The outgoing Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner says he does not feel he has failed despite information obtained by this newspaper showing he had not achieved some key manifesto pledges.
Adam Simmonds is set to leave office on Wednesday and will be replaced by the winner of yesterday’s election, due to be announced this afternoon.
In a brochure produced before the 2012 PCC election, Mr Simmonds identified 16 things he wanted to do to make the county the ‘safest place in England’.
Through a series of Freedom of Information requests by this newspaper, we compared what had been pledged to what had been achieved.
The first of those was a vow to cut violent crime by 40 per cent in the next four years, meaning 4,000 fewer victims.
Latest figures from Northamptonshire Police, show there were 8,272 violent crime reported in 2012/13 and 12,964 in 2015/16, an increase of 57 per cent.
In response, Mr Simmonds said he had put the 40 per cent reduction into a five-year crime plan that still had two-and-a-half years to go.
He said: “The principle of why I set that target was the most important thing.
“Violence was too high, the police ambition was too low and I wanted to change that.
“It is actually irrelevant whether you meet the 40 per cent figure or not. It is actually about how you are reducing violence and at the moment no we are not. But it is now our priority.
“I don’t think I’ve actually failed because I’ve changed minds, I’ve changed the force’s direction, the force is focused on it now and in some of the most serious violent offences there is a 50 per cent reduction.
“What has gone up is reporting of domestic violence and number of people who report violence without injury.
“I put violence as a policy priority and that is now the priority therefore have I failed? On one level I have not met that target, yes. But in a five-year plan there is still time to go. But was the numerical target the be all and end all anyway or was it the added value of making it a focus?”
Mr Simmonds second pledge was to ‘put more police back on the beat’. Policing numbers had dropped from 1,412 officers in 2010 to 1,280 in 2012. He also committed to putting an extra 900 special constables on the beat. There are now approximately 1,200 officers and 718 special constables.
The commissioner said he had delivered that promise “in spades” as he had increased the Special Constabulary to almost 800, while maintaining the number of full-time officers.
He said: “I fixed number of police officers at 1,220 after the election because I saw what the books were like. I saved jobs. Every day since I’ve started we’ve had the same number of police officers. I’ve protected that figure, we’ve not lost any.
“I’ve helped put almost 800 Special police officers at the disposal of the chief so I’ve actually delivered that in spades.”
Another of the pledges in the manifesto was a commitment to publishing pictures of those committing anti-social behaviour.
Mr Simmonds admitted that he had not achieved during his term in office.
He said: “I have not done a lot of that. I confess that is not something I have not particularly majored on.
“What we have done is continue to make those faces available to media. The ambition was to post a picture every day but we have not done that.”
Other pledges in the manifesto included an ambition to make fighting anti-social behaviour a force-wide priority and have “zero tolerance” for street drinking.
Mr Simmonds said he had implemented this and the force was due to have a special anti-social behaviour hotline that people in the county could use to report incidents.
The commissioner also cited police operations targeting street drinking including Operation Nightsafe.
One of his other pledges was to build a “new improved PCSO taskforce’ and expand the constabulary.
At the end of March 2016, the force had 718 Special constables, up from 281 in September 2012 by short of the much-publicised target of 900.
The commissioner said he had not been able to increase the number of PCSOs as other local authorities in the county had cut their funding for them.
Mr Simmonds said he believed he had delivered his pledges to set up a victims’ commission and devolve police budgets to local communities by setting up VOICE and the Office of Faith Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI).
The OFBCI was set up in February 2015 and has an annual budget of £70,000 to provide support for organisations that help decrease crime.
VOICE began operating on October 1, 2014 and provides support for victims with witness care to provide a single point of contact through the criminal justice system.
The police and crime commissioner also pledged to hand out community grants using money gained from the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA)
Mr Simmonds said this had not proved to be sustainable long-term due to the fluctuations in the amount the force receives and the fact a lot has to be given to the Treasury.
Other pledges Mr Simmonds said he had delivered on included, setting up a Northamptonshire drugs squad, building a volunteer force of emergency wardens and establishing a county security council.
He said a recent focus on cyber crime, involving a survey of 13,000 school children, had achieved his aim of the police having more engagement with young people.
Changes to Northamptonshire Police that were not in his manifesto include the sale of the Wootton Hall HQ in Northampton and the merger with the fire service.
Mr Simmonds said he had always intended to link the two emergency services more closely and this had been made possible through his contacts within Northamptonshire County Council.
He said: “People thought I was barmy but now there is a bill before parliament to merge the police and fire service.
“People said to me it could not work but unique circumstances made it possible.
“There was a Conservative county council I had been working with. I got on with Andre Gonzalez de Savage, the cabinet member for the fire brigade and we built a partnership.”
On the sale of Wootton Hall, Mr Simmonds said he believed the criticism of the sale was “ridiculous”.
He said: “When I walked in Wootton Hall I thought it was not fit for purpose.
“Police need to work in 21st century building. It feels to me this building harks back to an age when we did things in a particular way. We need to change the culture in the way we do things.”
Mr Simmonds said he first explored the possibility of the site becoming a school as he said the local community “did not want new housing” and there was no supermarket interested in building a new store.
He said he “encouraged” a group of education experts to set up a trust to develop the school idea.
He said: “We started talking about a crime prevention role with children and how you can change the culture kids are growing up in.
“We thought why don’t we create our own school routed in criminal justice? When we looked into it we found out police and crime commissioners cannot sponsor schools.
“However, what we could do was to encourage people who might agree with that drive to set up a trust to develop the idea themselves. Which is what happened.
“I spoke to a number of people across the community, a couple of councillors and former director of education Andrew Sortwell.
“There is no money in this for anybody. All the people in the trust are doing this for free and voluntarily.
“I have no skin in the game financially and none of these people have. It is not a money making exercise. It is purely about educating kids.”
Mr Simmonds said he felt particularly “bruised and hurt” by some of the personal criticism he has received during his time in office but said it was still the “best job he had ever had”.
He said: “What strikes me is that in public life you’ve got to seriously be in this job to make a difference, I took a £10,000 pay cut to do this job.
“It has been a real privilege to hold public office and meet great people.
“If I have failed in anything it is that I have failed to break through people’s understanding of what the role is about. But I think that is countrywide and give it 10 years and people will be much more aware of the role.”
Mr Simmonds said he got frustrated by people who were “ignorant” about what he was trying to do.
He said: “If people start from the viewpoint that I am selling Wootton Hall for my own profit, that I’ve got all these blokes and friends trying to line my pockets and I’m getting the police off this site for the school because I don’t like police, then everything I’m doing is horrible.
“But if you start looking at it objectively and think we’ve not had a new building since the 1970s, we’re going to exit this site for a new school that will focus on policing and we’re going to sell land that will bring money back into frontline policing, I find it hard to see what people are complaining about.
“I’ve been very quiet during this campaign because I wasn’t running. If I was, I would be arguing these things and defending my record. What has been very interesting is the other candidates have not really commented on my record. They’ve talked about hoards of spin doctors and a “vanity projects” but loads of other things they have just accepted.
“They are all talking about violence, police numbers and support for victims. The success for me is that I set that landscape.
“If we were looking at this office again in four years time I think I will still recognise everything.”