Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has announced that she is to step aside as the PCC for the county after four years in the role - as another Policing Special Grant from Government is expected imminently - to give another Commissioner the chance to invest new skills in policing in the county, in line with the original plan for the role.
In the last financial year, the PCC has been successful in getting the Government to re-write the rules of its Special Grant process, which usually relied on making a payment to cover an event on one particular day outside business as usual in policing, to win £4.571m for cash-strapped Bedfordshire Police to meet the unprecedented cost of fighting gang, gun and knife crime in the previous two years and that anticipated in 2019-20. The money allowed the Force to double its specialist unit - Operation Boson - creating one team for the north, in addition to the existing response in the south of the county - delivering 150 years of prison terms as a result. The PCC was also able to protect recruitment as a result and deliver on her promise to recruit 160 officers, in a higher recruitment drive than for a decade in the Force, and exceed this by another 18 officers to replace potential candidates falling out of training, plus a further 18, as the first of the national uplift promised by the Government.
“I think it’s always a good idea to quit while you’re ahead and I’m more proud of what’s been achieved on behalf on Bedfordshire Police, which deserved someone to fight its corner and to do so with the gloves off, than of anything I’ve ever done in the workplace in 37 years.
“I’m expecting a second Special Grant once more this year - any day in fact - and have it in writing from our current Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, and his predecessor that this is guaranteed. I’ve waited as long as I can before the selection process for a candidate to replace me in Bedfordshire to make this announcement but, as it takes place on Saturday (29 February 2020), it’s time to break my silence.
“The whole idea behind PCCs was never that this should be a job for life but that people with specific, proven experience in the wider commercial world should come into policing and invest those skills before moving on to allow someone else to arrive to bring in a whole new range of skills. I’d built up a business working internationally in Crisis Management and Communications with multiple governments, police forces, our military and the boards of large corporations before coming to Bedfordshire Police. I stood as PCC because I felt that the message about Bedfordshire Police's absolutely genuine level of need, due to its historically inadequate share of national police funding under every government of every shade, needed to be presented differently, with proper evidence and someone telling it like it is.
“The two unique Special Grants prove conclusively that this fantastic force, staffed by colleagues I will treasure all my life - especially my current Chief Constable Garry Forsyth and his predecessor Jon Boutcher - is not given a core grant which can cover all the complex crime it faces here and which it cannot drive away due to factors totally outside policing; including an international airport that connects with some of the most fragile states in Europe, main transportation routes such as the M1 and A1 which appeal to Organised Crime Gangs, its proximity to London crime which spills over through county lines drug running and gang, gun and knife crime.
"Despite all this - this month - the Force where I inherited an ‘inadequate’ grading from the police watchdog has been graded ‘good' across the board and this has been very much part of my decision and of the pride I feel in what has been achieved here with the help of every single officer and every single member of staff, together with our partners,” said PCC Holloway.
* On 7 February, the police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services credited Commissioner Holloway publicly, along with her Chief Constables past and present, for a turnaround in its grading of Bedfordshire Police since its ‘inadequate’ grade - which she challenged - was issued to the Force for its effectiveness for 2016. Bedfordshire Police is now graded as ‘good’ in every category of the inspection, for all of effectiveness, efficiency, leadership, legitimacy and for keeping people safe. Bedfordshire’s HMI Matt Parr said: "Two or three years ago Bedfordshire Police was languishing with some pretty poor grades from (the) Inspectorate: they've absolutely turned it around. I think we don't often say this but genuine credit to both the former and current Chief Constable and to the Police and Crime Commissioner who's presided over a big turnaround."
* The victim support service PCC Holloway established - the Signpost Hub - contacting victims of recorded crime within 24 hours by letter or via freephone 0800 0282 887 and also at signpostforbedfordshire.com, was singled out by the watchdog as “notable practise” ie best practise in policing, to be recommended to the 43 forces of England and Wales.
