Scrap the plan for wasteful Exeter PCC Fortress

If elected as your Police and Crime Commissioner I will invest in winning hearts and minds. 

 

 

SCRAP PLANS FOR A PCC FORTRESS – INVEST IN WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS

Tony Hogg, the PCC with only a short time left in post, decided just a few weeks ago to move his office less than one mile to what will be newly refurbished premises inside the Police HQ at Middlemoor. This idea has been known to the public for some time and has drawn nothing more than scorn. 

 The cost of the move is undisclosed, but after a reportedly competitive tendering process it is believed to have been whittled down to around 400,000 pounds, most of which will be down to clearing out a former bar and social area that has long been redundant, refurbishing the space and installing new computer facilities. This will be specialist (and expensive) technology, to allow his team to “interface” with the police computer systems.

The Chief Constable has already objected publicly to this plan saying that it “sends the wrong signal financially” and that it “may threaten the impartiality” of the PCC. This says little about the strength of their relationship, and it comes to something when the PCC is being set right by his own Chief Constable.

Mr Hogg inherited the existing premises from the old Police Authority on a lease that expires in November this year. This is expensive too, at a cost of around 100,000 pounds per year to house a staff of just 19 people. He should have made it a priority to get out of that arrangement long before now -  in a way that makes financial sense, and is the right solution for the long term.

I am calling for an immediate review of this decision which I see as an appalling waste of money, and one that does nothing to serve the interests of the people or frontline policing. The PCC has already presided over a withdrawal of public access to the police through station closures and an appalling phone service.  Now he wants to set his successor up in a fortress.

This move will undermine the ability of any future PCC to engage properly with the public, it sends all the wrong messages and potentially institutionalises a critical failure of this first term of the PCC in Devon and Cornwall.

The PCC role was supposedly established to bring about more democracy in the leadership of Policing, and in Devon and Cornwall this has simply failed. As we approach the election in May, the evident lack of awareness of the PCC role and its potential to enhance policing in our region says it all.

I have travelled all around the two counties meeting and talking with people and their views have been clear. There are many concerns about the realities of policing at the front-line, but there are also significant worries about their access to the police and that their voices are not being heard. Sadly, a move like this will only work against the notion that the Commissioner is impartial and recognises the importance of understanding what the public wants from policing.

Throughout my military career I have known that winning the hearts and minds of people cannot be done from inside a fortress, although many have tried and failed. I don’t want to repeat those mistakes.

I want this damaging decision stopped now - to allow me if I am elected to take a radically different approach. I would much rather work collaboratively with the major Councils and other organisations across our region, to share office resources, reduce costs, and most importantly to help me and my team engage with the public. Without that, the role of the PCC is fatally flawed.

I have had informal discussions with Council leaders, and with the Chief Constable and the Chief Executive of the OPCC during this run-up to the election. There are so many other options that could be explored, working collaboratively. Tony Hogg has taken control of the complete Police estate in Devon and Cornwall, but does not appear to have explored using parts of that to better effect.  Much of the police estate has been declared redundant or unaffordable. I would be seeking to identify parts of it that required minimal refurbishment that could be moved into at much lower cost. If this were a Police station that was earmarked for closure, there could be a double win.

If elected, I am committed to setting the strategic priorities for policing in Devon and Cornwall, working with people in all of our communities. I cannot stand by and see this decision go forward, potentially locking my staff into an uneasily close arrangement with the Chief Constable’s HQ team and pretending I’m comfortable with that. Direct public access to the PCC office is of course not my over-arching goal. Like Tony Hogg I will be focused entirely on ensuring public safety in the most effective way. It’s just that winning hearts and minds really helps!     

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Gareth Derrick

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