Scrap the plan for wasteful Exeter PCC Fortress

If elected as your Police and Crime Commissioner I will 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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commented 2016-04-14 20:09:47 +0100
Commodore, in a recent post on your Facebook page, of the first twenty comments nineteen called for the scrapping of the PCC role and only one expressed anything but general disapproval. Almost without exception the comments on your website and other electioneering output is extremely negative. Given that only 15% of people nationwide turned out for the last election and less than one in ten can name their PCC [Guardian Newspaper] isn’t it about time you stopped indulging in some colonial, Boy’s Own fantasy, rambling on about “winning hearts and minds” and face the fact that you’re not Orde Wingate forging his way through the jungle. Frankly Commodore, you’re an unwanted bureaucrat whose talk of “ordinary people” is at best patronising and at worst a distasteful smear on the memory of genuine Labour stalwarts who I’m sure are spinning frantically in their graves at the thought of such an obvious establishment crony waving the red flag whilst coining 85k a year from the public purse.
If you genuinely wish to engage with the public as you constantly claim then start talking about how you wish to see the role scrapped and not about your military career and what building would be best suited to housing your cushy little number.
commented 2016-04-13 09:17:48 +0100
Better still, scrap the PCC! Despite the introduction of elected commissioners, the flaw in this public accountability experiment has been clearly demonstrated by the general lack of public interest in who they are and what they do. Arguably, the only PCC initiatives capable of firing up widespread public interest are those that, like this and many others, are perceived to be a waste of public money. I suspect the forthcoming election turnout will be a clear demonstration of that apathy; because for those who even know or care what the PCC is, it’s just another expensive quango! Personally, I would vote for the man who stands up and say, ’I’m going to oversea the dismantling of the PCC by setting up mechanisms that encourage the Central Government, Local Government and Home Office to do the jobs they’ve all been elected and paid to do!
commented 2016-04-12 23:13:54 +0100
I never thought I would be in agreement with a Tory but it seems public access is a priority with Alison Hernandez whilst your philosophy seems to be to shut down anyone not in agreement whilst hiding away from the public in exactly the kind of “fortress” you criticise Mr Hogg for using.
The level of chutzpah involved in talking about “winning hearts and minds” whilst stifling debate on topics you don’t like the sound of and using gagging tactics on anyone with the temerity to ask pertinent questions about your financial approach to the role is mindblowing.
We see the same tired soundbites on every post: “I am committed to setting the strategic priorities for policing in Devon and Cornwall”
Gareth, I hate to break it to you old boy but that’s what the PCC is paid to do. It’s not your unique personal selling point.
So, how about you win some hearts and minds with an offer to accept a cut in salary? Or will you be doing 4 times the work of a front line bobby?

Gareth Derrick

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