Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, is to stay as the county’s PCC for a further year after elections for her successor were suspended for 12 months due to the coronavirus but has said she will do so as a Caretaker PCC since there will be no democratic mandate for any PCC after May 7, when elections were due to have taken place.
Commissioner Holloway made the announcement today (19 March 2020) as she released what had been intended as an End of Term Report to detail the transformation of the Force which she has presided over since becoming its PCC in May 2016.
Last month (7 February 2020) Bedfordshire Police was graded “Good” in all possible areas by the police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services - for all of efficiency, effectiveness, leadership, legitimacy and keeping people safe. The Force’s Inspector, HMI Matt Parr, said he was “very impressed” and now considers the Force to be “well run” and “well led”, singling out the PCC for credit, telling ITV: "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 Commissioner robustly campaigned for better funding for Bedfordshire Police throughout the last four years and has achieved more additional funding from Central Government over her term than at any time in the past 20 years, including reworking the criteria for a Policing Special Grant to bring £4.571m to the Force in 2019-20, with a second Special Grant promised imminently. In the last financial year, the Home Office awarded a further £1.36m for an uplift in policing relating to serious youth violence, a grant of £880,000 to set up a Violence Exploitation Reduction Unit to tackle the root causes of such gang, gun and knife crime and has invited a bid for a further £880,000 for this year.
The report to mark the end of the PCC’s fourth year in her role pointed to the other achievements of which she is most proud including her introduction of the Signpost Victim Care Support Hub (on website signpostforbedfordshire.com and freephone 0800 0282 887, six days a week) which the watchdog considered “notable practise” to be shared with all other forces. Signpost aims to contact victims of recorded crime in Bedfordshire within 24 hours by letter or phone. The Signpost service continues to operate despite the coronavirus.
Commissioner Holloway became the first PCC in the country this year to fund Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in which parents with addictions commit to an intensive rehabilitation programme and meetings with a judge, in care proceedings. In practise, outside Bedfordshire, the courts have been proven by the Universities of Lancaster and Brunel to be twice as effective in ending drug and alcohol addiction for the parent and keeping families together, five years on.
PCC Holloway created the Direction service in 2019-20, linking those exiting Bedford Prison and the Criminal Justice system with local support services including accommodation, health services and help to reconnect with estranged families. Her office negotiated an arrangement with the Department of Work and Pensions to offer same day benefits and employment advice to those leaving prison. Direction is also backed by a website - DirectionforBedfordshire.co.uk - and freephone call centre advisors on freephone 0800 917 5579, which is run by charity Youturn Futures which works with formerly prolific offenders who are trying to turn their lives around.
Throughout her term, PCC Holloway has promoted the wellbeing of Bedfordshire’s officers and staff including, this year, promoting an arrangement with Magistrates to view the Body Worn Video of an assault on an officer, even when an assailant pleads guilty, so that they can judge the severity of the offence for themselves, in advance of sentencing. She introduced a Targeted Healthcare Scheme to offer frontline officers a fast track to diagnosis and treatment, when facing a long wait, and free healthcare screening and a monthly health drop in advisory service, working with the world class Sports Science department of the University of Bedfordshire.
In February (2020), Commissioner Holloway achieved her ambition to open a centre outside a hospital setting for the first time in Bedfordshire for the victims of sexual crimes, with age appropriate areas for children, teenagers and adults, which was declared the new gold standard for such centres by the NHS regional lead for the East of England.
“I do not think that anyone could claim that I have sat on my hands over the last four years and I'm awaiting a second Special Grant any day, as promised in writing by both the last and current Policing Ministers. I had intended to step down after a series of achievements of which I am more proud than any in my 38 year career.
"When the postponement of the election was announced, without any consultation, I was not prepared to be bounced into a decision over staying or going which is why I have waited until now, having properly considered the implications. I do not have a full time Deputy PCC and my excellent unpaid volunteer Deputy, Justine Currell, has a full time national role in relation to Human Trafficking. I do not believe that an unelected member of my staff, however talented, and certainly no external candidate, would be an appropriate replacement as I believe in democracy and at least I have been elected by the people of this county.
“I have, therefore, decided that there is no realistic alternative but for me to abandon the new professional engagements that I had been in the process of arranging and to become a Caretaker PCC. No Commissioner will have a democratic mandate after May 7 so, coronavirus permitting, I trust they will do as I will and continue with the essential business of governance and public reassurance in these circumstances but it would be quite wrong to introduce any major change that should be approved via the ballot box.
