Category Archives: PCC

PCC Meeting, 29th Nov

PCC Meeting, 29th Nov

Last night the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, held a public meeting in the Town Council chambers to float the idea of a new Police Station for Wisbech.

A fair few people turned up including Councillors, members of the public, and a trio of Labour Party Activists.

From the very outset it was clear that the Labour Party ladies were intent on derailing the meeting. Almost as soon as the PCC began to speak they began tutting, talking over him and shouting things out.

Once the PCC had stated the plans, the public were invited to ask questions. There were lots of questions, but over and over again the Labour trio attempted to dominate the meeting. Talking over anybody who was speaking. Shouting over Mr Ablewhite’s answers. Being really very rude.

The members of the public who were not Labour activists soon tired of this and several times the meeting deteriorated into people asking them to pipe down and them arguing with pretty much everybody in the room.

They did themselves no favours. They kept insisting things they clearly wanted to believe, but which had been directly contradicted by both the PCC and the Police Superintendent who had spoken. They argued about the location of the public meeting (in the Town Council Chambers, where public meetings are held all the time.) They tried to claim that the meeting was called under false pretences. It wasn’t. It was called to discuss the moving of the Police Station from the old tumbledown poor building where it currently squats, to a new purpose-built modern building next to the Fire Station.  The plans were right there to look at.

They tried to make a big deal about the Ambulance, Fire and Police being stationed next to one another in a new “Blue Light Hub”, even though all three services think this is a really positive idea and support it. Even though is was very clear that the services themselves remain Independent and that the close locality is a far better way for them to work collectively (as they often had to do.)

The Police and Crime Commissioner explained that all the money saved by having a state-of-the-art Police Station working closely with emergency partners on a central site would go straight back into front line Police and would increase the numbers of Police serving our community. He explained the ideas very clearly and as far as I could tell had the support of everybody in the room, with the sole exception of the trio of Socialists.

Even at the end of the meeting the Labour group continued trying to argue with everybody. One member of the public got so angry with them and their manner that she shouted some fairly harsh words. I’m honestly not sure what they wanted to achieve. It seemed they turned up to the meeting with a fixed opinion – when the information didn’t match what they expected to hear, they decided to just proceed as though it had. They seemed to only want to agitate and derail the meeting. If it was a political stunt, then I would say it failed dismally. To everybody who was there they just looked and sounded outlandish, which was set off with a deft flourish when one of the ladies insisted on calling other people “comrade” (which was not broadly welcomed by other members of the public.)

Anyway, colourful local political groups aside – the information given sounded like very good news indeed. All the Emergency Services are working together to deliver a newer, better and most importantly better-staffed service for our Town. It sounded like win-win to me.

PCC Visit

PCC Visit

Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite is asking local residents to come along to a public meeting on Monday 27th November in Wisbech.

The Commissioner would like to discuss plans for a new Police Station in Wisbech with members of the local community before undertaking the formal application process.

Superintendent Andy Gipp from Cambridgeshire Constabulary will also be present.

The event will be held in Wisbech Town Hall Council Chamber between 7pm and 9pm on Monday 27th November and is open to all Wisbech residents.

Big Night for Citizens’ Patrol

Big Night for Citizens’ Patrol

Tonight Wisbech Citizens’ Patrol were joined by the Police & Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite.

Jason came out with volunteers for our entire walk from 11PM until nearly 1AM, around the hotspots and key locations in Wisbech.

It was a quiet night, as usual, but it gave the PCC a good chance to see how we work, what we do and what our Town is really like, for anybody who looks past the lurid and false headlines.

Many thanks to all volunteers and to our PCC.

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All photography by Neil Halliday

PCC Aftermath

PCC Aftermath

The counting is over, the winner is Conservative, Jason Ablewhite. Jason will be the new PCC for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Let the lobbying begin! :)

As an activist, I like to look over campaigns and comment on how they went. Often, this upsets a few people, but they’ll just have to deal with it. This is stuff I am interested in and like to write about. Anybody who doesn’t like it, can go read something else!

The Campaign was a three way battle between UKIP, Lab and Con; Nick, Dave and Jason. The Lib Dem was never anything more than a distraction. I don’t say this to be mean, I like him. But everybody knew he was never going to get anywhere near winning.

In the end, Nick Clarke did worse than many expected. Dave Baigent did a little better than many expected. Jason, who was probably the favourite, won comfortably.

I think Nick made a mistake by running with the 6-year-old Facebook Comment thing. Until then his style was “sensible statesman” and it was winning him admirers. When Labour started shouting about the ancient history comment he should have said: “It’s six years old and it was one word. Give the overreaction a rest.” In the past that is what he would have done, I am sure. But the lure of an easy attack was too strong and Nick couldn’t resist. I think it turned more people off than it won. And I think it damaged the reputation and image he had been cultivating. it probably wasn’t the difference between winning and losing though. He lost by quite a long way, in the end. UKIP are quite strong at this end of the County and came second, but they really aren’t very strong anywhere else. For a huge role like PCC, that makes it a tough battle for them to ever win.

Labour lost this election for themselves. They had so many things in their favour; higher turnouts in their areas, simultaneous Council elections, an incumbent Government. But they shot themselves in both feet. One shot was due to their national Leader, who is only ever going to lead them to ruin. The other shot was the standard of their candidate. Since the election is over I will make no further comments about Dave Baigent except to say: “Next time, pick somebody good.” Even the candidate they put up last time would have been better. What were they thinking?

Congratulations Jason.  Time to get to work!  We expect a lot.   Don’t let us down.

Top Priority? Apparently Not.

Top Priority?  Apparently Not.

Video courtesy of Fenland TV, with thanks for their permission to use.

PCC Hustings

PCC Hustings

Last Friday there was a hustings here in Wisbech.  There has been a lot of talk about how it was the best attended of all the hustings so far, which it probably was, but the suggestion that this was due to public concerns about Policing is a little misleading.  I’m not saying the public here are not concerned about Policing, only that linking it to the turnout is an uncertain argument.  By my count, well over half the audience were political activists.  What it is testament to is how politically active and astute Wisbech is as a Town.  Nothing wrong with that.  We should be proud of it.

I went to the hustings thinking I was going to be bored out of my mind.  Actually, I wasn’t at all.  It was both entertaining and engaging.  No small amount of that was due to the hosting by John Elworthy.  I have often criticised John in the past, but credit where it is due, he Chaired that meeting perfectly.  He got the balance between control and allowing things to run right, he came across politically-neutral this time and he kept the meeting ticking over at a good pace.

So how did they do?

Rupert Moss-Eccardt (Lib Dem)
I was a County Councillor at the same time Rupert was and so I know him of old.  He hasn’t changed very much.  He’s a very pleasant man with an exceptionally sharp mind.  But he’s not the world’s best speaker, he didn’t seem to actually have much of a platform in regards to what he would do as PCC and frankly he rather seemed like he knew he wasn’t going to win and had come for the fun.  Which is quite admirable, in an odd way.  His brand of “legalise drugs”, “hug-a-hoodie” policy positions was never going to go down well in Fenland.  When asked if he would put more Police on the beat he said: “No”, which was beautifully honest and political suicidal at once.  By the end, a few people were considering putting him as a second preference simply because he was so zany.  But in truth his answers got almost no applause and his “sum up” left only silence in its wake.

Nick Clarke (UKIP)
Another gentleman I served at County Council with – as my Leader no less – Nick did exactly as I would have expected him to.  He delivered a confident, ballsy, direct performance which earned him plenty of applause and kudos.  The fact that his maths really didn’t seem to add up didn’t worry the ‘Kippers in the audience, they broadly seem to prefer a rambunctious campaign to actual economic reality.  But he came across as strong, and people like that in a PCC candidate.  He had an odd moment at the start where he refused to use a microphone, getting some heckling from the Very Angry Labour man (hereafter referred to as V.A.L. for short) which led to him saying he couldn’t use the microphone because he had a bad eye.  While everybody was looking at one another in puzzlement over that he reversed his position and decided to use the microphone after all.  But other than that bit of oddness he gave an assured hustings which was well received by the ‘Kippers in the audience.

Jason Ablewhite (Conservative)
Jason wasn’t the best I have seen him.  His performance was quite “low key”, though I think he came across as confident and assured.  His weakness was that he has spent so much time as a Council Leader that he sometimes gets stuck in the lingo, talking too much about “Partnership Working” and “stakeholders” and the like.  That said, he also comes across as strong and a safe pair of hands, which he is.  There were traps set for him.  The first of which was UKIP trying to talk about an old business interest which was loudly agreed as “mud raking” and unnecessary by the crowd.  John Elworthy asked for a vote on whether the question should proceed and only two people voted “yes” that I could see, so that was that.  The other was V.A.L. bringing up the six-year-old private Facebook comment which referred to a minority group using one of the “no go” words.   The only people in the audience who seemed to think this was anything other than pretty desperate mud raking also were the Labour contingent – and they went quiet almost as soon as “current scandal” and “anti-semitic” were mentioned.  Not surprisingly, really.  Jason got the biggest cheers after his answers, but he probably also had the most support present.  Still, I think he can be fairly proud of his performance.

Dave Baigent (Labour)
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  After his poor answers in my few online chats with him I could already see he was out of his depth and I had roundly predicted he would be eaten alive in the hustings.  But I didn’t imagine anything like this.  It started going wrong for Dave almost from the outset.  He tends to “roar” when he speaks, which I presume he thinks makes him sound strong.  Or maybe that’s  how he talks normally?  No idea.  But the minute he began his opening dialogue there were people to my side and behind me, not Conservatives, who didn’t like it.  One woman said he sounded “hectoring” and another that he seemed “a bully.”  Quite possibly unfair, but his style wasn’t working.  And things hadn’t even begun to go wrong yet.  When he boasted of “paying for the hustings” there was some concern he was stretching electoral law.  ( I don’t think so, personally, but it sure seemed to throw him when Nick Clarke said it.)  Then he kept telling everybody he had a plan, loudly, while not really revealing it.  He got the law in regards to parking completely and utterly wrong, which undermined his claims of experience and knowledge.  He kept referring to “cities” leading to shouts that he “wasn’t in the city now” and accusations of being Cambridge-centric.  He just compounded this by continually referring to his time as a City Councillor.  When he said that Wisbech was a priority, but listed his priorities as Huntingdon, Cambridge and Peterborough – he got fairly roundly heckled from all sides.  Attempts to put this right just made it worse as he said Wisbech was “a priority, after the other priorities” and was met by howls of outrage and ridicule.  At one point he loudly announced that managing the Police wasn’t the job of the PCC.  By this time the heckling was coming from all sides and Mr. Baigent collapsed under the pressure, resorting to telling everybody: “I have a plan, I’m not changing it just because of you lot” or something similar.  It was all over for him after that really and his sum-up received muted applause from the Labour Die-hards and V.A.L. and it wasn’t particularly enthusiastic, even from them.  His sum up was essentially: “I’m going to stick to my plan.  You guys don’t matter.”  Well, it wasn’t that, but he might as well have said that.

What can we take from all this?  Well, the audience seemed split between Conservatives and UKIP, with the exception of the Labour die-hards.  I would call it a close draw on the night between Nick and Jason, which others would disagree with but mostly based on their own biases.  Nick Clarke may have taken one or two Conservative waverers if he was lucky.  Jason Ablewhite may have taken one or two Labour waverers if he was lucky.  Dave Baigent crashed and burned spectacularly and will have gained no support on the night that he didn’t have before he arrived and which wouldn’t be there for anybody with a red banner.  The Lib Dem was comic relief, for the most part, but a nice break from the others on occasion.  I doubt anybody really changed their minds, in truth.  But it was an entertaining spectacle – and I think the candidates will go away thinking that Fenland was a pretty tough crowd full of informed and opinionated individuals.  That’ll do nicely.

Baigent Is Back

Baigent Is Back

So the Labour PCC Candidate popped into Wisbech this week and seems to think he did us all a favour by gracing us with his presence.

Sometimes I quite like the Labour candidates, but this guy just annoys me.  He doesn’t even make an attempt to answer any real questions.  His campaign seems to revolve around ridiculous unsubstantiated promises and not even a clue how any of them might happen.

So when he popped up on the Wisbech Discussion Forum on Facebook I took the opportunity to ask him some questions based on the claims on his website.

I said:

I love the way you seem to think that visiting Wisbech *twice* will somehow endear you to the people here. That you travelled up from leafy Cambridge to treat us to your presence on two occasions! smile emoticon How lucky are we? You say you are going to “tackle” violent alcohol-fuelled crime. HOW? Using what measures and with what money and resources?

You say you are going to stop “drug dealers coming from London and Manchester.” Are you talking about Fenland, or is this a Cambridge-centric thing. Whichever, HOW will you stop them? Using what measures and with what money and resources?

You seem to suggest you are going to “campaign against cuts.” But surely you realise that you can stop cuts immediately, by increasing the Police portion of the Council Tax. If you think the public support this additional spend, which you have the power to immediately rectify, how much do you intend to raise Council Tax by, and will you be holding a referendum to raise a lot of additional money? Or do you prefer to just blame the Government and avoid personality responsibility for the decision?

You will “raise the profile of community policing to levels that have never been imagined?” And you will do it “in an entirely different way?” How? What different way? And with what money and resources?

Talk is cheap. Promises are cheap. Let’s have some detail.

It took him a while to come up with a response, so I was thinking: “Wow, this is going to be great.  Perhaps we’ll get some real meat on those colourful bones?”  And when his response finally appeared what were the answers to the questions I posed?

Thank you for your response.

Yep.  That’s it.  Good, huh?  But it wasn’t over yet.  Chatting to a few friends on messenger about it and I said: “Wait and see.  Within the hour he’ll have Sue Marshall up to defend him.”  And sure enough, exactly as predicted, there she was.  All the classics were tried; insinuations, accusations, name-calling.  Anything to divert from the fact that the Labour PCC Candidate didn’t want to answer questions.

But why is he so scared to answer them?  Could it be that he doesn’t have any answers?  All he really has are a few claims, mostly the same ones other candidates are making – but more vague and directionless?

There are good people in Labour.  Plenty of them could have answered me in a reasonable way and dealt with my questions.  Even Sue Marshall herself would have been a much better candidate that this fellow, in my opinion.  His entire appeal seems to be “look at my C.V., I was a firefighter.”  And now he wants local hustings?  They’ll eat him alive.  If he gets the hustings he wants, he’ll need to have been a firefighter to put out the flames of his campaign.

This is a guy who is campaigning for a £70,000 a year job that he doesn’t even seem to believe in.  Who seems to think that being an “anti-austerity” campaigner will make more Police money appear by magic.  And who seems to simply refuse to answer anything, metaphorically ducking behind his lady bodyguards at the first chance of a real question.

Very poor indeed.

Labour PCC Candidate Discussion

Labour PCC Candidate Discussion

Last year I had a few conversations on Twitter with the previous Labour candidate for PCC, who appeared to think he was also the current Labour candidate for PCC.  It was pretty depressing stuff, with the gentleman showing all the ignorance of economics and finance you would expect from the average left-of-centre candidate.  Labour, though, had other ideas, and have selected somebody new.  A man called Dave Baigent, who takes every opportunity to remind the world he is an ex-firefighter.

So I thought I’d have a little poke, see if I could get him talking.  My questions were transparently an attempt to draw him into the open, deliberately on my part.  I was really just having a playful early clash, to see what sort of opponent we had.  Nevertheless, a decent candidate should expect these questions and be able to answer them reasonably.   He did answer them.  I’m not sure his responses qualify as “reasonable” though.

I saw he had said this:  (Note: other PCC websites are available)
As former firefighter academic lecturing on policing & now City Councillor I have the CV

So I started with:
@dave4labour Well, you can’t be worse than the last Labour candidate for PCC, at least.

And to my delight, he was up for it.

He said:
@stevetierney  well look at @dave4CambsPCC and the experience i bring

I said:
All the candidates have useful experience. More interested in policies than stuffed CVs, personally.

He responded with a link to his website (Note: other PCC websites are available)
@stevetierney not a stuffed CV but experience see vision

So, with the initial jousting out of the way I began to fire (no pun intended) some questions at him.

I asked him:
@dave4labour Telling us what you’ll spend money on is easy. Interested to know what you will cut and change?

His response:
@stevetierney I will cut crime and do this through working with the community. Spend coppers on coppers not offices @dave4CambsPCC

I thought this was a funny answer and countered:
@dave4labour  Okay, so you’ve got the whole “soundbites” thing cracked. Now – about the policies?

He said:
@stevetierney Its you that are using soundbites My polices are laid out & thought through – based on experience and research.

So, asked what he would cut or change, he wasn’t willing to give me even a single thing.  But he did manage to squeeze in his dramatically new and never-thought-of-before game changer, “working with the community.”  Nothing vague and non-committal there at all!  His response to my challenge that it was all soundbites?  Apparently it was something along the lines of: “Neh neh, you did it first” and sticking his tongue out.  Or maybe I’m overthinking that.

I wanted to know:
Which Government cuts to the Police and Fire Service do you support?

He told me:
@stevetierney Not the cuts to budget every year from 2010 up to now

I pressed:
@dave4labour You don’t support ANY cuts at all? Not one?

And he said:
I never said that. I am off now ;)

This irritates me about Labour candidates.  I get that they can only presently define themselves by “opposition to austerity” but goodness it gets old.  I mean, come on.  He couldn’t have offered up even one cut or change of any kind that the Government has done which he supports?  Not a single one?  Had he managed to produce even a token answer, that wouldn’t make him an “austerity champion” or cause them to remove his Union Card.  It’d just make it seem like he was reasonable about the need to live within our means and wasn’t a blind ideologue.  But no, he couldn’t commit.  Though interestingly, he started his anti-austerity statement from 2010, meaning that if I came up with a cut that the previous Government had done, he couldn’t be shown to disagree with it.  Talk about a “Party Man.”  No wonder they chose him.

Having enjoyed this complete lack of tangible real answers immensely I went for the money shot:
@dave4labour Okay, here’s an easy one. Do you support the principle of the office of PCC, as better than previous models?

He replied:
@stevetierney @dave4CambsPCC Support principle of working with what is. Against the same thing happening to fire service. Really have 2go

I don’t know what is more depressing. The fact that it took him this long to spot my obvious bear traps and run screaming for the hills, or his inability to give anything better than the absolute standard picture perfect “opposition non-response” to them.

Since he had then done a runner, I took a few minutes to check out his Twitter feed.  A pretty standard, run-of-the-mill Corbynite.  No surprise there, really.

If he couldn’t even handle some simple questions from little old me, Jason Ablewhite and Nick Clarke are going to eat him alive.  He had better hope that national events come to his rescue, because he’s never going to win outside his conventional support with guff like this.

* Quite like “coppers for coppers though”, as meaningless soundbites go.

It’s Not Right At All

It’s Not Right At All

Item 1:

One Saturday night back in May I was emerging from the top of Post Office Lane at ten to one in the morning when I heard an almighty crashing and smashing from the road in the Market Place. I listened for a moment and it continued, including the sound of glass smashing.

I walked up the high street towards the noise and saw a man emerging from the doorway – or rather THROUGH the broken glass doorway – carrying what appeared to be two till boxes in his arms.

He started up the road towards the Market and I followed. As I came parallel to the QS doorway I saw it was a wreck and at that point I gave chase, shouting something at the robber.

The criminal looked back at me and then turned to sprint away, making a mistake as he did so. In his sudden dash, he was still partially staring back at me and he ran directly into a lamppost/pole thingy. It was a nasty collision which sent him tumbling to the ground, dropping the tills. I ran towards him, in the hope of apprehending him, but he jumped to his feet and sprinted away (leaving the tills behind.)

He dashed directly across the Market Place, cutting diagonally to the alleyway by Hughes. I am ashamed to admit that I am too old and unfit to catch up with him, I would guess he was in his early Twenties by his build and the way he moved. I made an attempt, but it was clear there was no way I was going to be fast enough. So I went back to secure the fallen tills – at least he had not gotten away with his loot.

The Police arrived (by chance, actually, not by design) within a few minutes. I was in the process of explaining to some people who had entered the Market that I needed them to call the Police (I didn’t have my mobile phone with me) when the Police materialised by sheer luck.

I spent twenty minutes with them as they secured the scene and bagged the evidence. I pointed out that there is plenty of CCTV in and around the Market and so a good chance that something will have been caught. The Police said they would be in touch in the next few days to take a statement.

Given that this was clearly a Robbery I had interrupted and stopped, and that there was potentially evidence on the tills he had been carrying, on the broken glass and on CCTV, I expected to hear from the Police promptly. I NEVER heard from the Police. They never contacted me, for a statement or anything else.
Item 2:

Last week, you will have seen the news about an attempted Knife Mugging. I knew more about that but didn’t want to say too much where there was a Police investigation. But I can now relay what happened.

I got a message on Facebook from a constituent who told me that his Son had just been menaced by a group of teenagers, one of whom had a knife. He had already called the Police but twenty minutes had passed and he hadn’t heard from them so (as any Father will probably appreciate) he was seething. He didn’t want the kids who had threatened his Son to get away. He intended to take his car out and look for them. I did not want this constituent to go out alone and potentially face a knife-wielding gang, and it was clear he would not be dissuaded, so I said I would come to his house and go out with him.

I have to admit I was fairly sure they’d be long gone. I didn’t imagine they would be stupid enough to hang around the scene of the crime. So it was quite a surprise when about 30 seconds after getting in the car – we found them! They were ambling along Elm Road past the little convenience store there. We drove some way past, parked up, and got out. We walked along separate sides of the street, hoping to at least get a good look at them for identification purposes. But they had spotted us park and sussed what was going on, as we got closer to them they began shouting and swearing and fled. Sadly, much like in May, there was no way I was catching young and fit teenagers – though I gave it a breathless shot. We jumped back in the car, but by then they had fled across the dual-carriageway and lost themselves near the College.

We have given the Police the best descriptions we can. Five English youths, four of whom looked to be about 14, one of whom (apparently the knife guy) a bit older, maybe Seventeen. They passed the Convenience store twice, we think, and it has external CCTV. Other local residents have let us know they have CCTV.

It was several days before the Police visited my constituent and his Son to take a statement. Since then we have heard nothing. Had the Police responded to the 999 call promptly, or even within half an hour, they would have caught them all – they were easy to find, but there was nobody looking except a man with health problems and a fat Councillor.

It may be that the Police are on the case in Item 2 and will shortly let us know the successful result of their investigations. But right now it rather feels like my best bet is to get fit again, because we seem to be fending for ourselves in Wisbech, and next time I have to chase some knife-wielding thugs I’d like to be able to give them a run for their money. I don’t want to worry everybody – this is still a relatively safe Town compared to many. But that is scant relief for people who find themselves the victims of these criminals.

I’d love to ask the Police questions about all this.  But they don’t attend Town Council meetings anymore and they don’t hold Neighbourhood Forums anymore.  And there’s no “hotline” for a Councillor to get a priority response for their constituents.  I have a couple of email addresses, but nobody ever answers.  I just hope that whoever the new Police and Crime Commissioner is, they sort this out.  Because it’s not right, it’s not right at all.

Cambridgeshire PCC Selection

Cambridgeshire PCC Selection

Some of my friends and colleagues are aware that for the last couple of months I have been in the running to be the Conservative Candidate for next year’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections.

I passed the first two stages and managed to make the final five. But unfortunately, in today’s selection I have been knocked out and the numbers reduced to three.

I am proud to have got this far. I gave it my best shot and that’s all you can do. :)   It was a fair process and I simply wasn’t good enough, which I can certainly understand and appreciate.

The remaining candidates all seem very strong and I know that whichever of them is chosen to stand for the Conservatives next week will do a fantastic job. I am looking forward to campaigning for them and working to get a Conservative PCC elected for Cambridgeshire next year.

It was a pleasure and an experience to be part of the process. Thank you to all involved.

*My detractors will be very pleased with this result.  And it’s nice to make people happy, so I’m pleased for them.