* Since May 2016 when she took up the post, Commissioner Holloway has brought more funds from central government than for more the 20 years into the cash-strapped and under-resourced force by arguing its case robustly in public, in the media and behind the doors of government. Outside council tax precept rises and the £4.571m Special Grant so far, in the last year, the PCC helped to win a further £1.36m for an uplift in visible police response to the serious youth violence problems of Bedfordshire, £880,000 to set up a new Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit uniting police, local authorities, the youth offending services, health and charities to target the root causes of youth violence and a repeat promise of matched funding of the unit this year.
* Also in the past year, Kathryn Holloway has become the only PCC in the country to fund the setting up of Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in Bedfordshire for the first time, which involve parents with drug and alcohol addictions in regular meetings with a judge in care proceedings, being supported in an intensive rehabilitation programme. These courts have been assessed by both Lancaster and Brunel Universities as having a 50% greater chance of keeping families together, with parents free of their addictions, five years after taking part in the process.
* On 10 February, Commissioner Holloway achieved her ambition to set up a new Sexual Assaults Referral Centre, outside a hospital setting for the first time in Bedfordshire, in a soothing environment with separate age-appropriate rooms for children, teenagers and adult victims and those who accompany them.
* The PCC also funded a new service for ex offenders in 2019-20 to try to stop the revolving door back to prison - Direction, a website (with contents of available support services prepared with ex prisoners from HMP Bedford) DirectionforBedfordshire.co.uk and a call centre on freephone 0800 917 5579. Her office negotiated an agreement with the Department of Work and Pensions to create same day advice in its Jobcentres in Bedfordshire so that prisoners get access to benefits and employment advice to try to prevent an income gap likely to drive them straight back to crime.
Bedfordshire’s Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth said “Kathryn Holloway has been simply an outstanding PCC for Bedfordshire Police and has been instrumental in the transformation of the force over the last four years through the support she has afforded not only to myself and my predecessor Jon Boutcher but to all the officers, staff and public of Bedfordshire.
“Kathryn has worked tirelessly with passion and commitment for the public she was elected to represent and with the core values that drive her so strongly combined with her genuine care and compassion for the workforce she has made a real difference in the role. She has never hesitated to speak truth to power, robustly when it's needed, and has been a tremendous force for good for the force and the county. I and my colleagues wish her every success in her future ventures.”
The PCC said, “Garry is a superb Chief. He understands policing business here inside out and how to connect with our communities and the whole force too. I will miss him enormously but suspect - and hope - that we will still connect over an outstanding Bedfordshire curry to discuss the way the Force continues to be on the up and up under his command in future years!
“I’ve tried my level best to deliver exactly what I promised and, if anyone of any political persuasion examines the Police and Crime Plan that I created in 2016 for this four year term, I trust they will agree with the Police and Crime Panel who hold me to account that this is exactly what has been done. I’ve tried not to divide partners or the public through politics - as policing should be the only thing that matters in this role - and Bedfordshire Police is the most extraordinary force for keeping its head up and delivering policing to a high national standard to turn expectations around. I will always come out of my corner to fight for it if necessary and the public should be exceptionally proud of the police force which serves it to the very best of its ability, despite all of its challenges,” said PCC Holloway.
Paul Cain, the politically independent Chair of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel said: "It has been a real pleasure working with our elected PCC, Kathryn Holloway over the past 4 years simply because she has been such a driving force in leading and pushing for change over the period of her appointment. Whilst I am personally very sorry to see Kathryn leave office, she has left behind a huge legacy in all of the many areas she has delivered on. The original Police and Crime Plan issued within days of her appointment in 2016 has been fully delivered and we cannot underestimate the efforts she has continually placed behind lobbying for better funding for the force. Bedfordshire Police is in a very much better place today than it was 4 years ago due to her drive and determination, and the extra funding she has achieved.
“Looking forward, the Police and Crime Panel will continue to hold the incoming elected PCC to account to deliver their new Plan for Bedfordshire Police, and we will continue to work closely with the new PCC in order to assist in any way we can. We certainly do not under estimate the massive funding issues we still need to overcome in order to continue to properly support and fund our Force and the ongoing changes needed to protect the people of Bedfordshire from ever-changing threats."