced way, reporting on and investigating Bedfordshire Police.

“Why would the police ever be invested in, in this county, if it looked as if we had a particular performance many aspects of which were plain wrong in the way the HMIC had reported on it?”

She continued: “The service for victims has been transformed. With the Signpost hub, in only two months since it started on April 1, it assisted more victims than the previous outsource service did in the entire previous year.

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“Those things have started with me and my office. It’s a completely different role to the old police authority.

“I am obliged to make sure you have quality services. Before I came in money haemorraged out of that office.

“And nobody saw effectively to have any kind of audit over what were the outcomes for people who were going through as service users.”

Mrs Holloway went on: “Ernst and Young are doing that for me this year. They are in weekly contact with my office.

“We want to ensure they’re spending your money on what they pitched to me to provide, and they’re providing the services we commissioned.

“That and the work we’re doing around knife crime, making the local authorities face up to their responsibilities, not taking no for an answer, making them come to the table.

“And frankly, in public, naming and shaming those that weren’t prepared to address gangs and knife carrying issues. That’s why you have a PCC.”

Bedfordshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth backed up the PCC during the meeting at Mentmore Road Pavilion on Thursday.

“I’ve worked as chief officer for eight years in three different forces,” he said. “I have worked under five PCCs.

“There are some frailties with the PCC system and some bits of it I don’t like.

“But I guarantee you a couple of things. You wouldn’t have got 17 members of a police authority here today at any point in its existence.

“The scrutiny she puts to the police service and the way she holds us to account is far more than anything I have experienced at a police authority.

“The other point around your PCC, I know she cares deeply about this place and something I find really refreshing is that she’s really not that interested in politics.

“She is more interested in what we’re doing to provide a service for the public.”

When a resident suggested Central Bedfordshire councillor Amanda Dodwell didn’t agree with her, the PCC replied: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

“Councillor Dodwell sat on the police and crime panel and had an exemplary opportunity to see first hand exactly what we’re providing.”

Offered the chance to respond, Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Mrs Dodwell said: “I feel it’s a very expensive office and it’s brought politics into policing.

“Prior to having a PCC, we had a police authority which brought all different political persuasions together and other experts to look at the policing issue across the county.

“It was a far more cost-effective way for delivering accountability with the public.”

The PCC said: “Not only that I took a £45,000 pay cut to take this job in terms of another offer that I had at the time, I did this because I want to perform a role in public service to make a difference.

“I am not the slightest bit interested in a parliamentary seat into the future.

“I am not doing this for ego, and I am certainly not doing this for politics.”

Point made, point taken. The meeting moved on to a fresh topic.