When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Police commissioner pledges to get out and about
THE man elected to lead Thames Valley Police has pledged to meet the public after calls for him to become more high profile.
Anthony Stansfeld was elected the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in November last year and, as of today, has spent 100 days in the job.
But victims of crime and 100 residents surveyed by the Oxford Mail did not recognise him and have called for him to get out into the community.
PCCs, created by the Government to make forces more accountable, have the power to hire and fire Chief Constables and set budgets and force priorities.
Mr Stansfeld has spent his first 100 days learning about the workings of the force and has now pledged to go out and meet members of the public.
He said: “I was elected to represent the people on policing and crime and I am keen to talk to and meet as many people as possible.
“Now that my internal meetings are nearly complete, I will be spending a lot more time visiting the public and attending events and I’m looking forward to meeting as many people as possible.”
The Oxford Mail asked 100 people from across Oxfordshire, including Oxford, Witney, Abingdon, Wantage and Bicester, if they recognised Mr Stansfeld from a picture and if they voted in the PCC elections in November.
Only six people said the picture was of the Police and Crime Commissioner. No one could name him and only 14 voted in the election.
The PCC elections were dogged by low turnout, with only 13.3 per cent of the 1.69m voters in the Thames Valley actually voting.
Thames Valley Police is one of the largest forces in Britain and covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
Residents across the county called for him to meet the public he serves. Domestic abuse victim Katrina Teggart, 47, said: “He should take the time to meet crime victims, get to know what they have been through, how much the police helped them or did not and how the court system let them down. He needs to come down here and meet us.”
Labour PCC candidate Tim Starkey, who came second in last year’s vote, said: “If he is going to be someone people can contact with complaints and ideas, he needs to do more meetings with the public – and with different communities as well.
“There has been a focus on rural crime, but I think that is misplaced because all the research shows crime is focussed in urban areas. That is where he needs to focus and engage with people.”
But councillor Kieron Mallon, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for police, said: “Anthony Stansfeld has done a remarkable job considering the huge geographical size of Thames Valley. He has attended a lot of councils within Thames Valley and I have seen him in a number of forums, where he has been speaking to community groups, councils or bodies, and I think his no-nonsense, straight approach has been a breath of fresh air.
“He is setting his stall out for the next three years.”
Mr Stansfeld, a Conservative, earns £85,000 a year in his new role and has appointed David Carroll, from High Wycombe, as his deputy, who earns £35,000 a year. The office is also discussing employing a support officer for the PCC and their deputy.
Mr Stansfeld is working on his force plan, which will be published by the end of March. He will have control of the force budget and priorities from April 1.
His campaign pledges included reducing crime, driving up detection rates, protecting vulnerable people, ensuring the budget is targeted effectively and ensuring the police act firmly but fairly.
Q You have now been in office for 100 days. How do you think it has gone? A It has been good so far, challenging and busy but there have been no major issues or crisis, and it is going well.
Q What has been your greatest achievement so far?
A I think it is a bit early for major achievements, but getting the Police Plan written and the next year’s budget accepted in a short timescale has been a success. The final version of the plan will be published by the end of March and I am working on it at the moment.
Q What has been the greatest challenge or difficulty so far?
A Thames Valley Police is a large force covering a vast area and with lots of partner organisations. I was keen when I started to make sure I visited as many policing areas, departments and people as possible. It has not been an easy task but I have travelled around most of the Thames Valley and I have now visited a lot of departments and some partner organisations.
Q What changes have you brought in to date in Oxfordshire?
A It is too early to make changes as I have had no control over either the budget or plan until April 1 of this year.
Q How many times have you visited Oxfordshire since you took up the post, and can you give examples of specific visits?
A I have been in Oxfordshire for the majority of working days as the Police Headquarters is in Kidlington, and much of the business I have been conducting has been there. I have also visited a number of towns throughout the area, and Oxford itself, both to see the police station at St Aldates and speak to police officers and meet the county council. The Police and Crime Panel also held a meeting at the county council. I attended an event in Oxford organised through OCVA for the Safer Future Communities network, which represent the voluntary and community sector in communicating with the PCC. A number of voluntary groups from Oxfordshire and further across the Thames Valley attended and it was a brilliant opportunity to get feedback on my draft Police and Crime Plan. It is important that I continue to have strong links with the voluntary and community sector, so I plan to attend more of these events in the future. I have also met with farmers in South Oxfordshire to talk about crime affecting the rural community, victims of crime in various locations in Oxfordshire and visited an organisation which works with alcohol and drug misusers to enable their recovery and rehabilitation. Of course it is still early days and I have more visits around Oxfordshire planned for the future.
Q Critics would say little appears to have changed since police crime commissioners took up their posts and that PCCs are very low profile. How would you respond to this?
A It is unrealistic to expect the PCC to completely change how the police are run in the first 100 days. Most PCCs are only just beginning to understand the inner workings of the organisations they now head up. This was one of the reasons I was so keen to make sure I visited each of the policing areas and departments to ensure that I understood the organisation before making any big changes. I already had a good working knowledge, but I would hesitate to change things until I had a far better understanding of how everything works, and had control over the budget. That is for later this year. However it has to be clearly understood I do not run the day-to-day operational policing – that is the Chief Constable’s job.
Q The PCC elections saw a low voter turnout. What steps have you taken since taking up the post to reassure the public you are acting in their interests?
A The organisation of the PCC elections was nothing to do with the PCCs, it was the Home Office that set up the elections. I trust it will be done better next time.
Q Residents are concerned the force is closing down or reducing hours at police stations across the county. What will you do to address this?
A Police stations are like local shops, they need to be used by the public to be cost effective. If the number of people visiting them is low, then it is not cost effective to keep them open. If they are well used then, in most cases, they will be kept open. The way people contact the police has changed. Most people today use either their telephones or email, and this has resulted in far fewer visits to police stations. I would rather the police were on the beat deterring and detecting crime than sitting behind desks in empty police stations.
Q You said you had been left in a difficult position by Government cuts. Have you had to make specific service cuts – if not, how have the cuts affected the force in the past 100 days?
A The cash savings have largely been delivered through collaboration and other cost saving exercises, and I am pleased we will actually be recruiting an extra nine police officers this year rather than making reductions. I am also now responsible for a Community Safety Fund. This brings together various funding streams which used to come directly from the Home Office and includes funding to help tackle drugs and crime, reduce re-offending and improve community safety in the force area. I am pleased that this year, despite 16 per cent cuts to this fund, I will be able to closely maintain levels of funding to organisations such as Community Safety Partnerships.
Q Your Police and Crime Plan has been criticised for not being detailed or specific enough. Do you plan to make it more robust, and if so how?
A I received lots of feedback but in the main it has been very well received. I am working on the plan at the moment to ensure that where I can, I have taken into account the feedback received from the public and partners. I think what needs to be emphasised is that this is not a ‘delivery plan’ – that is produced by the police in response to this plan, and will contain more detail on how the plan is to be achieved.
Q When we interviewed you in November, you said you would judge the first 100 days successful if you had visited all police units, coped with the public interest and had a happy and efficient staff in place. Have you achieved this?
A I have now visited nearly, but not all, police units throughout the Thames police area. I, and the staff that support my office, have kept on top of the large amount of public interest, and I am delighted to say that I have a happy and efficient staff in place that have made the transition from supporting the Police Authority to supporting the Police and Crime Commissioner Office successfully.
Police and Crime Commissioners were brought in to make the force more accountable. What have you done so far to achieve this? How have crime figures in Oxfordshire changed since you became PCC?