An interview with Sir Graham Bright Police and Crime Commissioner

pcc07:06 Friday 12th September 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: This week we’ve been focusing on how Cambridgeshire Police is adapting in the face of tough budget cuts. Today we go to the man who holds the purse-strings, and sets the objectives for the police force to follow. It’s nearly two years since Sir Graham Bright was elected as Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. It’s his job to hold the police to account, making them answerable to the public. Regular listeners to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire will know that we have had difficulty at times securing interviews with Sir Graham on air, but I’ve been to see him, and I have recorded an extended interview that we’ll be playing in two parts, the first one now, the second one in about an hour’s time. In Part One he speaks about how he has been able to influence policing policy in Cambridgeshire, and I asked him why he so rarely agreed to be interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Breakfast Show.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So going to start with something that we’ve just been touching on really, the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Turnout in the elections when you were elected was quite low. A year into the job we went out and asked people in Cambridgeshire whether they knew who you were and what you did, and what a PCC did. A lot of people didn’t. Is that a problem?

GRAHAM BRIGHT: No. People are beginning to cotton on as to what I’m doing. It was a problem at the time, not of my making. I spent most of my time explaining what a PCC was (UNCLEAR) campaigning for it. And I think we’ve overcome that. Certainly I get out and about quite a lot. One of the things, there was a gap, distrust of the police. Not necess .. that wasn’t Cambridgeshire’s fault. There’s problems in Manchester and the Met. Well one of the things I said when I came into the police was I’d like you to imagine yourself as a member of John Lewis’ staff, there to serve. Because that’s what it’s all about. And you’ll see a lot of things that I’ve been doing revolves around that. It’s a mass of stuff that we’ve been doing reflects on us talking to the public and engaging with the public.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But do you have any evidence that any of those things are actually working?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well of course. We’ve done extremely well with neighbourhood watch. We’ve updated neighbourhood watch. We’ve given them modern technology. We are also starting to roll out police contact points outside of police stations. The first one is in Sainsbury’s at Bretton. It was quite interesting when we opened the Sainsbury’s thing, which is next .. was next door to a police station. I think they saw more people in the first hour and a half than they had in about three months in the police station. And of course they come and tell you what their concerns are.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And what are their concerns? Because you also hold surgeries. What do people tell you they’re worried about in Cambridgeshire?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: It’s always speeding, and it’s always parking. And I do have to remind people that we’ve got a huge operation going on behind the scenes that they don’t see, the team that look after domestic violence, the team that look after protecting young children from sex offenders. And we mustn’t forget those. If I put all efforts onto speeding, you know, and you had a terrorist attack in Cambridge, my goodness, we’d be wrong. So we have to balance that out.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What do you think you’ve done in the two years since you’ve been in the role that a Chief Constable with a clear strategy couldn’t have done, or that the Police Authority couldn’t have done?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well bearing in mind that I’m one person, not a committee, I’ve made decisions very much more rapidly than they were doing before. I can do things and campaign for things that the Chief Constable couldn’t do. I can really lean heavily on the Home Office.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So can you give us an example?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Dealing with the question of slave labour and what’s happened in Cambridgeshire, yes we were looking at it, but I was able to get the Home Office right on-side with us. On that we’ve heard the Home Secretary address that on several occasions. The fact that I set up a meeting with all the agencies in Cambridgeshire to look at the drinking problem. We’ve done the same with a question of people with mental health problems. One of the things I was horrified to find when I came here was that the number of people with mental health problems that were put in a cell overnight. Now we’ve reduced that by something like two thirds, because I’ve insisted on it. And I can go on. I’ve got a list of things. And I think one of the things that I’m probably proudest of, because I picked it up during the campaign, is people complaining that police didn’t attend burglaries. And what I put in the Police and Crime Plan is every burglary has to be attended by the police. We now as a force I think are top in the country for satisfaction, from people who’ve been burgled, with the way in which the police have dealt with them.
