Recent weeks and months have been dominated by politics, and I am surely not the only person who is glad that the General Election is all over and that government departments can get back to business.
Here in Devon and Cornwall my office and our police force have made significant progress in recent years to create a larger and better equipped force and closer links with partners to form safer communities.
In terms of kit and systems ours was the first force in the country to offer all officers who wanted a Taser the training and equipment necessary to allow them to carry one, we have the most up to date body worn video system, protecting both those who risk their safety on the frontline and members of the public, and we have launched Operation Snap, enabling us to act fast on video evidence of dangerous driving.
There has also been significant progress across the police estate, which is owned and managed by my office, with two major projects coming to fruition soon. In the next few weeks we will take delivery of Exeter’s new police station in preparation for its opening in April. This £29m project is on time and on budget, allowing the force to better serve the many thousands of people in Exeter, East and Mid Devon.
In Cornwall we are progressing plans to invest many millions in our properties, building a brand new station in Liskeard and with exciting plans to use parts of the police estate for public engagement and information events.
In terms of police numbers my office helped to create a staff budget that has allowed force strength to grow by 126 new officers over three years – and that is before we get our slice of the 20,000 extra officers announced by central Government.
We’ve also created new roles in collaboration with other emergency services like community responders, retained firefighters who can patrol their communities with full police powers when they are not responding to fire emergencies, and Tri Service Safety Officers who give support and advice to communities on a range of issues.
Across commissioning we have invested significant sums in community safety partnerships, sexual assault referral centres, victims’ services and mental health treatment in an effort to reduce the amount of harm done by criminals in our communities.
Partnership work with central government in programmes like Turning Corners in South Devon is engaging young people who are at risk of becoming involved in crime and helping them to forge brighter futures.
We’ve received awards and national recognition for some of this work, especially for the innovative solutions that we have had to crime fighting and to the challenges posed by a vast policing area that includes, cities, isolated rural areas, a lengthy coastline and an array of complex crimes.
None of that progress would have been possible without the support of residents who said they would contribute more through their council tax in return for further investment in the frontline and in technology.
There is still much work to be done and challenges to be overcome. Our bid for £17.9m of additional funding to make up for the unique challenges of policing the far south west is still yet to be decided on. I will continue to campaign for a better deal for our police force, not just on this funding bid but also on the formula for central government grant funding that discriminates against forces that have large rural areas like ours.
I am therefore delighted that we now have a Government with a majority that will be able to get on with a domestic agenda that for too long was stymied by the political make-up of the House of Commons. I will continue to work closely with our returning and new MPs.
My team and I will be out this week talking to Christmas shoppers about a range of issues, including the new Exeter Police Station. If you’d like to find out more about these changes, which are the most significant to happen in the city for 60 years, then come and see us outside Sainsbury’s in the Guildhall Shopping Centre on Tuesday, December 17, or in Princesshay on Thursday, December 19, between 10am and 2pm.
We will also be signing up Christmas shoppers to our Neighbourhood Alert contact tool, which allows us to keep in contact with the communities we serve. If you’d like to register for this free service or find out when I’m next in your area visit devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk and follow the links.