The Eye's Blog
On the 19th of April a live debate took place on BBCEssex's, The Dave Monk Show, between the candidates standing in the PCC elections. The full highlights of this can be found at
Firstly some facts that you may need to know.
The budget set for 2016/17 is £263.3M, £0.8M more than last year. An additional £3.8M will come from the recent rise in the council tax precept, of £4.95 a year (Band D). Giving a total budget of £266.3M for 2016/17. Some of the precept increase has already been allocated to retain an additional 30 PCSO's.
Addition costs £1.7M inflation, £7.2M pay and NI, £1.1M insurance increases and £2.4m for services already provided in 2015/16. Total increased expenditure £12.4M.
So the available budget is still down by 3%, despite the increase in council tax this year.
In the 2012 election, there was a turnout in Essex of 12.8%, The winner Nick Alston gained 4.7% of the available votes, this was the lowest of any PCC in the country. He started out with a budget of 264M for the year 2012/13.
In 2015/16 Essex police had a total of 3069 police officers, representing a fall of 7.3% since 2012, together with 262 PCSO's a fall of 73%, 1633 staff a fall of 3% and 366 special constables a fall of 28%.
We also know that a further 172 PCSO's will be lost by May 2016, along with 62 staff with the closure of 15 Police station front counters, leaving just 10 contact points throughout Essex.
Between February 2013 and January 2016, overall REPORTED crime has increased by 9.77%.
(There is no reliable way to measure the number of actual offences that have taken place, for those interested more detail is here, … http://www.essexinfo.net/essex-eye/crime-surveys/ but it would not be a surprise to find that only 25-30% of crime is ever reported to the police.) I personally hope that the next PCC will make this distinction when talking about "crime".
Victim based (reported) crime up by 10.0% , with a rise in Violent & Sexual crime of 48.44%.
Crimes against society has risen by 7.25%, with public order and weapon offences seeing an increase of 42.36%.
The Role of a PCC
Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:
secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
set the force budget and determine the precept;
contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to
make sure local priorities are joined up.
So with this information to hand, you should be in a better position to decide if the candidates understand the role of a PCC and form an opinion as to their suitability to keep Essex safe and spend a £266.3M budget solely on doing so.
I will add some comments to their replies, if I feel it is necessary to highlight a point, but not offer any opinion.
For those in a rush.
At the end of this Blog I have given my own opinion on what the candidates are standing for. I have tried to be as objective as I can, based on the answers candidates have given.
Other opinions (I'm sure) are available.
To start the debate the candidates were asked to give a mini manifesto, to convince people to vote for them.
These are the promises and pledges made.
Candidates Mini manifesto, promises and pledges
“I will divert resources away from arresting people that cause no harm, like people who possess drugs for personal use and divert these resources into tackling domestic violence. That is my number one priority.
PCC's oath of impartiality (to be taken prior to taking up office)
I do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of Police Force Area in the office of police and crime commissioner without fear or favour. I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public. I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice. I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public. I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest, nor encourage any police action save that which is lawful and justified within the bounds of this office.
Not sure if elected he could take this oath.
Changes in law are made by Parliament, not an elected PCC.
“I pledge to fight Tory police cuts, this vote is about getting out of the EU so we can control immigration, keep criminals and terrorist out and spend the money saved on our Police, Fire and Health Services.”
Think he may have his elections mixed up, isn't the EU referendum in June?
“I promise the people of Essex my hard work, my honesty and my passion to fight crime and the causes of crime.”
“I pledge we will have at least the same number of police officers we have now and more will be out on patrol, doubling the size of Special Constabulary and having a Special Constable in every town and village, crack down hard on ASB and domestic violence and gang crime. I think I am well qualified for that, being an Ex cabinet member for Essex County Council and deputy leader at Brentwood Borough Council. I have been through the round of savings.”
I have adequately covered most of this in my previous Blog. I will just mention again, An elected PCC has no input into the way the police do their job. The chief constable has direction and control of the force’s officers and staff which includes the special constabulary.
Essex police receive on average 1,200 calls per day but only have resources to respond to half. Last year Essex police stated that they would only respond to the most serious of ASB calls, which amounted to 3%, the remainder would be dealt with by Essex County Council and District councils. Low grade ASB has always been the responsibility of councils but they have often failed to accept this and relied on the police to be the service “of last resort”.
ASB incidents are not crimes and not recorded as such.
As far as I'm aware the Home Office has promised not to cut the Policing Budget for the life time of this Parliament, so expertise in cost cutting is perhaps not a qualification needed at the moment.
