Posted: Friday 28th July 2017
Last month Chief Constable Andy Marsh and I wrote to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and the Policing and Fire Minister explaining that policing in Avon and Somerset is being pushed to the limit. Last week, I met with Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd MP at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) summit in London. There was an honest and robust conversation with the Minister and I am reassured that he is listening to our concerns. Policing is now at a pivotal point and I am determined to keep moving forward to ensure we have the funding we need for policing here in Avon and Somerset. Throughout August we will now meet with our local MPs to continue to call on their support for investment in policing.
In a report published last Thursday by the Office for National Statistics, they announced that crime has risen by 10% across England and Wales, the largest annual rise for a decade. This is news we were already aware of in Avon and Somerset and that’s why it’s so important that the Chief Constable and I are encouraging everyone to act now. Clearly any further reductions in police funding will increase the risk for all our communities and the nation. The long term safety of Avon and Somerset and the country will only be protected by a coordinated effort across policing which includes capital and revenue investment. The police service not only needs frontline and specialist capability investment but also investment in technology and support functions.
So what happens next? In September the Chief Constable and I will be submitting an evidential case for increasing the government grant in Avon and Somerset to the Policing and Fire Minister. There will also be national submissions from the NPCC and the APCC, which I have contributed to, arguing for growth in the police budget. More than anything, I want our local residents to know, that we are doing all we can to make sure that your policing service is receiving the realistic financial support, to continue to ensure you are safe and feel safe. It’s important times for policing, as it also is for fire following the publication of a critical inspection report by the Home Office into Avon Fire Authority last week.
In the Home Office’s independent statutory inspection report into Avon Fire Authority, they called for sweeping reforms in the governance, leadership and culture of the Authority. Yesterday, Deputy Mayor of Bristol Cllr Asher Craig, Bath and North East Somerset Council leader, Cllr Tim Warren, North Somerset leader, Cllr Nigel Ashton and South Gloucestershire leader Cllr Matthew Riddle and I came together to discuss the outcomes from the report. Collectively we feel that the current Fire Authority cannot fix itself and feel we have a responsibility to local people to ensure the issues identified in the report are put right. The leaders believe this can only be done with a radical restructure by forming a new reduced Fire Authority in line with the report’s recommendations and I will help support them in their effort.
This is a decision that has not been taken lightly, but I feel incredibly strongly that the bullying culture and unacceptable misdemeanours highlighted in the report have to change. Let me also be clear, this decision does not affect the operational integrity of Avon Fire and Rescue Service, this is about changing the governance of the Authority. For too long the current Authority have failed both their fire fighters and local people and it’s important we take this opportunity to put things right. Next week I will be meeting with the Donald Davies, the Chair of Avon Fire Authority and Stewart Edgar, Chief Fire Officer for Gloucestershire to discuss how we can take this forward.