UNISON Supports Campaign

UNISON South West support  @BobAshford1 for Police Commissioner.

” The elections of Police and Crime Commissioners will potentially have far reaching consequences for UNISON members working for the Police and Local Authorities. That why we are backing Bob Ashford campaign for the post in Avon and Somerset. With his background in public services. his involvement in the trade union movement and his professional expertise and knowledge in criminal justice at a local and national level Bob will make the ideal Police Commissioner.”

Former Chief Cop backs Campaign

Charles Clark OBE, QPM, the former Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Police today outlines his support for Bob Ashford’s campaign for PCC for Avon and Somerset:

“I have known Bob Ashford since 2002 when he was given the job at the Youth Justice Board to lead the work to develop a national crime prevention strategy for the YJB. He was the outstanding candidate having been a Youth Offending Team Manager,and with previous experience working with a wide range of partners at the local level. He soon established himself as a trusted and respected figure across government departments and with the many senior partners across the country who he worked with. He has been personally responsible for channelling £’s millions into preventing youth crime which has seen a massive reduction (over 40%) in the numbers of children and young people offending and  entering the youth justice system. He has been influential in developing the national youth strategy for policing and has been an active member of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Children and Young Persons Committee, which develops policy and practice for policing. He is knowledgeable, well respected, has regard to the views of others and delivers what he says. He is a first class candidate for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner”.

Need for Joined up Thinking Between Victims’ Services and PCCs

Yesterday in Weston Super Mare, I attended the launch of an excellent new report commissioned by Victim Support .  This focused on the issues affecting victims and witnesses of crime in Avon and Somerset. It also included challenges to the new PCCs on the role they should take in the delivery of services to victims of crime. These timely and pertinent challenges need to be addressed by prospective PCC candidates.

However, in the ensuing discussion several issues became apparent:

1)   The report might have drawn on the work of an even wider range of victims’ organisations working in Avon and Somerset, especially those supporting the victims of anti-social behaviour.

2)     There are a large number of organisations working with victims of crime in all its manifestations e.g. hate crime, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, sexual violence etc.

3)     Looking at offender profiles it is clear that many of them have been victims themselves, either from physical or sexual abuse or being caught up in domestic violence as children. As such there is a correlation between being victims of crime and offending. This is not to excuse offending or stigmatise victims but to understand the relationship.

PCCs are going to be faced with reduced budgets and demands from a wide range of organisations for financial support. We will have to make sure we make the best use of existing services so we can extract maximum value from the budget. Therefore whilst accepting the proposals posed by the Report  my own proposals to victims’ organisations in Avon and Somerset are:

1. Look at how they might further improve coordination of their services in presenting a joined up case to enable PCCs and victims organisations to be even more effective .

2. Look at and articulate the impact their services can provide in reducing offending as well as the impacts on victims.

Thanks to Victim Support for inviting me to such a stimulating and useful day and I look forward to working with VS and other victims organisations in the future.

Why Chief Constables must maintain their operational independence

One reason the Labour Party was initially against the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners was the concern that they would undermine the operational integrity of Chief Constables and politicise policing. That is why the Party was successful in ensuring there would be a protocol that ensures Chief Constables will maintain their independence.

A classic example of interference in operational policing was unearthed at the Leveson Inquiry when Boris Johnson and  his office came under fire after his Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse had complained to Scotland Yard on “several occasions” that it was devoting too many resources to the News of the World phone-hacking investigation. This was after Johnson had already claimed that  the original claims of widespread phone hacking were “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour party”. We now know just how monumentally wrong he was and how dangerous this interference can be. Chief Constables must have operational independence in preventing crime, catching criminals and bringing them to justice.

It is right and proper that Chief Constables and others who are commissioned to deliver crime reduction are held to account, as indeed Commissioners will be. In developing the Policing and Crime Plan Commissioners need to be the bridge between local communities and the police and other statutory agencies but having developed the Plan it is then the responsiblity of the Police and other agencies to deliver. That is why Commissioners need to fully understand the justice system and have the experience and knowledge necessary to be tough but fair and work with and not against those at the sharp end of delivery.

Effective Resettlement from Custody

Custody will always be a necessary sanction in the justice toolkit for those offenders who present a serious danger to members of the community. However we also know that custody is the most ineffective and costly means of preventing offending and re-offending. What can be done? Bob Ashford in a recent conference at the University of Plymouth outlined a fresh and innovative approach to the problem based on experience and early findings. Watch this video to hear Bob’s approach.

Police and Crime Commissioners: Why these Elections are Important

I will stand up for communities against the Tories’ 20 per cent cuts to policing and the loss of 141 police officers in Avon and Somerset.

· Keep police on the beat with neighbourhood policing, not hand it over to private companies or leave it only to PCSOs.

· Back a strong and swift response to antisocial behaviour. Victims should get a response within 24 hours.

· Be tough on crime and tough on prevention. We will work in partnership with police, local people and councils to tackle and prevent crime.

· Protect the police from political interference. I have signed a contract to respect the independence of the Chief Constable.

The first elections for the new posts of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) take place on the 15th November this year. There will be a PCC in every police force area in England and Wales. As current Mayor of London with responsibility for policing  Boris Johnson is also in effect the first elected PCC.

The introduction of PCCs has been controversial. The fear is that policing may become even more politicised than at present or that the election of a “maverick” with the powers and budgets held by a PCC may exert undue influence or find themselves in a gridlock with local members over setting of precepts etc. There is also concern that the elections, which will be held using a new supplementary Vote (SV) model in November with the government refusing to allow the usual candidate free mail shots, will lead to an uninformed electorate and a low turnout at the polls. Similar arguments are propounded over the introduction of elected Mayors.

The posts are indeed influential. PCCs will replace existing Police authorities and be responsible for:

  • Appointing the Chief Constable and holding them to account for the running of the police force;
  • Setting out a 5 year Police and Crime Plan determining local policing policies, setting the annual precept and annual force budget;
  • Holding  Home Office Budgets currently ring-fenced for community safety, substance misuse, victims and witnesses services and crime prevention services provided  through Youth Offending Teams (YOTs).

The elections of Commissioners are now going ahead and it is critical that they attract experienced  candidates and an informed and interested electorate. The election of PCCs can and should open an effective dialogue between all members of society regardless of gender, race, age, faith or income about not just the shape and direction of policing but also that of crime prevention, the role and responsibilities towards victims and indeed the very societal relationship with the police and policing. The elections and the campaign leading up to them provide a unique opportunity to bring this debate to the fore and for political parties and independent candidates to take the lead in this. If the government are serious about their wish to see these elections as the foundation of the introduction of  localism then they must also look at what more they can do to improve central communications.

Bob Ashford