Thank you for logging onto this, my personal blog – and
before anyone in the national media feels the need to check – my personal blog
is paid for by me, not the tax payer.
I’m blogging in my own personal capacity for two
reasons. The first is really quite simple – I like hearing from people
directly on issues outside my remit of Policing and Community Safety in Kent,
although any issues directed to me via this website that are to do with
policing and public safety will be forwarded to my office to deal with. Second,
there are some issues that I need to address and talk about without involving
the formal role of the Office of Police & Crime Commissioner.
Many of you will know that I won the election for Kent
Police & Crime Commissioner against all odds in November last year.
As I made abundantly clear during my election campaign, I am not a
politician. I have never stood for publicly elected office before.i have
absolutely no interest in party politics.
After the last batch of media reports, I am left feeling
that the fact that I won the election by such a large margin (I won in every
Parliamentary constituency in a County where every MP is Conservative) seems to
have upset a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that
all the media comment surrounding the difficulties with my appointment of a
Youth Commissioner was wrong. I’ve accepted responsibility for the fact
that things went wrong on my watch and I expect to take some adverse press for
But things have moved on from that. Now I have a feeling that some who my victory
offended are seeking to use any and every opportunity to try and discredit my
work. Fair enough, it’s a free country! But I hope they’ll accept
that having a personal blog such as this gives me the freedom to challenge some
of their attacks free from the conventions I must observe when using any
communication channel from the Office of Kent Police & Crime Commissioner.
So what of these recent attacks. A prominent Kent
Conservative MP has attacked my appointment and use of advisors. Yes, I
appointed 3 advisors last December. Do you know what I did immediately
after their appointment? I press released all the details to the local
media. The people of Kent have a right to know what I do. I was not
asked to do this by a journalist – I just did it to stand by my commitment to
be open and transparent.
- Fact number 1, this is not a new story!
In my press release I fully explained that as the newly
elected Commissioner, I was ‘single handedly’ now responsible for a Budget of
over £310 Million. The Kent Police Authority that I replaced had 17 (yes, 17 !
members). I set out that there was a need for a team to help me.
There were skills gaps that needed to be filled. I took the pragmatic decision
to appoint advisors on short term contracts until I could assemble a full team
with the appropriate skills.
- Fact number 2, these advisors are doing things that
need to be done – they are not appointed because they are my ‘cronies’ or
‘friends’. In fact, I did not know two of these people until as recently
as last summer.
The local Conservative MP seems to be making much of the
fact that one of my advisors is a reasonably well known Lib Dem.
Gosh! What he didn’t mention was that his colleague has traditionally
voted Conservative! Am I alone in wondering if this dwelling on someone’s
politics is a sensible contribution to the debate – or just the normal
silliness of Party politics before a County Election.
- Fact 3, the political sympathies of people in my team
are no doubt many and varied. But that’s their private business, not
mine. It does not impinge on the work of my office . I am an Independent
– and am increasingly more thankful that I am.
Then there’s the attempt to brand me as being profligate
with public money. This from a Conservative MP whose Party pushed
through the new Commissioner posts at a cost which was equivalent to the pay of
16,000 Police Officers! But let’s get back to the specific case of my
approach to public money here in Kent. What the national media have NOT
explained is that I am currently under spending the Office Budget (inherited
from the outgoing Kent Police Authority) by about 15%. They also omit to
explain that I have not appointed a Deputy or Assistant Commissioner as has
been done in many other parts of the country, and that filling a vacant
position for Chief of Staff is a lawful requirement, not a luxury on my part or
an extra job in my office.
- Fact 4, because I am an Independent, I have no
Party machine to support me, I’m doing the job without a Deputy and am on track
to under spend my inherited budget.
At the heart of my job as Commissioner is making sure that
you, the people of Kent, get the best Police and Community Safety services
possible. The flak that I have received over recent days will not deflect
me from that. I have already boosted front-line Policing by 60 PSCOs and
20 Police Officers. I am working with the Force on all my manifesto
pledges which include exciting developments such as a new Mobile Police Station
service for vast areas of the County. More of this and other initiatives
will follow in the coming weeks.
I hope you’ll keep in touch with me privately through this
personal blog and on my personal twitter account @annbarneskent
I hope you’ll also agree that I can take the flak, but that I
won’t hold back when I feel that the record needs to be put straight!