Ken Maddock police commissioner candidate – exclusive interview

On November 15 2012 the people of North Somerset will go to the polls to elect a police commissioner for Avon and Somerset. 

Whoever is elected to the role will have a powerful mandate and will be responsible for setting the budget and strategic priorities for the police.

The police commissioner will replace the current Avon and Somerset Police Authority, which is typically made up of local councillors and independent people.

A controversial policy put in place by government, and opposed by Labour, it has attracted wide attention with high-profile politicians such as Lord Prescott and Alun Michael MP announcing they will stand for the role of police commisioner in their region.  

Here, The North Somerset Business Leader finds out more about the role and interviews Ken Maddock, who is the Conservative canditate for police commissioner in Avon and North Somerset. Ken was formerly the leader of Somerset County Council.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself and your background?

“I currently live in Baltonsborough in Somerset and have lived there for twenty-five years. I’ve been married for over forty years to my wife Sharon and we have two children and now four grandchildren.

I have long experience in business where I have learnt to make sure that you get value for money. I applied my private sector experience, when I was leader of Somerset County Council and Mendip District Council, to ensure that local people get the best services at the best price.

We must always remember that it is not the Council’s or Police’s money we are spending but our friends and neighbours, it is the people’s money.

I have completely dedicated myself to the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset by stepping down as the leader of Somerset County Council.

I believe that this new role can make big difference to the lives of local people, who we are elected to serve.

This is a great opportunity for local people to take back control of our public service. I want to make a difference and I am going for it 100%.”

And why you have decided to run for this newly created role?

“This is the start of a new era and I want help shape it.

I have long experience of business and getting things done. I can use this to make the police effort more effective and deliver better value for money.

Also I am an experienced local politician so I am used to representing local people, meeting, listening and taking action on their behalf.

Most importantly I have the contacts who can help make this role a success, having already met with the Home Secretary Theresa May, Home Office Ministers James Brokenshire and Nick Herbert.

Locally I have also met with local MPs Liam Fox and John Penrose and Council Leader Nigel Ashton.

If I didn’t believe I could deliver a real improvement and make a difference I wouldn’t be standing.”

Also could you explain more about the role of police commissioner and what powers, whoever elected, will have?

“The new Commissioner will be a local figure with a powerful mandate directly from the public. If he or she does not listen to the people, he or she can be voted out at the ballot box. Importantly they will set the budget and the strategic priorities for the police.

They will not have direct operational policing powers so they won’t be able to tell a Police Officer to arrest someone like you see in the films.

Also the new Commissioner will have a bigger remit. It will cover not just policing, but also crime prevention, community safety and co-operating with other public sector agencies to get the most out of every police pound spent.

So this is a new opportunity to make a real difference to our local communities. It will improve everyday life for all of us. And that is what I want to do.”

What do you feel is the benefit of a police commissioner over a local police authority?

“In the past the Police have been guided by the unaccountable Police Authority, made up of local councilors and independent people. And they have done some good work.

The trouble is nobody knows much about them. And if you have a problem, you don’t know who they are or how to get hold of them.

The Commissioner will benefit local people as they will know who to go to with their concerns about crime in their area or an issue with the Police.

And if they do not think their doing a good job they can vote them out at the next election.

I will be able to look at how the Police operate and their priorities to make sure that they are the same priorities as the people. As a local resident I know what service I receive and how the Police are perceived and what I can do to improve that.

The second part of the Commissioner’s role is that they have a broader remit to ensure community safety, tackle drugs and prevent people turning to crime in the first place.

They will be the figure head that brings together all the community bodies that work to reduce crime, including the ten councils, community safety partnerships, justice boards and charity groups across the force area and ensure they are all working in an efficient and productive way.

Finally, the buck stops with the Commissioner. If they have failed to cut crime or to listen to local people’s concerns then local people can vote them out.”

How do you feel that a police commissioner will connect the police with the public better?

“Yes – for most public organisations that is a dedicated person for the public to contact. If you have an issue with the council you see your local councillor or if you have a problem nationally you see your Member of Parliament.

With the Police and Crime Commissioner if you are not happy with crime in your area, you want something done or you’re not satisfied with the service you have received from the Police you can contact the Commissioner who can investigate and take action. I am working for the people and not the Police, I will listen and learn from what people are saying to make sure the peoples’ priorities are the Police’s priorities.”

Ken Maddock (left) with John Penrose MP

Do you feel that the current system of police authorities can lead to too much collaboration and not enough decision-making?

“In my opinion there isn’t enough collaboration between Police Forces and Police Authorities across the Country. By working together the new Commissioners will be able to make every police pound go further when buying new equipment or technology by getting value for money, which can be directed to the front line, keeping people safe and tackling crime.

Getting value for local people’s money must not be used as an excuse to slow down justice. By working together I want to see justice sped up. It is only fair to everyone involved that they can have their case dealt with and the uncertainty removed so they can move on with their lives.

The Police Authority has made decisions but these are largely unknown by the public. As the Commissioner I will make sure I listen and learn from local residents about what they want from their police force.”

Recent research by the think-tank Policy Exchange revealed that only 34 % thought PCCs were a good idea – in light of this do you feel that voter turnout will be low come the election?

“It is up to us as Commissioner candidates as individuals and as political parties to explain to the public about the role of the commissioner and what that means for them and how the role can improve policing in their area.

I have hit the ground running meeting Police and crime organisations, charity groups and local people to listen to what they have to say and explain how I, as the Commissioner, can help them.”

This included only 44% of Conservative voters thinking it was a good idea – does this concern you at all?

“The election for the Police Commissioner is happening and I firmly believe that this role, if done well, will make a positive difference to the everyday lives of local people.

As we move closer to the elections there will be more publicity after the Olympics from the Electoral Commission, the Government and the candidates. As people gain a greater understanding of the role of the Commissioner I believe they will realise what a great opportunity it is for local people, which will reflect in the voter turnout.”

Our publication covers North Somerset, to residents who have concerns over crime and policing, what will the election of a Police Commissioner do to tackle fears over anti-social behaviour and other crime?

“As the Police and Crime Commissioner I would have a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and will tackle drug problems head on.

I am doing the groundwork to make sure I have a full understanding of the issues in each area across the force area. I have been meeting with community leaders, charity groups and speaking with local people.

I am taking the time to listen to them about their concerns and coming up with a solution. I will continue this essential work as the commissioner to make sure that the people’s priorities are the Police’s priorities.

It is important that local people understand the true level of crime in their community and I will make sure that data is available to answer their fears.”

A key aspiration for much of the public is to see more ‘bobbies on the beat’ – is this an achievable goal? And is it realistic when you consider that much crime solving is done through intelligence and police work that may not be visible to the public?

“High profile policing or “bobbies on the street” is a great comfort to great number of local people.

The key objective of anything the Police do is to stop crime and to catch those responsible when crime is committed allowing local people to live their lives in safety. Every pound of the public’s money spent by the Police must be justified and be the best method for reducing crime.”

Opponents argue there is a risk that the whole process becomes a personality contest when what we need is consistency in policing and not a politically driven agenda. Do you feel this is a fair comment?

“Consistency in policing is key for when the Commissioner takes over, local people can’t afford for the police to stop. However, there will be background changes and the personality of the Commissioner will play a part in this.

One key aspect of the Commissioner will be having a say at a national level on sentencing and prisons. As a Conservative I will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to drugs. I will not therefore be calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

The personality of the Commissioner will give people an idea of what direction they will take our police force in. I will be a Commissioner that will speak to local people, listen to their concerns and take appropriate action so they feel safe.

The Police need to be responsive to the changing needs of our communities. The Commissioner should not be politicising the police and I will not let that happen.

The Police and Crime Commissioner will be monitored by a series of checks and balances.

The Police and Crime Panel made up of people from across the force area and from a variety of political parties, will be monitoring the Commissioner’s actions. Whilst each Commissioner will have to swear an oath of impartiality, emphasising that they are they to represent local people not a political party or one section of the electorate.

Ultimately the strongest check and balance is by local people themselves. If they are unhappy with the work done by the commissioner, after four years, they can vote them out of office.”

Are traditional Conservative values at the heart of your bid to become police commissioner or would you position yourself more as a compassionate modern conservative?

“The Conservative Party has always been the political party that takes law and order seriously. As a Conservative I believe that the protection of people, to allow them to live their lives in safety, is the top priority of any government and that will be my top priority as the Police and Crime Commissioner.

My main aim as the Commissioner will be to cut crime and to work with local people and communities to make sure that fewer young people feel the need to turn to crime.

But where crimes are committed I want to see criminals punished for the crimes they commit, to pay their debt back to society but to also teach them new skills so that they can improve themselves and their lives. I want to see criminals going straight, not going straight back to crime when they leave prison.”

What improvements do you feel have been made in recent year in regards to tackling crime in Somerset?

“In recent years the incidents of crime have gone down and the rate of detection has gone up. I welcome both of these but more must be done, and faster.

Currently, 34% of crime is detected but that means two thirds of crime has not been detected. After four years as the Commissioner I want to know that fewer crimes have been committed and that more crimes have been detected.”

Is there any areas that you feel are still weak?

“I want to build on the great work that the Police Officers, Special Constables, PCSOs and volunteers across Avon and Somerset have accomplished over the last couple of years.

It is essential that I make every Police pound go further. By spending money wisely and justifying every expense, I can spend more money on helping them do their job.

I will ensure that the peoples’ priorities are the Police’s priorities. Local people say to me that they don’t feel listened to or no one cares. As the Commissioner I will be there to listen and take action on their concerns.

I want people to feel safe in their communities. There is a gap between the actual level of crime and how safe people feel. I want people to know how good our Police force is, how great we can be, so that they feel safe when going about their daily lives.”

Do you have any comment on Bob Ashford standing down as the Labour candidate?

“I am hugely disappointed for Bob on a personal level. Whilst a former opponent I respect his track record and career in youth justice and he would have certainly added interest to the campaign.

However it is a severe lesson to all of us that getting involved in offences is something which can affect your future life chances very seriously. I wish Bob well and thank him for what he has done to boost interest in this election during his time as Labour candidate.”

To find out more about Ken Maddock please visit: http://www.kenmaddock.org.uk/

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