Police officers polled in confidence vote over Hampshire's crime commissioner Michael Lane
UNDER-FIRE crime commissioner Michael Lane is facing a crisis vote as all police officers across the county have been asked if they have confidence in him, The News can reveal.
The poll by Hampshire Police Federation is asking more than 2,800 officers if they have ‘confidence in’ elected politician Mr Lane, who was elected in 2016.
It is thought to be the first time serving police officers have been asked to take part in what will be seen as a no-confidence vote on an elected police and crime commissioner.
Speaking to The News, Mr Lane said: ‘I’m significantly disappointed that anybody should think that’s a sensible thing to do about a PCC who has gone out of his way to fight for funding and the right modernisation programme.’
He added: ‘I don’t believe that there’s anything that makes sense to have asked for a vote of that sort. I want to rebut any sense that this is an appropriate thing to do to sustain the confidence of the public in public services.’
The vote would not force Mr Lane out.
It comes just weeks after Mr Lane, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, lost a crucial budget vote after federation chairman John Apter accused him of misleading the public over a council tax hike.
Around £440,000 of the £120m raised by the police precept – including a £12 a year boost – could have been spent on office costs but is now being held in reserves pending a review after councillors told him to spend the money on front-line policing.
Mr Lane said it was a ‘difficult time’ for all in policing and that Mr Apter was ‘misspeaking under pressure’ by holding the vote. Mr Lane said: ‘The vote that matters for me, on the basis I’ve done nothing that would require any intervention, is in 2020.’
The result will be given to the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, the body that holds Mr Lane to account.
Members dealt him a blow in January when they refused to back his budget, demanding £440,000 earmarked for his ‘essential staff’ and £700,000 on commissioning go instead on front-line policing.
While the cash is now being held in reserves, it’s understood the panel will meet privately with Mr Lane next week to thrash out a resolution.
The plans drew controversy as at the same meeting 160 police jobs were being axed, sparking Mr Apter to say the public had been ‘misled’ when asked if they would pay more tax to support the police.
In a statement, Mr Apter, who represents rank-and-file officers, said: ‘I can confirm Hampshire Police Federation is surveying all of our members on whether they have confidence in Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner. When that poll concludes the results will be shared with the Police and Crime Panel.’
Crime panel chairman Cllr Dave Stewart said he was aware of the ballot but said it was a matter for the commissioner and federation who ‘have to deal with the consequences of it’.
Cllr Stewart added: ‘He has the democratic right to do the job according to his own approach and he’s gone down the road of “keeping people safer” – that’s what he’ll be measured on.’
He said if the result was shared with the panel it could be discussed but the body has no discretion over removing or disqualifying the PCC, which could only happen through bankruptcy, extreme ill-health, death or being convicted of a crime punishable through jail time.
In an open letter Mr Lane said he knew ‘doing things differently creates resistance’ but he welcomed a ‘healthy debate’ and his core purpose is to keep people ‘safer’.
Funding at centre of row is kept out of office’s budget
CASH at the centre of a row over police funding is set to be stashed away in reserves.
Around £1.14m was due to be spent on police commissioner Michael Lane’s ‘essential staff’ and on commissioning charities to prevent crime and work with victims.
Mr Lane was dealt a blow when the Hampshire and Police Crime Panel backed a council tax hike for police funding - but warned him all cash must go on frontline policing.
The Conservative police and crime commissioner for Hampshire has now signed off a budget that will see both the £440,000 for his office and £770,000 for commissioning kept in reserves.
The £440,000 is set to be added to reserves ‘pending a review of the best use of those funds’, according to the budget report signed off last month.
A spokeswoman for Mr Lane’s office said: ‘All costs associated with the £440,000 will be reviewed to ensure the work of the office both meets the statutory requirements as set down in legislation and remains as efficient as possible.’
‘The Police and Crime Panel confirmed that they had not sought to cut services that support victims for 18/19. These will therefore remain the same as previous years.
‘This will all be subject to the usual reporting and scrutiny at the quarterly Police and Crime Panel meetings.’
The council tax hike - equivalent to £12 a year for a band D property - is set to help raise £120.6m through the police precept.
It comes as Hampshire police shaved 160 jobs from the force as part of a bid to save £24.75m over the next four years, on top of £82m savings made between 2011/12-2017/18.
Panel member Councillor John Beavis, a Gosport Borough Council member, said the panel wanted ‘to make sure that spending isn’t going to the wrong areas’.
He added: ‘The Police and Crime Panel are not against the police and crime commissioner, far from it - we’re there to hold the commissioner to account.
‘That doesn’t mean to say we’re against him or his office, quite the reverse.
‘We’re looking to ensure that the public get exactly what they need from the police and crime commissioner and the office of the police and crime commissioner.’
Shock and surprise: councillors not told of vote say it’s ‘unusual’
MEMBERS of a body set up to hold the commissioner to account have reacted with surprise at the confidence poll.
Representatives on Hampshire’s Police and Crime Panel, made up of councillors and two independent members, said they were ‘shocked’ no-one had told them of the vote.
Havant borough councillor Leah Turner and Gosport borough councillor John Beavis were both informed of the vote by The News.
Cllr Beavis said nothing had come to panel members that suggested a vote was needed.
He said: ‘It’s a very unusual thing to happen and I’m rather surprised to hear that this is happening.
‘I know there has been some public concern which came out of the precept meeting, that was quite clear that people locally were concerned about how funding was being handled.
‘But I wouldn’t thought that sort of thing warranted a vote of no confidence in the PCC – it’s a very difficult job.’
Mr Lane was elected in May 2016, with 153,990 votes – beating Labour’s Robin Price, who won 87,744 votes.
Cllr Turner said: ‘I think it’s really difficult when this sort of thing happens.
‘It’s not as if he was put in place by somebody else, he was democratically elected by the people of Hampshire. I don’t really know what the police officers expect of him.’
Both councillors said they would seek the results of the vote if it came to the panel.
The News contacted several other members yesterday.