Has Benefit of the Doubt been Forfeited?

Patronage is a double edged sword
Patronage is a double-edged sword

Benefit of the Doubt has not been earned

When last November Mr Adam Simmonds, or as my friends within the Northamptonshire Constabulary tell me “address me as Commissioner Simmonds” was elected to be the first County Police and Crime Commissioner he asked in the furore of appointing his friends and cronies to interim senior management posts that “I be given the benefit of the doubt”.

The Police Commissioner also made a number of promises amongst which were,

“There will be no cuts in front line police numbers” ,“I will not waste taxpayers’ money on increasing senior management and bureaucracy”, and “I will not be political and will represent the interest of everyone”

There were of course other more ridiculous promises such as reinstating Blue Doctor Who Telephone boxes across the County and having an army of “volunteers” with a volunteer policemen or woman in every community.

Putting aside that the PCC’s has effectively renounced any pretence of not being politically biased which was underlined at a recent Council meeting when the Northampton Conservative Leader referred to him as “Our Conservative Police Commissioner” we know from his record so far that he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

His promise to protect police number doesn’t appear to ring true when according to the Northampton Crime statistics there are fewer Police Constables, PCSO’s and Police Sergeants in January than in November last year.

In November last year there was 130 Constables, 127 PCSO’s and 28 Sergeants which by January had been cut to 127 Constables, 125 PCSO’s and 26 Sergeants reducing the police salary bill by £185,000.

I have no doubt that the Conservatives will argue as they have with all of their other cuts that cutting the front line police compliment by seven will have no significant impact on the delivery of the service.

Under normal circumstance they may well be right. But on top of the Government cuts in police funding and the Northampton Conservative cuts in funding these are far from normal circumstances and with the Northamptonshire Police now operating at the limits of their staffing levels any further cuts will have a disproportionate impact on protecting the public.

I have previously raised the issue and concerns about cutting police when what was needed is for an increase in policing to address what history has demonstrated time and time again is that crime increases during a recession.

The crime statistics provided by the police  clearly demonstrates that crime increased in the six months to November last year when compared with the previous six months and there is little doubt that along with the recession cuts in policing has been a major contributing factor to the increase.

The increasing crime trend across Northampton has continued under the Conservative Police Commissioner.

Reported crime figures for Northampton when comparing with January this year with December last year shows that Anti-Social Behaviour is Up 18.25 %, Burglary is Up 7%,   Robbery is Up 52.3% and Violent Crime is Up 6%. The only area in which reported crime has fallen between December and January was Vehicle Crime which fell by 2%.

It isn’t of course the police who are responsible for the crime but they certainly have the responsibility for detecting and crime prevention which can only be carried out by a professional and well-resourced service.

There should be no place for cronyism
There should be no place for cronyism

What has and will continue to make people angry when they see their neighbourhoods abandoned without police working in and with the community is the Police Commissioner awarding permanent contracts worth £65,000 a year to his friends and cronies.

The recruitment of his friends will cost the taxpayers over £195,000 a year not including the 25% on costs which is another betrayal of the PCC promises and which I’m sure you will have noticed would have paid for the cuts in police numbers since he took office.

The question remains.

Should we give Adam Simmonds the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner the benefit of the doubt?

I personally don’t think we should. The benefit of the doubt has to be earned by being open, honest, and trustful and perhaps as important being able to focus on the public priorities and not use the position to embark on self-interest and cronyism.

The Conservative PCC by his actions has forfeited the right to be given the benefit of the doubt and may well in what is his first role of any substance away from the political career he previously held find that the patronage of his friends may well come back to haunt him.