Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner aims to continue making the force value for money

Safer community day highlights key services in town

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HAMPSHIRE’S police and crime commissioner said he had ‘fixed what was broken’ in the force as he marked his first year in office today.

Simon Hayes said he ‘grasped the nettle’ on the costly police estate, which he said had ‘become an ongoing drain on public expenditure’.

BIG JOB Simon Hayes

BIG JOB Simon Hayes

He made reference to the doomed Alpha Park site, near Eastleigh, which was bought for £9.6m in 2008 for a new headquarters and stood empty for almost five years until the decision was made to sell it earlier this year.

The force will have saved £55m by April following cuts including 884 officer and staff posts, shutting old stations and sharing some services with other forces.

He cited his other achievements as beginning a strategy to target rural crime and creating a ‘prevent mindset’ in the constabulary, whereby some offending is settled out-of-court to save time and money.

He said: ‘One year ago I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire.

‘Looking back on the last 12 months I’ve been in the post it’s hard to believe how much needed to be done.

‘It’s been an exceptionally busy time, but I’m confident I have set up the foundations to achieve what I set out to do as part of agenda for social change.’

Simon Hayes, an independent, was elected to the £80,000-a-year post last November with just 15 per cent of the electorate turning out to vote at the county’s polling stations.

The next election will take place in May 2016.

His office replaces the former Hampshire Police Authority and his job is to manage the £310m budget, oversee the running of the police force and hold the chief constable to account.

He has the power to hire and fire the chief constable.

The annual cost of running his office, based in Winchester, is £1.491m - lower than the cost of £1.518m for running the Police Authority in its last full year.

In the last year, Mr Hayes has attended 449 meetings. He has met Chief Constable Andy Marsh 28 times privately and many more times publicly.

Mr Hayes told The News: ‘The biggest achievement has been laying the foundation for the direction and development in the next two or three years to establish the social change agenda.

‘So it’s working with partners to prevent crime and to do work around domestic violence and domestic abuse prevention.’

Mr Hayes said he did not believe there was any area that had been a disappointment in his first year in office.

He said: ‘One would hope ideally that things can move forward more quickly.

‘But then I haven’t wanted to rush things in order to build credibility as an individual in the role of the police and crime commissioner.

‘It’s the first time there has been an individual in public life who has had a responsibility to work with partners across the board, such as Portsmouth City Council, health and criminal justice system.’

A recent poll suggested one in three people in Hampshire were not aware of the existence of a police and crime commissioner.

Mr Hayes said: ‘I still think that it needs to prove itself in the eyes of the public - we are swimming against a sceptical tide.

‘That’s understandable - we need to prove ourselves.

‘But I think it’s working and we are beginning to move things forward.

‘The work we are doing to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system is beginning to gain traction. The influence of police and crime commissioners is going to grow.’

Mr Hayes said he saw his role as ‘a representative of the people’ and that he would be holding many more public engagement events over the next year to meet people in communities across the Portsmouth area.

He said the police and crime commissioner had for the first time ‘put democracy into the police arena’ with regular meetings with the chief constable being shown on the internet.

With further government spending cuts, Mr Hayes said he is battling to save an extra £25m by April 2017.

But the cuts throw into doubt the future of four Portsmouth police stations - Portsmouth Central, Fratton, Cosham and Southsea.

A consultation will be held as Mr Hayes pursues plans for a police investigation centre in the city. Mr Hayes has said the new centre in Portsmouth would have two or three floors and about 30 cells.

It could be built in the next three years as part of the £40m plan for the force’s estates.

The move could see existing police stations shut and local safer neighbourhoods teams move to more shared spaces such as libraries, council offices and fire stations in a bid to save cash.

Mr Hayes has admitted that Portsmouth Central is ‘difficult to operate from a police perspective’ and requires major refurbishment.

Mr Hayes told The News: ‘I don’t want people in Portsmouth to be concerned and certainly a building might close, but another one will open.

‘A police presence in Portsmouth will remain the same.

‘We might lose a building in a particular location, but it will move somewhere else.

‘We have decided we need to keep the neighbourhood presence of policing as it is at the moment because people need, want and expect a neighbourhood police presence.

‘But some of the buildings we have are expensive to maintain, are old and it’s costing money - and it’s the taxpayers of Portsmouth who are paying for it.’

Mr Hayes admitted the morale among officers was ‘strained’ and had been for some time.

He added: ‘I think it is not all as a result of internal factors within Hampshire Constabulary.

‘There’s been a lot of pressures on police officers nationally, with wages, pay freezes, reduction in numbers and more expected of them.

‘It’s put them under an enormous amount of pressure, but I am keen officers should understand and know they are valued, not only by myself and the chief constable, but the public of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.’

Mr Hayes said he had developed a ‘professional and productive’ relationship with Chief Constable Andy Marsh.

A national public opinion poll, by YouGov, on the anniversary of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s introduction showed that only 10 per cent of people polled agreed that the commissioners gave them more say in how their local area was policed.

Mr Hayes said that if people chose to engage with the police and crime commissioner then they do have the potential to influence local policing.

He said: ‘People have got to take advantage of that.

‘All I can do is make myself available and tell people what opportunities they have.

‘Increasing numbers of people are becoming engaged.’