Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner: Value for Money?

I am responding to the letter in the Cornishman, dated 19 December, from Ray Lloyd, basically asking: What benefit we have gained from having an elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)?

Well the timing was perfect as, in my role of Cornwall Councillor, I am a member of the Police and Crime Panel. The Panel’s role is to scrutinise the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, his office and on Friday, I travelled to Plymouth to scrutinise “The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Staff and Consultancy Expenses, and Expenses and Allowances.”

Readers who want to see how this meeting went can watch the webcast at www.plymouth.gov.uk/policecrimepanel.html.

The Police and Crime Commissioner obviously did not like my line of questioning wanting me to become a ‘Champion’ for his office rather than questioning the ‘empire’ that is being built to carry out a role that I am not convinced we need.

Some readers may feel that, if I cannot be the ‘Champion’ of the Police and Crime Commissioner and his office that I should withdraw from the Panel. Others will want me to continue to attend and represent their view, questioning whether we really need an elected PCC?

The ‘official’ question I was allocated was to ask the PCC to explain and justify why his office costs so much more than the Police Authority it replaces? His answer was predictable that he does more than the Police Authority.

I probed further to seek to discover what difference the office makes to the people of Devon and Cornwall that he does 5 times more (that is his view) than the Police Authority? I was invited to visit his office, in Exeter, to see for myself what goes on there and I will go, in the New Year.

My supplementary question was what ‘added value’ is the spending of the PCC giving, over and above if the same amount of money was allocated direct to the Policing budget?

The PCC was keen to point to his achievements in tackling alcohol abuse, reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice, reducing violence against the person, giving victims a stronger voice, increasing victims’ satisfaction with the police, listening and responding to the public.

I cannot help feeling that our Chief Constable and the rest of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary would want to focus on those areas, whether or not we had a Police and Crime Commissioner!

Some facts for you to consider, when reflecting on whether I should knuckle down and become a ‘champion’ of the PCC or continue to question whether the office gives you value for money. The PCC receives an allowance of £85,000 (but he was keen to say he is not motivated by money) plus his expenses for travel and an accommodation allowance for working away from home (he chose to set his office up in Exeter despite living in Cornwall).

Our PCC’s office costs Devon and Cornwall £1.5m, compared to the average PCC office cost of £1.26m or £1.38m if only looking at those areas grouped as being most similar to our own.

Our PCC looks like he will spend £273,720 on consultants, despite employing 24 staff (full time equivalent) and that compares to the Police Authority employing 15 staff (full time equivalent).

I would be interested in your views so why not email me on cllrsuejames@gmail.com.