Lincolnshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones has vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to secure more funding which will protect the county’s 1,100 front-line officers and 149 PCSO’s beyond next year.
Mr Jones, who was elected to the £65,000-a-year post last month, admits money to cover existing staffing levels is only in place until next April.
However, he says he is determined to secure additional funding from Central Government which could lead to an additional £8m-a-year and stave off fears of major cutbacks.
His views come in an exclusive interview in which Mr Jones also:
lDefends his decision to appoint a deputy against the recommendation of the county’s Police and Crime Panel;
lDefends his decision to remain as a serving county councillor;
Regarding funding, Mr Jones said: “The budget is set which takes us through to next year but there is a funding gap from April 2017 onwards.
“We are having urgent conversations and if there is no national funding deal, the Government will still have to sort out something for Lincolnshire.
“I am confident the Government accepts there is an issue which is half the battle.
“The worry is that if they give extra funding, they might take it from somewhere else.
“But we have to put our case forward and I will be fighting harder than anyone.
“More budget means more people. Less budget means less people.
“We are not asking for a gold-plated amount to do things we don’t need to. We need that money to do the job.”
Mr Jones admits he’s ‘still getting his feet under the table’ after winning a closer-than-expected election with UKIP’s Victoria Ayling finishing second.
The early weeks of his tenure have been dominated by allegations that his role as a county councillor will lead to serious a conflict of interests - and, of course, there is his controversial appointment of his fellow Tory councillor Stuart Tweedale as his number two.
Regarding his councillor role, Mr Jones said: “The allegations of a conflict of interest have only been made by opposition councillors.
“ I don’t buy it. The fact is the Government created this role and said you can remain a serving councillor.
“I am away from all ‘executive’ responsibility. I am a back-bench councillor. That role is done in your own time and it’s got nothing to do with my work here.
“However, I can go and sit at the desk of an officer at the county council and talk directly to them about important issues. A commissioner who isn’t a councillor could not do that.
“There are no conflicts whatsoever. If they (the council) are talking about issues that directly involve policing, I will leave them room.”
And his No 2?
Mr Jones added: “I have met with the police and crime panel and they support me totally. There’s no animosity.
“The PCC role is not to interview a deputy. I have to feel totally confident that I can trust my deputy to act on my behalf and that they have the community based skills to deliver what I want.
“From day, one, I made it clear that I wanted a deputy to focus on rural crime and engage with communities.
“We have already made progress - setting up a community based youth engagement group which will be for 14-24-year-olds to discuss what is important to them and their experiences of police.
“I need a deputy. I don’t have time to do everything.”
Away from the ‘politics’ of his new post, Mr Jones says he has a brilliant relationship with the chief constable and is determined to make sure every single resident in Lincolnshire feels safer.
He says he would welcome tougher legislation nationally to tackle street drinking and the sale of cheap, imported extra strength alcohol.
He supports 20mph speed limits on roads adjacent to schools and stresses the importance of making the county’s roads safer, explaining the number of deaths and serious injuries would provoke a ‘public outcry’ - if it related to any other issue.
Tackling rural crime is another key aim.
Mr Jones said: “Nationally, we are the fifth safest place to live and the number one place in terms of safety in the East Midlands.
“Most of the rest of the country looks at us with envy at the problems we face. Nevertheless, these problems are important to people.
“No one corner of our county should have to manage without effective policing.”
Mr Jones is keen to appoint an army of volunteer ‘constables’ who, he says, would work in their own community and not support officers ‘fighting drunks in a nearby town on a Friday night.’
And what about that perennial complaint that you never see a bobby - unless he’s holding a speed gun..
Mr Jones says: “Officers are reaching into our communities - even though we might not be aware of it. Cyber crime and internet fraud are hugely problematic crimes.
“Our children being groomed on line. There’s a significant risk to our communities and the fact we don’t actually see officers working does not mean they are not there.”
Mr Jones refuses to rule out changes to the contract between police and G4S who provide a number of services, including manning the central call centre and issuing firearm certificates.
He is a big advocate of ‘multi agency’ working and envisages closer and stronger relationships with neighbouring forces.
He is already identifying savings. He reveals plans to install energy saving lighting at all police stations will cost half-a-million pounds but stresses that outlay will be ‘paid back’ in three years, along with savings of £70,000 a year - the equivalent of two police officers.
He is excited about the prospect of the emergency services working together and perhaps sharing facilities throughout the county adding: “We won’t be spending money maintaining crumbling buildings that are locked half the time anyway”
Work has started on a new Police And Crime Plan which he wants to be in place this year - six months ahead of schedule.
“It’s a statement of working with other partners, dealing with offenders, how we commission services, how we deal with victims of crime.
“People can look at it and ask whether I am delivering what I promised in the election build up. I believe I am.”
And the job itself?
He adds: “In some respects it as I expected in that there aren’t enough hours in the day.
“There’s a revolving door of people coming in briefing me on the areas of their knowledge and expertise.
“But the world of policing doesn’t stop for me to get on. The day to day business keeps happening.”