“My key pledge from day one, I will fight for more resources and funding for Essex Police.”
This really is part and parcel of a PCC's role, “secure an efficient and effective police for their area”. All candidates will, like their predecessor ,try and secure the best funding possible from the Home Office. It is almost certain that the Government will have a new funding formulae before 2017/18, this should bring in an additional £10M to the Essex Police budget for that and subsequent years.
The next question was
Do you have any pets, what is your favorite TV programme and the best ever music album.
The next question was from a caller.
Who asked, if any of the candidates would consider a referendum to increase the council tax precept, above that allowed by central government.
All said No.
Essex Police needs to find an additional £12.4m this year - where would the candidates find the money
This may be a valid question but the response I had hoped to hear would have been something like:
“There is no way I can answer this, until I have access to all of the information. I'm afraid that won't be untill after the election.”
All candidates waffled about unrelated issues.
Next Question (1)
How will you make Essex safer?
"If we want Essex to be safer, we need more money. We are dancing around."
He also went on to say that the “savings” from losing the 160 PCSO's this May was put into “Hidden Harm” with a further 130 personnel being deployed into this area.
Apart from receiving more money from the Home Office this year, there appears to be no plan B to keep us safe.
"You will get more boots on the ground. It will make people feel safer and it would make sure officers are out there where crimes are committed. We would turn the street lights back on."
He refered to himself as “Bobbies on the Beat Spink”, he did not indicate where the additional money would come from.
The responsibility for turning the street lights back on is a decision, which for most of us will taken by Essex County Council (Southend and Thurrock are Unitary Councils) . (Independent research at the moment does not show that turning the lights off has resulted in increased crime.)
He also feels he will be in a position to control immigration and keep us safe from foreign criminals and terrorists.
“More special constables and being part of the community are key to tackling crime. I would be interested in getting the budget "re-adjusted".
He also said that the decision to divert £6.5M from local policing into detection may have to be looked at. When asked how he intended to attract a significant number of new volunteers into the Special Constabulary, no ideas were forthcoming.
“Working with schools and community groups to prevent crime was a way forward. He said crimes should be prevented at source and ensure officers were "fully trained", "fully equipped" and work with charities more.”
He also said that preventing crime in the first place was the best way to make Essex safer.
“Police needed to collaborate more with the NHS, especially in terms of domestic violence and sex offences.”
He also went on to say that crime coming from people with mental disorders could be reduced by the NHS putting mental health funding on a parity, with other areas of the service.
I'm not sure that there is too much crime being committed by people with mental health problems. However, a lot of police resources are used, in making up for the failings of the NHS. The lack of beds for those suffering from MH issues being a particular problem.
Next question (2)
Essex Police recently embarked on closing buildings and front counters at its police buildings - what will our candidates do about it?
"We need the police out on patrol" and "police front counters were not visited". He would put a front counter in the town hall.
"I don't want to see front counters closed... but the reality is to support front line policing".
"They weren't well used because the "PCC discouraged people from using them".
He pledges to get the front desks reopened if he wins.
"There's some building that aren't in a good state of repair... But I would offer alternative facilities"
"I've been campaigning against the closure of Brentwood police station... I can't promise to reopen every one".
The Next question came from a caller who asked (3)
Will the candidates, reverse the cuts in the number of PCSOs in Essex.
"I would like to do that, but I can't make any promises."
"I would re-employ the PCSOs" which would be paid for by a re-prioritising of spending in Essex."
"I would bring back the PCSOs but pointed out an "unfair funding system" when questioned how he would pay for it.
"I would love to bring back PCSOs" but "we can't dance around the funding situation".
“I can't promise to spend money we don't have, it would be fundamentally dishonest to promise money to every single group if there is no money available.”
"I have a lot of respect for our PCSOs... but the reality is a special is more flexible than a PCSO".
“I have looked at the budget and we can afford specials.”
Specials are unpaid volunteers.
Next Question (4)
How do candidates see the role as police and crime commissioner?
"To make "informed decision" so the police are "with me and not against me".
"The role of being a police and crime commissioner will be a "big job and difficult job".
He also said merging police and fire building was a "good idea".
"I wasn't sure a PCC was even the "right model" for the police - he also said he wasn't sure if merging police and fire services was a "good idea".
He (Mr Vince)" wants to support and listen to the officers and wants to work and learn from the police themselves."
"The job is about making people happier and safer, and making criminals feel threatened.
Next question: Is the PCC really worth the money
"I don't think £80,000 is a lot to pay for one of the top jobs in the county".
"Nick Alston (the current PCC) has proved the role is "worth the money".
