When Full Council finally meets next week, Tim Dwelly, leader of the Labour group at County Hall will propose a no confidence vote in Alison Hernandez, the Conservative Police & Crime Comissioner.
The motion has support from senior ‘back bench’ Liberal Democrats, Independents and Mebyon Kernow. Cllr Dwelly is confident the motion will pass, especially if he gets his way and the vote is held in secret. However similar motions on Devon County Council and the Police & Crime Panel have all been defeated. However Plymouth City Council passed a no confidence motion on 3rd July.
Ms Hernandez was democratically elected in 2016. The motion the Council will vote on suggests she is no longer deemed fit to hold that position, due to poor performance. She is also accused of “making decisions that other members feel are detrimental to Cornwall and bringing the role into disrepute”. Only the Home Secretary has the power remove a PCC from office.
The Conservative group on the council has called the move a waste of time and money. ‘This is just clear politicking” James Mustoe told us – “It’s playing political games at the expense of the public purse while Cornwall Council should be devoting its time to more important matters.’
The motion to be voted on by Cornwall Councilon 21st November
“Cornwall Council recognises the exceptional hard work and commitment of the Police Service in Cornwall, in times of serious financial and operational challenges.
However, given the decisions made by the Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez since her appointment, the Council does not have confidence in her in this role”
Tim Dwelly explained to us why he was prepared to take time out of an already very busy day at Council next Tuesday to make a point about Alison Hernandez’s performance.
“The whole idea of this is for it to be a non party proposal, it’s deliberately signed by people from a mixture of groups” he said
“This is too serious an issue just to be about party politics”
Cllr Dwelly continued “This is a way for Cornwall to have it’s voice heard in terms of how it feels about the strategic direction of policing and also for us to flag up how unimpressed we are with Alison Hernandez and the lack of gravitas she brings to this role.
Ideally, whatever party you come from, when you become a Police Commissioner your job is to propose what is best for that area to the Police service and to government. Instead we see what appears to political use of the post to advance party political takes on the issues. Plus really quite unprofessional things like calling on people with guns to be in the front line against terrorism which was a terrible gaffe suggesting she can’t be trusted with this job.
In particular in Cornwall we are seeing some disastrous consequences to the cuts in community support officers (PCSO). For example in Penzance in the summer the number went down from twelve to four and the town centre became awash with anti social behaviour. That reduction is a strategic plan that she is happy with and she’s going further to reduce PCSO numbers”
Cllr Dwelly said that Hernandez could have used her powers to re-open police stations doors to the public.
“What we are seeing is a running down of what used to be called the broken window approach to crime, which is where you nip it in the bud. Our Police service is becoming more remote from our communities. This disconnect was avoidable”
The Penzance Councillor said that he now hears from the public about the decline in policing almost daily.
“I am also struck by the number of police officers and PCSOs who have told me how little faith they have in the commissioner and her office”
“I believe they are out of touch and are now even proposing a merger with Dorset that will stretch resources even further and make policing even more remote from Cornish towns and villages”
Jackie Bull, Lib Dem Councillor for St Austell Poltair told Cornish Stuff why she is supporting the Labour leader’s motion.
“I am happy to second the motion of ‘no confidence’ in Alison Hernandez. I believe it was regrettable that Ms Hernandez proceeded with the post while under investigation. The PCSOs work well with the community and, in my view, especially with engagement with younger people and the roles should be valued. I don’t believe Ms Hernandez does this and any suggestion of a merging of Forces with Dorset would be a further dilution. Added to the above, her ‘gun gaffe’ was also regrettable. Overall, I think her performance has not led to public confidence in her ability”
What do PCCs do?
PCCs work with the police and other partners to cut crime, give the public a voice at the highest level, and hold forces to account and help restore trust. Your PCC will do this by:
being directly accountable to the scrutiny of the public
having the democratic mandate to respond to local people’s concerns
setting local force’s policing priorities and force budget
working with local partners to prevent crime
holding their Chief Constable to account for the performance of the force
appointing, and where necessary dismissing, the Chief Constable
Cllr Malcolm Brown, who is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group (but not in the cabinet) is also a sponsor of the motion.
“I never supported the Government’s decision to set up a network of Police and Crime Commissioners. This has resulted in an unnecessary, unwanted and costly layer of bureaucracy at a time when police numbers are being cut and public concern about crime is growing.
In fairness to the first Commissioner, Tony Hogg, he was elected as a Conservative but thereafter he acted in a statesmanlike serious way. Alison Hernandez has been exactly the opposite. She remains highly political and has failed to build up broad support for her work beyond a hard core of Conservatives.”
Cllr Brown continued “She has demonstrated poor judgement on several issues and she has also shown far less interest in Cornwall than in Devon where she is based. All the evidence suggests that she will not grow into the job and I hope Cornwall Council will make clear that they are unable to express confidence in her while making it very clear that we admire the work our police officers are doing in very difficult circumstances”.
However James Mustoe, deputy Conservative leader at the council and Councillor for Mevagissey accused the Labour group and supporters of wasting Council time, as no one but the Home Secretary has the power to remove the PCC from her elected position.
Devolution Deal: There is a proposed devolution ask of Government to further explore alternative models for ‘blue light’ services in Cornwall, which would see governance and accountability residing more locally. This would bring improved local accountability and enhance opportunities for alignment between emergency services, Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service (CFRCSS), Devon and Cornwall Police (DCP) and South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT).
How would that fit with the potential merger of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Forces?
Announcement by Devon and Cornwall Police (DCP) Chief Constable, Sean Sawyer and the PCC, Alison Hernandez, that DCP are considering merging with Dorset Police Force. This could result in a change to the current Basic Command Unit (BCU) and potential change to the PCC governance model such as the introduction of a Deputy PCC.
Following this announcement a letter was sent by the Leader, Deputy Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection on the 20th September to Mr Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service seeking reassurance that this would not impair Cornwall ambitions for their blue light services.
The Minister responded to the letter, applauding Cornwall’s ambition of greater collaboration of its blue light services. He went on to explain the idea of the merger was in its early stages and just one option been explored by both forces and any change would be subject to a robust business case which shows a clear benefit to the public with sufficient community consent.