Decommission the police commissioner

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

We will soon have a new Police and Crime Commissioner – not only is there an election coming up but the current holder of the office, Tory Sir Graham Bright, has decided not to stand for election.

The creation of police commisioners met with a very lukewarm response from the general public with just one in seven of Cambridgeshire folk bothering to vote in 2012. It’s hard to imagine that there is any more enthusiasm now.

It’s never been properly established why we need a commissioner when we have a chief constable, a lot of guff about representing the public not withstanding.

Sir Graham’s idea of representing Peteborough didn’t seem to amount to much more than appointing an “outreach’’ worker for the city, who could report back to him at his offices in leafy Cambourne.

It made the city sound like a problem child – which it probably is, but that’s only all the more reason to give it more attention.

It’s quite hard to fathom what a police commissioner actually does apart from having a very swish website full of well meaning but woolly statements .

One such statement is ‘‘Police and Crime Commissioners have responsibility for delivering an efficient and effective police service in their area and also hold the police to account, making them answerable to the public.’’

So take last week’s news about severely reduced opening hours for public inquiries at Thorpe Wood police station. Surely this is a classic example of an issue where the commissioner should take the cudgels up on behalf the public.

Sir Graham commented: “I am aware of the temporary reduction of opening hours at Thorpe Wood.’’

Well, you can’t accuse him of not having his finger on the pulse.

This was followed with some platitudes about correct process, training and quality service.

Yet the police themselves admit cutting the hours, incluing shutting all day Sunday, was not a “desirable’’ decision .

This is a case where “an efficient and effective’’ police service is not being delivered.

This is a case where the commissioner could and should have made the police answer to the public (literally!).

This is a case which shows it’s time to decommission the commissioner’s role.

Shame on you!

The idea of the Government naming and shaming businesses that don’t pay the National Minimum Wage is a good one. But the abuse of this policy in the case of Peterborough’s Whiz Kids Day Nursery is nothing short of outrageous.

The failure to pay happened when the nursery had different owners and even a different name.

Current owner Liz Debenham said: “When we purchased the business we spotted this injustice and corrected it immediately. However, because we then owned the business when HMRC investigated we were the ones named and fined even though it was nothing to do with us.

“How unfair is that?’’ she asked. “Very’’, is the answer.

Adding insult to the injury of this injustice, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills corroborated Mrs Debenham’s claims adding it could not comment in detail on individual examples.

Not only outrageous but cowardly too.

Qualified failure

I am not knocking Peterborough City Council for trying to be innovative in its recruitment of social workers.

It has long been a difficult task, but I do wish the council would speak in plain English when talking about its plans.

The latest jargon concerns an attempt to cut down on expensive agency workers and use “alternatively qualified’’ workers to take on lower level cases.

By “alternatively’’ does it mean less qualified staff? If so, just say it.

Plain nonsense

Talking about the city council and plain English. It took to Twitter to advertise a job.

It read: We are seeking an inspirational and committed individual to lead on evidenced-based parenting support.

As author and wit Bill Bryson said why don’t they call a spade a spade when instead they can call it a manual earth-restructuring implement?

Diary Of A Bad Dad

All parents hope their children are not just siblings but best friends too. The reality is often far from this ideal and some parents are happy to settle for their offspring grunting recognition and stopping short of commiting GBH on each other.

The signs are promising that Toddler T and the Toddlernator will be best of pals. He finds her hilarious even when she’s dragging him around the lounge like a rag doll and she’s offered to change his nappy (declined on health and safety grounds). A sister can have no greater love for her brother than that.

This love-in might not necessarily be a good thing for me.

The other day I was left in charge of both of them.It was like doing battle with a tiny tag team of terror.

Their teamwork was impressive. The second I stopped one doing star jumps on the settee, the other was off trying to dive head first into the toilet bowl.

After a few minutes of my own personal version of wrestlemania I retired hurt (mentally if not physically).