Back in 2007, I took on the job of being the Director of Organisation Development (Collaboration) for the six police services of the Eastern region (comprising Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex). At the time I was living in Oxford but knowing that I would soon be moving to Buckingham. The job was based in Huntingdon at Cambridgeshire Police HQ but with, obviously, a very wide patch to cover. The post was paid at Assistant Chief Constable grade: a very good salary.
- When I took on the job, did I ever consider having someone drive me around? No.
- Did I consider asking for the job to be based in Bedford (a lot closer to me)? No.
- Was I focused upon doing everything I could to improve social outcomes and value for money for other people? Yes.
- Did I pay for my own commuting to Huntingdon? Yes.
- Did I arrange for an encrypted laptop so that I could access emails and documents securely from home or indeed anywhere? Yes.
- Did I accept it was my responsibility to make the new arrangements (including all the logistics) work? Yes.
- Did I think what I was doing was in any way unusual? No.... (thousands of people commute long distances to work and find ways to function remotely).
Now there are some people who are far more disturbed by the Thames Valley PCC's statements surrounding the 'Bullfinch' trial. Whilst I have my deep concerns, I am also very upset about the statements that he is now issuing around his reasons for having a second office and signing off his own expenses in the way that he has. As I have said, I am glad that there will now be an independent audit of these matters where all the details and intents can be properly scrutinised. I look forward to seeing more of the facts, although there are many out there already.
But I have been wondering why I feel so angry. I think it is because it seems to me that Mr Stansfeld has all but said that commuting and driving around for work purposes, "are for the little people". As a local taxpayer, it doesn't feel to me that he is serving us, but that we are serving him...
Now I know I am not along in feeling like this. You only have to read to the comments on the local newspaper websites to know that. I have also had several emails from people thanking me for raising all these issues. And while I wonder whether I have become an unwitting supporter of the view that all politicians are untrustworthy (which I do not believe!), I know I had to expose to all this. But maybe I am in a small grumpy minority of people who are concerned about all this?
So this got me wondering whether Mr Stansfeld would be prepared to face and listen to his constituents in a series of public meetings. Or even just one public meeting would be good.
So I looked through his expense claims for February and March. (You can see them all here although why April's is yet to show intrigues me.) There are meetings listed with High Sheriffs, council leaders, local police commanders and various partnership forums. As far as I can see (and I am happy to be corrected) there is only one public meeting shown: on the 28 March in Bracknell. You can read details about the meeting here. "Visitors to the meeting can table a question for the commissioner in advance" says the website. You can read the minutes of the item here and overall here. As far as I can see, there no were no members of the public present nor were any questions tabled beforehand.
So I am thinking it is about time that Mr Stansfeld held a truly open public meeting where he can respond to unscripted questions from the floor from the people who elected him... We are now six months in to PCCs, it would seem about right time to do this.
So how about it Mr Stansfeld? At least one public meeting would be good, more would be even better!
Or are you 'frit' of being directly accountable to the people who elected you?
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