This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Kamikaze politics

The story has broke this morning of the expenses being claimed by Stephen Bett, Norfolk PCC for his travel between his home and the place where all his staff & Chief Constable are. You can read the story here.

As you might expect given that I am quoted in the piece, I have known about this story for a couple of days. Indeed Sally Chidzoy interviewed me on camera yesterday. Some of this footage will appear on Sunday in the BBC's 'Politics Show East'. (I have not seen the piece yet).

Since the story is still in the making, I will hold back from saying much about it on this blog.

However, I would just note that here we are, almost a year since PCCs were first elected and this is one of the breaking news stories... Another breaking story will soon be emerging from my colleague Bernard Rix who has been conducting a transparency audit of PCCs over the last few weeks. I have not seen the results, but I predict the news is unlikely to be 'peachy'!

Meanwhile the Home Secretary felt moved to report 'warts and all' on the progress of PCCs to a conference organised by Policy Exchange. You can read her speech here. Perhaps I should not be surprised, but I think this speech was peppered with partisan comments. And as for the warts, I think they were more mere pimples. (But hey, since when did Government ministers give full and unexpurgated accounts of what has happened..?)

But in many ways Ms May is correct, the new governance structure is work in progress and I suspect that a second term Conservative (single or coalition) Government would institute some reforms of the current arrangements. (Interestingly, I have been told that it was the Lib Dems who inserted the role of the Police & Crime Panels. Had it a pure Tory Government, we would have PCCs without any check or balance other than the ballot box every four years... I leave you to ponder on that.)

But I quote the Home Secretary here:
"Overall, police and crime commissioners are driving significant changes in policing – they are better known and more easily approached than the police authorities they replaced they are delivering innovative reforms, and many are making use of their powers to hold their forces to account. To be frank, this is not the case across the board, and in some cases, police and crime commissioners have been responsible for mistakes and errors of judgement – some possibly serious." (my added bold)
We learnt about some of these in Thames Valley a few months ago. The people of Norfolk are waking up this morning to some more, it would appear...

UPDATE (1749 08113): BBC News has just released this story: Norfolk PCC Stephen Bett pays back more than £3,000 in expenses.
Stephen Bett, PCC for Norfolk, claimed for 70 trips from his home to the offices in Wymondham. He said he had done nothing wrong but would return the money so that the controversy would not "tarnish the reputation of policing in Norfolk". He said he would no longer claim mileage for those journeys.
I will write more on this next week. For me the question now is: will the controversy end here, as I assume Mr Bett hopes it will?

No comments:

Post a Comment