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Police and crime commissioner defends decision to hire a deputy
IT’S been the most controversial change to how policing in Hampshire is governed in decades.
The scrapping of the outdated police authority and the creation of a police and crime commissioner (PCC) caused much debate – and criticism from people who didn’t understand why or what it was all about.
There was so much disinterest that less than 20 per cent of people even bothered to turn out at the county’s polling stations.
But for those who did, the message was clear – they wanted politically-independent Simon Hayes to take on the £80,000 job.
Today, as he marks 100 days in the post of PCC, he tells how he has hit the ground running and already started to make difficult decisions that could have major ramifications for the taxpayer and the police officers in the county.
- Defended a decision to spend thousands of pounds of public money hiring a deputy.
- Revealed he is considering going against the government and increasing police officers’ starting pay.
- Sent a stern message to contractors that Hampshire police will not accept or pay the price for their mistakes.
It’s been a tough start for Mr Hayes, who has been so busy recruiting a new chief constable, drafting a long-term police and crime plan, attending countless meetings and trying to ingratiate himself with police officers and the public, that his feet have barely touched the ground.
He shrugs off the suggestion that he is still unknown to the residents of Hampshire, because it’s something he is determined to overcome.
He’s making strenuous efforts to get into communities and meet the people he now serves and make them understand that he has a mission “to protect people and places, reduce crime and reduce victims” and also meet the men and women working on the thin blue line.
He told the Daily Echo: “I have always recognised that the vast majority didn’t understand what a PCC was about, so I am keen to explain to people as I meet them what I am doing and what I can bring to the table.
“People can recognise the priorities that I am talking about, particularly the criminality that comes as a result of drug and alcohol issues, like thefts to feed a habit.
“I feel enormously privileged. I don’t feel stressed, I don’t feel tired, I just want to get on and do the job.”
But he says the past four months, during which he has attended more than 200 meetings, met over 2,000 people and travelled in excess of 2,000 miles, have taught him that he can’t do it on his own.
In coming months he will be drafting a job description with a salary that he hopes will attract someone who can fill his shoes at top level meetings as well as in the public eye.
Mr Hayes admits it’s highly unlikely that an ex-police officer would be suitable – and more likely he will be looking for someone from a legal or business background.
And while that salary, which is currently unknown, is bound to raise eyebrows, it’s wages at the other end of the scale for new police recruits that has blood boiling within Hampshire police.
The Windsor report to the government has recommended starting salaries for new officers be slashed to £19,000, which, Mr Hayes says, poses a “big dilemma” as they look to fill 112 new posts.
He said: “To put it mildly, it is unfortunate what the government is proposing and what Tom Windsor’s report is recommending.
“The constabulary draws a lot of people from the pool of PCSOs who work for them who could be currently earning four or five thousand pounds more than that.
“I have the right to increase that starting salary and I am seriously looking at doing that because I believe it is the right thing to do.
“Although it does bring with it considerable budgetary pressures, I want Hampshire Constabulary to attract the best quality police officers and staff, with the best capability.”
The other pressing task for Mr Hayes, at a time of extraordinary savings of £50m being met by the force, was the costly building stock – not to mention the £9.2m purchase of Alpha Park in Chandler’s Ford, which was destined for a new police HQ but for years has sat empty and unused.
As we revealed last month, he has drafted in an independent adviser to carry out a comprehensive estates review to look again – and couldn’t rule out that the controversial site would be sold off amid concerns over why it was ever bought in the first place.
Mr Hayes said: “The review is ongoing but is already showing some good ideas that have confirmed to me that this was necessary.”
But while some might guess, he remains tight-lipped on what exactly that might mean for now.
However, following the revelation that Southampton’s new police HQ is riddled with leaks because of failings by Kier and Balfour Beatty,the contractors who built it, he remained firm that their “mistakes” would not be paid for from the public purse.
Firing a warning shot across the bows he said: “It is not our mistake, it was not a design fault, this was a basic building error as I understand it.
“It remains functioning as a building and at the moment it is still delivering a public service. There will be internal disruption and there are currently talks about how this will work.
“However the cost of the repairs, even from moving desks and computers, will not be met by Hampshire police and that may mean that the issue of compensation will be raised.
“The message to the contractors should be clear that we are not a soft touch.”