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A strategy that gives strong foundations to policing

This week PCC Alison Hernandez talks about the estates strategy and her commitment to keeping front desks

As an elected official it is inevitable that you need to spend time handling claims made against you by party-political opponents. And if that political noise is loud enough it can be difficult to remember that we need to shout just as loudly about the good work we are doing.

This week has brought that sharply into focus for me

Last Tuesday Cornwall Council met to debate and discuss a number of important issues and make decisions that will affect the people of Cornwall for years to come. The safety of Cornish fishermen at sea, hosting the tour of Britain cycle race, the council’s response to the proposed Devonwall constituency and an analysis of numbers using the Tamar Bridge were all on the agenda.

But did those subjects receive anything other than scant mention in the media? Not really, because the council was also forced to spend a significant amount of time debating a motion of no confidence in me.

I think it’s a real shame that the media chose to focus on that.  By doing so it meant the hard work the leader and many Cornwall councillors are doing did not get the recognition it deserves. The motion was defeated but what pleased me more was that many councillors took the opportunity to highlight the work that I and my office are doing in their communities – such as  community safety, CCTV, road safety and the expansion of tri-service officers.

I want to move forward from this and focus on working together to get the best police service we can for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. So let’s start shouting loudly about one very important piece of work which we launched this week – my first estate strategy.

Readers will be correct in thinking that an estate strategy is a very dry document but you would be wrong to think it has nothing to do with you. My team caused a bit of stir on Twitter this week when announcing that the strategy ‘reflects the shift in focus from radical rationalisation to strategic re-provisioning’. What that means in plain English is that I am committed to keeping a physical police presence in communities where there is currently a police station.

Now that doesn’t mean that all existing police stations will remain in the same street or look the same. But what it does commit us to is making sure we will speak to our partners and communities so in the future we make the best use of our police buildings. We have taken this approach as a direct result of what you told us when we consulted all our communities – that you felt a loss of connection with your police. Don’t forget it was the biggest ever police consultation held in the peninsula – so we had to listen.

In some communities this feeling was strongly linked to the closure of police enquiry offices but other areas too have voiced their concerns about disconnection. The decision to close front desks was taken before my time and was – I know – based on detailed analysis which showed that front offices were not frequently visited or used by communities.

In this strategy I have committed to keeping the front desks we currently have open and I want to see how we can make even better use of them – encouraging people to use this resource as a way of communicating with the police in their community. For me the concern about front desks is a symbol of the wider concern communities have about the lack of connection they feel to the police.  

So ‘Connected Communities’ became the key priority in my Police and Crime Plan and what better way to make sure this happens than to embed improved connectivity into any plans we have for our buildings. Our future plans mean we will work with partners to offer new opportunities to work together in modernised facilities, shared spaces which will drive down the running costs. And we will do this without reducing locations. We will do this by providing space where it is needed for the public to interact with our staff and officers.

Soon the police will be launching new connectivity plans in local areas and I want the public to work with their local police to share their views on how they think connectivity can work. It is important that our estate supports these local plans.  If you have ideas on connectivity and on how we can use our estate better please share them – I want to hear your views.

Our buildings are also important to our staff who need safe and healthy working environments that embrace new technology and give them the tools they need to police their communities. I am investing in the estate to support this.   

To support this we will seek to get the best value we can from buildings we no longer need – and we think we can bring in as much as £18m over the next few years.  While we may sell some buildings or give up some leases we will not be leaving these communities - we will re-provision in the local area – working with partners to give you, the public, the best police service we can.

If you want to see what is possible to achieve through this approach have a look at what our estate team has in mind for the new custody centre in Exeter, the tri-service station in Hayle, Cornwall, or the community takeover of a police station in St Blazey, Cornwall. They are 21st century facilities for policing and improving our communities at the same time and this time Cornwall is leading the way for Devon to consider.

If you want to spend some time reading the full strategy you can do so here: Estate Strategy 2017-21

Alison Hernandez