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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Police union planning talks with Cumbria crime commissioner

Cumbria's first crime commissioner is poised to hear more about life on the frontline.

Richard Rhodes photo
Richard Rhodes

The union representing rank and file police officers hopes to hold talks with Richard Rhodes as he settles into his post.

He was announced as Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner on Friday after a vote that mirrored national apathy with a dismal turnout of just one in six of the county’s electorate.

The Conservative former magistrate and Cumbria Probation Trust chairman, however, starts work at the county force’s Carleton Hall headquarters, near Penrith, this week.

And while acknowledging that meeting temporary chief constable Bernard Lawson will be the commissioner’s first port of call, Cumbria Police Federation is also looking forward to meeting him and learning more about his priorities.

Chairman Lee Skelton congratulated Mr Rhodes on winning the election.

He said: “The federation’s position has been that we did not see the need for change and we have always been concerned about policing being politicised through having candidates on party lines.

“However, the PCC is a reality. It’s down to us to work with Mr Rhodes to ensure Cumbria gets a police service it can afford.

“Part of the disappointment of the PCC process was that as police officers we’re not allowed to become actively involved in politics and during the period of purdah we’ve had we were not able to have detailed discussions with the candidates.

“There are lots of things we would have liked to say to better inform the debate. Having not been able to do that so far, we now look to taking the advantage of being able to do so.”

With Cumbria police facing further spending cuts in the coming years, Mr Skelton believes it is important that the union works with the commissioner to try to find a way forward.

“The reality is that Cumbria police will be forced to lose more police officers, support staff and infrastructure,” he added.

Mr Lawson, in the top job while chief constable Stuart Hyde remains suspended amid misconduct claims, has already said there are further financial pressures ahead with the initial task of saving nearly £20m by 2016 expected to increase to £22.5m by 2017.

Commissioners have been brought in nationally to replace the old police authority structure. Mr Rhodes, a 70-year-old retired headteacher, will be paid £65,000 a year. He says he wants to “maintain and improve” the performance of the county’s police force.

He said: “Enforcement is the principal element in reducing crime but it isn’t the only one.

“Using my experience of the criminal justice system, I will develop a range of interventions to support victims, reduce re-offending and ensure public safety to reinforce the activities of a high-achieving constabulary in Cumbria.”

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