A few observations now that those elections are at last over. For myself and my wife Veronica, losing is tinged with the additional sadness of leaving Cornwall again. That’s a given because we have to return to work at the Next Century Foundation’s London office. However, there are one or two thoughts I’d like to leave you with.
1. The idea of using the Brixham experiment as a process by which community payback can be delivered by the Police Force at street level rather than putting young people through the criminal justice system still seems sound to me. Especially in an era in which Police Commissioners also control voluntary sector budgets and thus can deliver both sides of the equation: The Police to deliver alternative justice at street level and the voluntary sector to provide the vehicle for the community service that is the option instead of the offender going to trial.
2. I am heartened to report that Tony Hogg, the Conservative candidate, the victor in these elections, told me not just once but twice during the count that he would commit to delivering the one policy I considered most important, that of delivering a detox centre for under-21s. I am glad and grateful he is picking up that baton and running with it and wish him all success.
Clearly our Police Force is unhappy, not just because of the spending cuts that have resulted in reductions in manpower; they are also annoyed by the ongoing centralisation of everything on Middlemore and the cult of creating service “hubs” rather than delivering at local level. Many recent Police reforms, such as that of combining CID and uniformed officers in joint units, appear to have been unsuccessful and may be worth reconsideration.
Hopefully our new Commissioner will address the morale issue.
Only one really sour note in the whole elections business and I cannot help but mention it. If it were a mere grumble I would leave it be but I believe this to be a point of principle so it has to be aired. Councillor Greenslade stood as an independent and indeed placed advertisements in the newspapers describing himself as “The True Independent”. The difficulty I have is that he was and he remains a serving Liberal Democrat councillor and has retained his party membership. I resigned my party membership to stand for these elections (I had been a member of the Labour Party). Councillor Greenslade’s behaviour is, I believe, inappropriate. Perhaps it will lead to a change in the ground rules by the Electoral Commission to stop anyone behaving in this way in future.
And finally, the hunting community can breathe a sigh of relief. I would probably, indeed almost certainly, have been the only candidate in the country who would have enforced the Hunting Act. That would indeed have been controversial.
As for my ideas of targeted Zero Tolerance policing in areas in which street level violence was getting out of control – they sound draconian but I believe that something dramatic needs doing to stop the continuing slide into increased levels of violent crime in Devon and Cornwall. And I think it could have worked.
Anyway – good luck and best wishes to the victor and his wife and good luck to our redoubtable Police Force. They deserve every success.