"I wouldn't take all the £80,000 salary.
"Is it a wise amount of money to spend in the current climate? I don't think so".
"Also said he wouldn't take the whole salary.
Martin Terry His comments were not recorded on the BBC web site
The last question (5)
What are our candidates going to do first?
"I'll put more bobbies on the beat and fight the cuts."
"I will restlessly pursue more funding"
"It's about cracking down on anti-social behaviour and domestic violence."
"I would look at tackling the county's domestic violence problem."
"Support and protect Essex Police officers."
As mentioned in my previous Blog, I am using a points scoring system to help me decide who to vote for. I will keep to the same system.
However, at this stage I would have hoped candidates would know what can or can't be done in their role as an elected PCC. So for those that don't, I am awarding an extra 2 penalty points.
For every realistic promise 1 point, for every irrelevant promise 0 points, for promises that can't be kept -1 point.
Questions 1 -5
For every realistic answer 1 point, for every irrelevant answer 0 points, for answers that show a lack of knowledge abour the role of a PCC -1 point.
My Current score table
What the candidates are standing for (my own opinion)
Kevin McNamara To decriminalise the personal use of class A drugs.
Bob Spink To revoke our membership of the EU
Chris Vince To cut crime and the causes of crime.
Hirst To use unpaid volunteers, to replace staff and officers lost in recent years due to austerity cuts.
Martin Terry To persuade the Home Secretary, that Essex is a "special case" for funding and use any additional monies gained this year to provide "Zero Tolerance Policing."
This is not a political election so vote for the candidate you feel will do the best job, rather than what party is funding his campaign.
The election on the 5th May is IMPORTANT, a low turnout will mean we will have an elected PCC by default rather than by choice.
Remember They cannot be removed once elected no matter how incompetent they turn out to be.
Your safety and that of your family may well depend on the choice you make on the 5th, so vote wisely.
In a political election, we all know that broken promises will be made, fanciful ideas put forward and political "spin" will be liberally applied throughout.
These elections are not political, promises made should be kept or at the very least seem achievable.
This Blog will look at these promises being made by the candidates
First up is Roger Hirst
Local, visible and accessible police (Web site)
"Public safety is so important for our families and our communities. The Chief Constable and I will have to strike a balance between investigative capacity to deal with low frequency but high impact crimes, and neighbourhood policing to keep our streets safe and deal with the crime which affects people day-to-day."
"To help us meet that challenge I have promised a special constable for every village. But the Special Constabulary is not just there for our rural residents. I want to see special constables patrolling our High Streets during the evenings and weekends too. Policing in Essex should be visible and in regular contact with the public."
Cracking Down on Anti-Social Behaviour (Web site)
"I want to keep our communities safe across the whole of Essex and reducing the disruption and distress it causes people. That's why I will make sure that every village has a Special Constable.
Having officers in your local neighbourhood is vital. Whether it is providing a visible presence, understanding local concerns, or delivering valuable crime prevention advice – a volunteer from your local community can make a real difference.
That is why I will double the size of the Special Constabulary and ensure that the Police provide a Special Constable for every village in Essex. They will boost community policing teams, tackle anti- social behaviour and keep policing local. By being in touch with what is going on the ground, they will help strengthen the performance of their colleagues in specialist investigation. My plan will ensure that we continue to have a visible Police presence across the whole of Essex."
For those that don't know
The Special Constabulary is the United Kingdom's part-time police force. It is made up of volunteer members of the public who when on duty wear a uniform and have full police powers. In Essex a Special Constable is asked to do a minimum of 4 hours per week; however some special constables will do more. The selection process for prospective volunteers involves a number of stages and can take up to 4 months to complete.
An elected PCC has no input into the way the police do their job. The chief constable has direction and control of the force’s officers and staff which includes the special constabulary.
If Mr Hirst approach to neighbourhood policing was to be agreed by the Chief Constable, how many volunteers would be needed to fulfill this promise.
@Hirst4EssexPCC Having read your manifesto, can you tell me how many villages there are in Essex. Can't find this information elsewhere. Thx
@EssexEye about 300 as measured by membership of the EALC
@Hirst4EssexPCC Can villages expect a 24hr police presence or 16hrs ie replacing PCSO's or just 4 hours per week, that a Special commits to.
@EssexEye It would be good to have more than one volunteer from a community, but I am sure we can find at least one.
Essex Police currently have something like 360 specials, so by doubling this number it may be possible to allocate a Special Constable to each village.
However, since 2010 the number of specials available has fallen by 40%, in 2010 there were 617 volunteers.
