The work of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex came under the spotlight in the first annual meeting of the panel set up to scrutinise the new post.
The meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel was held at County Hall in Lewes. Members of the public were also invited to quiz the Commissioner, Katy Bourne, who was appointed in November last year.
The panel, made up of councillors representing all 15 local authorities in Sussex and two independent members, re-elected chairman Cllr Brad Watson OBE, a member of West Sussex County Council. East Sussex County Council cabinet member Cllr Chris Dowling was elected vice chairman at the start of the meeting.
The panel raised concerns about the closure of police stations as part of a major budget review, but was reassured by the Commissioner that no facility or service would be removed before a similar or better alternative, reflecting the users’ needs was put in place. Other issues raised include missed targets for answering calls to the 101 non-emergency helpline.
Mrs Bourne told the meeting, “Since April performance has dropped from 74 per cent to 54 per cent of calls to the 101 number being answered within the target of 60 seconds. The force target is 75 per cent. Since April the force have had a new system fitted called Niche and it will significantly improve the quality of service the force are able to deliver but, the introduction has, in the short term, increased the average call handling times for non-emergency crime calls.”
She said she had raised her concerns at a meeting with the chief constable and his senior team and was ensured the force was taking a number of steps to address the issue.
There was positive news from the Commissioner as she revealed that PCSO and police constable positions were being opened for applications across Sussex and spoke of her work with forces bordering Sussex in a bid to tackle cross-border crime.
The Commissioner discussed savings she had achieved since her appointment at the end of last year, but there was some concern about the impact on finances for the next year and Mrs Bourne was asked to provide more information on this at the next meeting.
After the meeting, Cllr Brad Watson said, “This was an extremely constructive meeting and gave members of the panel, and indeed the public, a real insight into the work of the Commissioner. The panel had the opportunity to question the Commissioner on issues that have a real impact on our communities to ensure that the best interest of residents were at the forefront of all decisions.”
The next meeting of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel will be held in October 11, 2013.