On Thursday 5 May Sussex residents will have the opportunity, for the second time, to vote for their Police & Crime Commissioner.
As Minister for Policing & Criminal Justice I championed the reform to introduce PCCs. I think it was right to replace police authorities with a single, directly elected individual who will hold the police to account.
Like the authorities she replaced, the PCC is not a police officer. She does not interfere with operational decisions, but she is responsible for setting the £250 million budget for policing in Sussex, has the power to appoint and dismiss the Chief Constable, and must ensure residents’ views are heard when setting policing priorities.
I think that Sussex’ first PCC, Katy Bourne, has done a great job. Facing budgetary constraints she worked with the Chief Constable to take the difficult decisions to run the force more efficiently, but has now opened recruitment for 100 new Police Constables and more PCSOs.
She has also innovated, issuing cameras to all frontline officers, introducing a £20 million upgrade programme for police stations, establishing an award-winning Youth Commission, encouraging a dedicated business/cybercrime strategy for Sussex, and establishing the UK’s first Elders Commission, giving older people a voice on policing.
The PCC has wider responsibilities than the authorities she replaced, including for victims, and in Sussex has funded support for victims of abuse, serious sexual offences and child exploitation.
If re-elected, Katy Bourne’s plans include to deliver effective neighbourhood policing in our rural communities; to cut crime, catch criminals and reduce reoffending; to improve access to justice and put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system; and invest in frontline policing and further improve the performance and efficiency of Sussex Police.
I saw at first hand the difference a good PCC can make when Katy helped to sort out the problem of a convoy of travellers invading Findon’s village green. She gave a voice to concerned residents and ensured more effective police action.
In fact, I would like to see the PCC’s responsibilities extended into other areas, such as ‘blue light’ emergency services and the local criminal justice system.
I am proud of the reform which I introduced, which I believe has been a success. And on Thursday 5 May I will certainly be voting for Katy, who has shown what the new role of PCC can do for local communities.