Essex police are constantly running recruitment campaigns for Special Constables, which appear to be quite successful. The reason why the numbers have fallen over the last 5 years, is not a matter of public record. However for what ever reason, Mr. Hirst will need to reverse this trend dramatically to keep to his promise.
"I will double the size of the Special Constabulary" is this FACT or FICTION?
The day-to-day duties of a PCSO usually include high visibility patrolling, tackling anti-social behaviour, dealing with minor offences, gathering criminal intelligence and supporting front-line policing.
It appears from the following statement, that Mr. Hirst is intending to use the additional Special Constables to perform many of the duties previously carried out by PCSO's.
"They (Special Constables) will boost community policing teams, tackle anti- social behaviour and keep policing local. By being in touch with what is going on the ground, they will help strengthen the performance of their colleagues in specialist investigation. My plan will ensure that we continue to have a visible Police presence across the whole of Essex."
Come May this year, the number of PCSO's available will have fallen by 303 (78%) since 2010. These were full time positions with PCSO's working a basic 37 hour week.
To just replace the PCSO's hours that have been lost in neighbourhood policing over the last 5 years, Essex Police would need to recruit and train something like 2,800 Special Constables.
Mr Hirst's objective in recruiting additional volunteers is to:
" keep our communities safe across the whole of Essex" by "providing a visible presence, understanding local concerns, or delivering valuable crime prevention advice".
Is this objective achievable. FACT or FICTION?
Roger Hirst Facebook account
‘There will be no cuts to police numbers’ is a firm promise by the Conservative Candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst.
Roger has pledged that the number of Police on Patrol will not be reduced during his term of office and he will produce a Police and Crime Plan for 2017/18 that guarantees that the number of fully warranted police officers, who protect public safety across Essex will be maintained and not fall. He is also pledged to double the size of the Special Constabulary and to have a ‘Special’ in every village cross the county.
Roger Hirst said: “It is vital that the public feel safe and the ability to contact police and their visibility is critical to my campaign. By ensuring that there is adequate neighbourhood policing, and boosting the Special Constabulary I will strike a balance between increased detective capacity to investigate some of the most serious crimes with the need to keep local communities safe and effectively tackle the causes of crime.”
The Essex Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for setting the budgets for the Force in Essex and while the role does not have operational responsibilities it is critical that the PCC ensures the Chief Constable has the right resources to prevent and tackle crime.
Roger continued: “As your Police and Crime Commissioner I promise to make sure that Essex is safe and the prevention of crime becomes a key part of my tenure. By engaging with residents and recruiting more special constables who are seen as pillars of their communities we will have a Force in Essex that will be envied by the rest of the country.”
"Roger has pledged that the number of Police on Patrol will not be reduced during his term of office."
@Hirst4EssexPCC Do you know the current number of officers, who's primary function is to "Patrol" their neighbourhoods throughout Essex?
@EssexEye Should be on the police Web page.
The number of officer's on patrol at any one time will not be recorded. I'm not aware of any officer's within Essex Police who have patrolling as their prime function. Officer deployment will change constantly depending on the demands being placed upon them throughout the day.
As stated before "An elected PCC has no input into the way the police do their job. The chief constable has direction and control of the force’s officers and staff which includes the special constabulary."
"The number of Police on Patrol will not be reduced during his term of office."
FACT or FICTION
"he (Mr Hirst) will produce a Police and Crime Plan for 2017/18 that guarantees that the number of fully warranted police officers, who protect public safety across Essex will be maintained and not fall"
@Hirst4EssexPCC Does "fully warranted police officers" include both regulars and specials, or are you promising to maintain regular officers
@EssexEye Regulars; the Specials should be incremental.
For 2016/17 a new funding formulae for the police has been promised, this should provide an addition income of £10m for Essex Police. The out going PCC has stated that any additional funding must be used to increase local policing.
"The number of fully warranted police officers (now confirmed as regulars), will be maintained and not fall" FACT or FICTION?
Roger Hirst Twitter account
No new promises.
Roger Hirst recycling material
None received as yet.
Next Chris Vince
2016 PCC Elections (Web site)
"I will focus on tackling the increase of violent crime across Essex and in particular the rise in domestic violence."
To tackle the rise in violent crime, the PCC will need to allocate more resources to the problem and forge closer links with neighbouring forces and other partners. Good progress has already been made in tackling this issue, during the present PCC's term of office.
""tackling the increase of violent crime across Essex and in particular the rise in domestic violence."
