Sue Mountstevens, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Somerset & Avon, was the guest of Milverton Parish Council and explained to a village audience how she tackles her role of overseeing the county’s police service.
“I hold the purse-strings for a £275m budget but I don’t have any operational control,” she told the meeting. “Although when I’m on the M5 and someone zips past me at 90mph talking on their mobile, I’d love to put a blue light on the car roof and nick them, believe me.”
Ms Mountstevens was an independent candidate in the PCC contest last November but gained twice as many votes as the runner-up Conservative. “I had never stood for any election before and I have no interest in party politics,” explained the former magistrate and prison visitor.
“I am your voice so that it can be heard across all levels of policing. I’m very happy for anyone to phone, email or write to me,” she added.
The commissioner is convinced that the majority of the public want to engage with the police, not simply complain. As evidence she says that the Police Authority she replaced had 260 contacts in an average year, whereas she has had over 5000 in her first eight months in office.
“It tells me that people relate better to a person than a committee,” she said.
Many of the questions from the 50 or so people in the audience related to vehicle offences and road safety rather than crime. The commissioner was quick to explain one of her own priorities – to get Somerset’s speed cameras turned on again.
“They were switched off for cost reasons in 2011 and road deaths have begun to rise again after years of reduction,” she said. “The county council have refused to reinstate them, so we’re now offering to buy them and have the police service operate them.”
Faced with further budget cuts of around £15m over the next two years, Ms Mountstevens said “we’re going to have to find ways to do things differently.” One likely route forward is more shared facilities with neighbouring forces in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
“I’m still learning but it’s the most exciting job I can ever imagine having,” the 57-year-old mother of three told Milverton.
Contact Sue Mountstevens:
You can write to her at the following address:
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner
Telephone – 01275 816377