Councillor Sue James still unsure if crime commissioner does any good
A CORNWALL councillor has questioned the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Devon and Cornwall and asked whether the position is needed.
Sue James, councillor for St Just-in-Penwith, criticised the increase in spending since Tony Hogg, commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, took over the running of the force from the police authority and questioned whether it had been effective.
The commissioner and the running of his office in Exeter, costs Devon and Cornwall an estimated £1.5 million a year; the average for the other UK regions is £1.26 million.
Mrs James, a Liberal Democrat, is also a member of the Police and Crime Panel whose job is to support and challenge the work of the commissioner and his office.
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Last month Mrs James travelled to Plymouth to put questions to Mr Hogg, including scrutinising the sums he received in allowances and expenses over the past year.
"The PCC was keen to point to his achievements in tackling alcohol abuse, reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice, reducing violence, giving victims a stronger voice, increasing victims' satisfaction with the police, listening and responding to the public," she said.
"I can't help feeling that our Chief Constable and the rest of the constabulary would want to focus on those areas whether or not we had a Police and Crime Commissioner."
Mrs James questioned Mr Hogg's assertion that his office did five times the work of the police authority which it had replaced.
"The Police and Crime Commissioner obviously didn't like my line of questioning, wanting me to become a 'champion' for his office rather than questioning the 'empire' that's being built to carry out a role I'm not convinced we need," she said.
"I've yet to be convinced that the people of Devon and Cornwall are better served under this arrangement."
A Conservative, Mr Hogg was elected as Devon and Cornwall's first PCC in November 2012. The controversial post, which comes with a salary of £85,000 plus expenses, involves ensuring policing is efficient and effective and was intended to increase accountability for police in their communities.
Mr Hogg said: "I wasn't unhappy with Councillor James's line of questioning. Indeed, I welcome transparency and scrutiny. That's why I've invited all members of the panel to visit the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and meet officers and staff directly to ask them about their roles and the considerable new workload.
"I'm confident that when members see this at first hand, they'll feel able to say publicly that some of the media stories have been somewhat wide of the mark.
"The Government has led this change in policing, and there has been healthy debate about pros and cons. I have always stated that even though some extra staff were needed, and there was always going to be a shorter-term consultancy cost during Year 1, the need to do this cost- effectively was paramount."
The estimate that his office did five times the work of the police authority came from an independent observer of PCCs around the country, he said, and included responsibility for commissioning and victim services, greater public engagement and scrutiny of the force's performance.