Police and crime commissioner’s bid to avoid cuts to the thin blue line

PCC Alan Hardwick with Sgt Gary Joynes. DJ
PCC Alan Hardwick with Sgt Gary Joynes. DJ

It is the halfway point in Alan Hardwick’s four-year term as Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

The former journalist was elected into the position, newly created by the Coalition Government to replace police authorities, in mid-November 2012.

PCCs, in the Government’s words, are elected to ‘make sure that local police meet the needs of the community’, with the budget among his key priorities.

Speaking to The Standard last week, Mr Hardwick put forward what he felt he had achieved in his first two years of office.

He said: “I think first and foremost, the chief constable and myself have managed to maintain 1,100 officers on the frontline in this county. When I took over from the police authority, plans were already in train, being mentioned or being considered, to cut the number of officers to 1,068. So, I have stopped that.”

Building on this point, he said he felt that if such a cut had been made, further losses would have been suffered on the frontline.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, it would have been a slippery slope.”

He also gave falling levels of recorded crime and praise from HM Inspectorate of Constabularies, which graded the force as ‘outstanding’ in delivering affordable policing, as other highlights.

He said he felt Lincolnshire Police was ‘coping far better’ than other forces with cuts in Government funding, adding he has written to the Home Office numerous times to highlight how its approach could be used to help save money elsewhere in the country - though has yet to hear back.

He said: “It’s a message I intend to re-enforce because the chief constable and myself are absolutely determined to continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Lincolnshire.”

Despite the difficulties he remains upbeat about the outlook for the remainder of his four-year term.

He said: “I’m confident we will be able to continue to deliver the sort of policing - the professional, effective, efficient policing - that the people of Lincolnshire deserves. Unlike other forces, we are used to making the best of any money we get, we are used to ringing the best value out of every penny we get.”

Hedoes fear that beyond the end of his term, if more cuts were to come, there may be ‘difficult decisions’ to make regarding the frontline.

In light of this, he said his message to the Government was to focus on forces where ‘money was being wasted’, adding: “Just leave us alone, don’t take any more money away from us.”

‘A pain of a pleasure’ is how Alan Hardwick describes the role of PCC.

He said: “I’m enjoying the job. It’s a pain of a pleasure. It’s difficult, but it’s really rewarding.”

Mr Hardwick’s tenure as PCC has, at times, attracted headlines.

The suspension and subsequent reinstatement of Lincolnshire Police’s chief constable Neil Rhodes led to criticism from some quarters, especially in light of the cost to the taxpayer.

There has, however, been praise from the top, with Prime Minister David Cameron publicly paying tribute to the force over the way it has dealt with cuts.

Mr Hardwick says he is undecided on whether he would stand again for the role at the end of his term, saying it would depend on the result of the General Election - both as to whether there would be a change in Government, but also in the powers of the PCC were altered.

However, if Labour wins the next General Election and makes good on its vow to scrap PCCs, Mr Hardwick would , perhaps surprisingly, not oppose the move outright, saying: “I’m not precious about the job.”

He feels, however, the commissioners would have to be replaced with something that is ‘as open and transparent as the present system’, saying that to restore the old police authorities would be ‘an insult to democracy’.

“I think it’s very important that people should have someone who is accountable, that’s me,” he said.