DOTTY MCLEOD: It’s a long list. People who listen to the Breakfast Show at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire would be forgiven for not knowing any of the things that you’ve mentioned there, because we’ve not heard from you, before nine am on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, for a very long time. Do you take your duty to be accountable to the people who elected you seriously?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Of course I do. And Radio Cambridgeshire is not the only media in Cambridgeshire.
DOTTY MCLEOD: No I appreciate that. But many many requests have gone in for interviews with you, and frequently we are simply given statements to read out.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well there’s very good reasons for that. But you obviously don’t know what my diary is, and if I happen to be in London or on a train to Manchester, I can’t come on. I do come on occasionally, but we deal with the media right across the spectrum.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So that was Sir Graham Bright, talking to me yesterday. That’s his explanation of why you don’t often hear him before nine o’clock here on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Be interested to hear what you think of that. And you’ll be able to hear the second part of that interview just after eight o’clock, where we delve into the issue of budget cuts and how they could be sorted out, sharing services, sharing many more services with forces from neighbouring counties, and also his view on Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner in South Yorkshire who of course was caught up in the scandal about child sex abuse in Rotherham. He was in charge of Childrens’ Services for a number of years while those abuses were going on, and he has refused to stand down. We hear Sir Graham Bright’s view on that. It is quite a strong view, and he also says there should be a mechanism by which the public can sack their Police and Crime Commissioner.


08:07 Friday 12th September 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Now we spent the week looking at how Cambridgeshire Police are rising to the challenge of tough budget cuts, how they’re changing strategy and spending, and one man key to that process is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, Sir Graham Bright. Elected nearly two years ago, it’s his job to set the police budget and objectives. He’s not been able to speak very often on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show, but I’ve been to see him at his office in Cambourne. In the second part of this extended interview with Sir Graham Bright he gives his view on Shaun Wright, his counterpart in South Yorkshire who faces calls to resign over the Rotherham sexual exploitation case. He also talks about the Joanne Dennehy investigation, and he answers some of your questions, sent to me beforehand.
DOTTY MCLEOD: The role of the PCC has recently been thrown into the spotlight by events not taking place in Cambridgeshire, by what has happened up in Rotherham. There’s been a lot of discussion, especially of the fact that Shaun Wright the PCC for South Yorkshire hasn’t stepped down, nor can he be sacked. Should he resign?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: If I was in his position I’d certainly resign. He should, because he’s not effective. He’s a lame duck.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you worry about the impact that his actions have on people’s perception of Police and Crime Commissioners as a whole?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: My position is that the people of Cambridgeshire have me as their Police and Crime Commissioner. Look at what I’m doing, not what someone else is doing. As far as he’s concerned, I don’t think he should be there.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think there should be a capability to sack PCCs?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: That’s something the Government have to deal with, not me. I’m a PCC, and I don’t regulate my colleagues. But I really think the Home Office have got to look at that one. There’s obviously a blip there in the legislation. No-one thought about it. And there needs to be a way in which you can remove a PCC immediately.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Let’s talk about budget cuts, because since 2010 Cambridgeshire Police are having to deal with budget cuts of a fifth, which is a considerable slice of a budget. It looks unlikely that much more money will be coming into the coffers. It looks far more likely that the cuts will continue. Is there any more fat left to trim?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well you’ve got to look at it in different ways. It’s no use just slicing stuff out. But we’ve tackled it by working with partners, working with Bedfordshire, working with Hertfordshire, working with other forces within the Eastern region. But our big game is the Metis, which is the technology operation that we’re doing, which does away with paperwork, which gives every policeman and special and PCSO a hand held .. either a slate or a smartphone. So all their work can be done on that phone, immediately. At the moment or until now, if they had to write a report they’d go back to the police station. It’s interesting in Hampton in Peterborough, where the sergeant there decided to try this out by locking the door at eight o’clock in the morning and not letting them back in, to keep them out, they’ve dealt with twenty per cent more investigations, because they’ve had time to do it. But interestingly enough, we’ve had a lot of interest from the Home Office, even from the Met. on what we’re doing on that front. And we’re installing it for both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire as well. Obviously working together with them, road traffic for instance is now run as one.