FACT or FICTION
"if elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in Essex I will work hard to protect frontline policing and ensure that our officers are able to do their jobs and keep the people of our county safe."
This seems to be a promise, that if elected, he will fulfill one of the responsibilities which is expected of a PCC, so seems irrelevant.
Chris Vince Facebook account
"My pledge if elected as PCC in May is to hold regular meetings with the Federation as well as spending time talking to Officers and Essex Police Staff. Fully support their#Cutshaveconsequences campaign."
FACT or FICTION
Chris Vince Twitter account
No new promises.
Chris Vince recycling material
Have received two items for recycling.
First No promises, that I can recall.
Second Same as the Web site.
Next Kevin McNamara
Home page (Web site)
"If elected Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, I will:
- LISTEN to the concerns of local communities AND the victims of crime who have been ignored.
- TACKLE issues that have not been resourced properly, such as the 85 incidents of domestic abuse in Essex every single day.
- WORK with local councils and other agencies in Essex, so our limited resources go further and tackle the root causes of crime; and work with partners across UK and the EU to share crime information."
Seems to be promising to do some of the roles expected of an elected PCC. Not relevant.
Kevin McNamara Facebook account
Kevin McNamara Twitter account
Kevin McNamara recycling material
Next up is Bob Spink
Back Bob (Web site)
Bob Spink Facebook account
Bob Spink Twitter account
"If I become Essex PCC we'll see more boots on the ground in Essex."
I guess this is some sort of promise. So
"We will see more boots on the ground"
Fact or Fiction
Bob Spink recycling material
Last but not least Martin Terry
Councillor Martin Terry (Web site)
Not 100% sure but none as far as I could see.
Martin Terry Facebook account
Can't find an account
Martin Terry Twitter account
Martin Terry recycling material
I have tried not to offer any opinions but hopefully giving you enough information, so if you wish you can begin to make an informed choice.
If you have any questions, the previous blog has all their social media accounts, just ask them. Public engagement is one of their most important roles, if elected.
Please vote wisely on the 5th, who ever gets in on the day will be our PCC for the next 4 years. Once elected they cannot be dismissed, unless they commit a serious criminal offence.
I am using a points scoring system to help me decide.
For every realistic promise 1 point, for every irrelevent promise 0 points, for promises that can't be kept -1 point.
More to follow shortly.....................
On the 5th of May we have the chance to vote for a new Essex Police and Crime Commissioner .
The first ever election took place in November 2012 where the local, Nick Alston narrowly won. The turnout for that election was around 13% with 4% voting for Nick Alston as their 1st preference. After the 2nd candidate preferences were included Mr. Alston won by just over 3,600 votes from a former chief superintendent.
The office of police and crime commissioner replaced the old Essex Police Authority who were an unelected group unaccountable to the residents they served..
With only 4% of the registered electors voting for the winner last time, it could be said that there was no popular mandate for the office, however the new system is perhaps marginally better than the old.
The responsibilities of the two offices are very similar the main difference is that the PCC office is expected to be public facing whereas the old Police authorities were virtually invisible.
For the elections in 2016 the following candidates are standing for office.
This is not a political election, so ideally everyone should be voting for the candidate they feel will be best suited to the role rather than a political party. There are no independent candidates standing in Essex, so all will be receiving some form of financial support from a political party.
So what is the job
- secure an efficient and effective police force for their area;
- appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
- set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
- set the force budget and determine the precept;
- contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
- bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.
In simple terms we all should expect our police force to firstly prevent crime and secondly if a crime should occur to bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice. If this does not happen then we should expect an elected PCC to hold the Chief Constable to account, for these failings.
We also should expect that our money, in the form of central government funding and local tax precepts, is not wasted and for an elected PCC to ensure that the policing budget is solely used for reducing crime and supporting victims of crime.
Before any candidate can take up the role of PCC, they have to to swear an oath of impartiality. The full text is as follows.
"Full Name of Place do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of Police Force Area in the office of police and crime commissioner without fear or favour.
I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public.
I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice.
I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public.
I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest, nor encourage any police action save that which is lawful and justified within the bounds of this office."
It is therefore important that any candidate when seeking election has acted with honesty and integrity both during the campaign and in previous professional roles.
I will be posting further blogs on this subject in the very near future.
In the meantime I have supplied you with all the relevant Web sites and social media accounts of the candidates for you to view if you wish.
I will close by stressing once more, that this is NOT a political election and candidates should be focusing on their abilities to perform the role.
Please vote wisely on the 5th May, a wrong decision could well affect you and your families safety for the next 4 years.
Use the calendar or list of months to view entries made on those dates.