“I have consulted the politically independent Chair of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel who hold me to account, Paul Cain. He tells me he is wholly in favour of my decision and the reasons I am giving for it.
“I am being required to serve as PCC because of the pandemic and I have no intention of pretending that it is not taking place and that alternate arrangements to those that are the norm are now required for this year. This does not mean, of course, that my office and I will not continue to deliver practical, common sense benefits to and on behalf of policing to the people of Bedfordshire,” said PCC Holloway.
As a Caretaker PCC, Commissioner Holloway will ensure that:-
* All possible assistance that can be provided to communities by her office will be delivered, which will now include a £60,000 fund to provide alternative accommodation for victims of Domestic Abuse, which is expected to rise due to enforced home isolation as a result of the coronavirus, Covid 19.
* The Bedfordshire Police Partnership Trust which the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) now oversees, which runs the Bobby Van service which delivers free home security advice and lower cost crime prevention devices to the most vulnerable, will deliver emergency parcels to particularly vulnerable and isolated elderly people who have been the victim of crime from this afternoon (Thursday March 19 2020). (This scheme is the brainchild of the OPCC Chief of Staff, Clare Kelly, who has secured a pledge from supermarket chain Lidl to provide access to essential food, personal hygiene and cleaning items and has linked with the Fire Service and local ambassador schemes to set the service up.)
* Grants commissioning for Victim Support and Community Safety continues and all grants so far will be subject to ongoing scrutiny to ensure they deliver as promised and within the year.
* The last £240k of grant funding will now open for bids as Commissioner Holloway had kept money back for her successor to allocate after May.
* The PCC’s governance and scrutiny of policing continues unabated but will be remotely delivered - including, in PCC Holloway’s case, at least weekly teleconferences with the Chief and Deputy Chief Constables, a monthly publicly minuted Strategic Governance Board with the Bedfordshire Police Executive team, bi-monthly Strategic Alliance Conferences with Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Police, chairing quarterly conferences in relation to the region’s Counter Terrorism and Serious Organised Crime policing and attending quarterly conferences with the Chiefs and PCCs of Bedfordshire’s Eastern region forces, by teleconference. The OPCC will also be represented at operational performance meetings concerning the Joint Protective Services provided to Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Police under the leadership of Bedfordshire Police (including the Major Crime Unit, Roads Policing, Firearms Policing, the Dogs Unit, forensic Scientific Services, Civil Contingencies Planning and Operational Support).
* The PCC will continue to oversee the £122.1m budget that she has secured for Bedfordshire Police for the year and she will set the police share of council tax - the police precept - for the next year.
* Bedfordshire will continue to be represented by Commissioner Holloway at the national Counter Terror Strategic Collaboration Board.
* She will continue to report to the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel who hold her to account.
* The OPCC will continue to chair the Bedfordshire Criminal Justice Board and Victims Board remotely.
* The build of replacement custody facilities at Kempston police HQ will continue, dependent on coronavirus arrangements.
* The process to finalise outline planning permission for the defunct Greyfriars Police Station in Bedford will continue, as long as the planning committee sits or is able to make decisions, and the sale will be considered against the prevailing economic position.
* A refurbishment programme to improve officer and staff working facilities, led by the PCC personally, will resume as soon as practically possible.
Anyone wishing to offer to assist with the content of emergency parcels during the current emergency should contact Commissioner Holloway’s office on .
Any organisation wishing to apply for a grant for the next year with a service to assist victim support or community safety which can be delivered under the current constraints of the coronavirus advice limiting social contact should approach the Bedfordshire OPCC on PCC@bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk.
“It is in the interests of my force that I do not share either my own reaction or professional viewpoint concerning the wisdom of allowing your own people to hear first about matters impacting on their lives and futures in the news headlines at the same time as everybody else, though clearly the Crisis Management industry holds extremely clear and long established views on this,” said the Commissioner.
PCC Holloway is a globally recognised Crisis Communications specialist, whose key area of expertise has been the release of public information in an emergency, especially in mass fatality events, for 17 years before taking up her current role; for example, she has twice been a keynote speaker and seminar leader at the international Business Continuity and Public Sector Resilience Industry's World Conference in Disaster Management (WCDM) in Toronto, prior to becoming the PCC of Bedfordshire.