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Can you see more units being joined up, merged?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Not merged. We’re working as partners. Everything is up for that. So we’re looking at every single thing. The investigative side is really working well. Right at the beginning we had that terrible murder at Peterborough, where the woman killed three people. That would have actually stopped us in our tracks almost. But as it was, because we had that there, there was eighty or ninety people immediately came into to help us from Hertfordshire. And the thing was solved in days. So not only are we saving money, we’ve got a better service. Much more efficient. Now looking down the line, we’re going to keep having cuts. I brought my Deputy in. I appointed him because he’s an excellent businessman. I said I wanted to run the police like a business. And everything has to be costed. Everything has to be justified. You don’t just do it, you have to justify it and look at it and make sure you’re doing the right thing. And looking further ahead, 2016/17, we’ve still got to balance the budget, but it’s going to get very tight, and we may well want to work together beyond Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So there’s two ways that you could take that, if you’re looking at more collaboration. Collaborating with more counties, or making more services joined up with Beds. and Herts. Could you see a point where you end up with effectively a tri-county police force, the Beds. Herts. Cambs Police?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: That could happen, but at the moment it’s not. We’re not talking about merging, we’re talking about collaboration. Maybe down the line it’s something we can discuss, but at the moment it’s not on the table.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But more services could be subject to that kind of sharing.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Oh yes. Absolutely. Yes.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Any examples of what could go that way?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Well we’re looking at the moment from Cambridgeshire point of view at back office, HR, but what we won’t do is interfere with local policing. Local policing, I don’t think people realise, there is a totally different concept on crime and dealing with it in Ely compared with Peterborough. So you have Ely and Peterborough. You have Huntingdon. You have March. You have Cambourne and Cambridge. And each one of those is different.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I want to ask you a question which was sent to me by one of our listeners, by Nicky. She was, I think, surprised at the fact that soon after you were elected you said that tackling anti-social cycling was one of your priorities. There’s a feeling that that’s fairly small-fry actually, when you’ve got so many other big issues going on in Cambridgeshire. We’ve already mentioned migrant worker exploitation, serious crime. What do you say to that?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: You know it depends whose eyes are looking at it. People in Cambridge think that anti-social cycling is a serious matter. And anti-social cycling could end up killing a child or an elderly person. So everything is important. And yes, we did tackle cyclists, particularly those without lights in Cambridge. It wasn’t all the force doing it. It was several nights when you really made a purge on it, to make that point and drive it home. But there are priorities. For instance, on the question of counter-terrorism, you can’t take your eye off the ball. Domestic violence is happening all the time. It has to be on-going all the time. You can’t switch that on and off. So there are little things and big things. But we mustn’t dismiss anything as being too small to deal with.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And something else that we were sent in by one of our listeners. This was from someone in Peterborough, and it does sound like they’re speaking from personal experience. One of the things that you say you’ve achieved is improving the amount of time that people wait on the phone when they dial 101. There’s a suggestion that in fact what’s happening is that people’s calls are being answered and then they’re immediately being put on hold again. So in fact maybe what you’ve achieved is a nice piece of statistical management, rather than anything tangible. Do you think that’s fair?
GRAHAM BRIGHT: That’s very unfair. You’ve got to understand the situation we had. It was taking minutes, quite a lot of minutes, for people to be answered first time around, and we had to deal with that. Now one of the reasons we had to deal with it is because someone who dialled 101, it may be an emergency call. And very often it is. So you need to interrogate that immediately, and if it’s an emergency, put it onto the emergency side so it’s dealt with. That’s the most important thing we had to do. And we are now dealing with the secondary calling, so that people don’t have to hang on. And we’ve tried to think outside the box, talk to people like John Lewis who run a very good system. We’re talking to BT, and there are plans to be able to phone people back and deal with it. But we know that has to happen. I really think come January we’re going to see a real improvement. It’s a big operation. You know we get 30,000 calls a month. That is a lot of calls to deal with. And they all have to be dealt with properly.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So it’s a work in progress.
GRAHAM BRIGHT: Absolutely.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Thank you very much.
DOTTY MCLEOD: That’s Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright.