Today’s blog update might well sounds like the start to the first line of a joke, but once again to say the week has been busy and event packed would be an understatement.
I’m sure I’m with the majority of the population in never having met a member of the Royal family, so it was a delight this week to have the opportunity for the first time in almost 63 years to meet the Princess Royal.
I was thrilled to be introduced to Princess Anne, the event we were both in attendance at was a mental health conference in Telford. There is an increasing recognition that mental health problems are at the basis of the problems affecting a very large number of offenders and that they should not be being dealt with by the criminal justice system. This is an area that will only increase in importance.
Meanwhile, there were two very significant events last Wednesday.
Firstly the new Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) at the George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton was opened by Baroness Stern of Vauxhall. The Blue Sky Centre as it is known is a brand new, state of the art facility for victims of these dreadful crimes. This is one area of business where our target is to get an increase in the number of offences recorded. The accepted figure is that only around 10 per cent of crimes get reported, so anything that encourages victims to come forward is to be welcomed. More important than the facilities are the staff, and it was good to meet the dedicated people working in this very difficult field.
On the Wednesday afternoon we were keeping a keen eye on announcements from George Osborne on the comprehensive spending review. This is where the Government announced the funding available to us in coming years.
We had braced ourselves for cuts of up to 10 per cent, so it was with some sense of relief that the cuts weren’t as bad as anticipated. We will be bidding for some of the £50 million collaboration fund which will be made available to forces for co-operation schemes. Since our alliance with West Mercia is the most progressive scheme in the country it would be odd if that is not recognised. At this stage it is too early to say exactly what the effects of the cuts will be, but I’m certainly not talking in terms of noticeable cuts in front line policing.
I also had a rather forced inspection of a health care system after slipping over in a changing room on a wet floor and then requiring three stitches on my elbow in Warwick Hospital’s A and E to repair a deep gash.
Also last week I went to Hindlip for the first meeting of the alliance joint audit committee. There are a number of processes in place that ensure that I don’t stray too far from the straight and narrow. We are audited internally, externally by Grant Thornton, and then as an alliance by the recently appointed joint audit committee. Their role is to assess financial probity, value for money and risk and so have a very important part to play.
In order to ensure that our alliance with West Mercia is kept on track and heading in the right direction, I’m having regular meetings with my counterpart in West Mercia-Bill Longmore. That meeting was also at Hindlip and I finished the day off with an appearance at the Bede and Poplar Community Forum. The evening started with a presentation from the mother of Sean Morley who was killed in a hit and run accident on the A444 in 2011. His parents are lobbying for changes to the law for similar accidents in the future. Bizarrely, the rules concerning leaving the scene of an accident don’t apply when the victim is a person!! I’ll be mentioning the case when I meet MPs later this week.
With my Association of Police and Crime Commissioners hat on, and as Chair of the Independent group of commissioners I need to regularly liaise with my Conservative and Labour equivalents. The only practical way to do that now is by conference call and the first one was on Thursday. We are trying to decide whether we need an annual conference and if so should we run ours alongside the ACPO conference.
Police work can be very stressful and there is a chaplaincy service which-amongst other things-provided support to officers and staff. I met them briefly at Leek Wootton before having to leave early for a local meeting of our helicopter team. I’m on the board of the National Police Air Service which is the body charged with integrating the local consortia into a properly national service.
The reason I didn’t make that meeting was that I had to return to my flat to get a second form of identification for my meeting on Friday at a Mental Health conference for my meeting with the Princess Royal. Also I was being asked to do a radio interview with Radio Coventry and Warwickshire to respond to the comprehensive spending review announcement. By driving straight to Wyboston I was able to pre-record the interview and to be in place as a guest speaker at the ACPO Summer conference where we discussed the relationships between commissioners and chief constables.
Last week ended with attendance at the Chairman’s Civic Service at St Nicholas Church in Kenilworth. Besides the service there was an opportunity to meet many of the local civic leaders afterwards.
Monday was a community focus. Until our community safety ambassadors are in place we are trying to split the community forums between myself, my deputy Eric Wood and Chief Exec Mark Gore. I attended the Kenilworth one on Monday evening. Given the extensive new possible housing proposals it was good to see the generally constructive views expressed about the local plan. Chris Elliott’s highly polished presentation undoubtedly helped.
Denise Musson from the campaigning group Learning Disability visited on Tuesday and took me through the issues concerning those with learning disabilities. Depressingly, some of them still encounter hate crime in some form, and some end up inappropriately in the criminasl justice system.
The Robert Tedds case has naturally aroused a great deal of local media interest. I had a relatively early radio interview in Coventry explaining my advice that the name should not be released on charge but withheld until the date of the trial because of child protection issues. A relatively early trial date in August has been set in Worcester Crown Court.
This was followed with a meeting with Elena James to discuss my community engagement strategy and to listen to her plans as far as the force are concerned in the alliance. With West Mercia being so much bigger than Warwickshire, this is one area where myself and my counterpart in West Mercia are very unlikely to produce identical systems. My community safety ambassador scheme is progressing extremely well and on course to have people selected and in post in time for the next round of community forum meetings in September.