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Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner Blog

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, writes a regular blog with issues he's dealing with in the County.

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An exciting role at the College of Policing

3rd March 2016

PCC Martyn UnderhillI have recently been elected to represent PCCs nationally on the College of Policing Professional Committee. Today is the first time I sit on the board alongside the PCC for Sussex, as well as a number of representatives from various staff associations.

The pressure on cops today is immense. From those working at a senior level to those on the beat and working day to day in our neighbourhoods the load is unprecedented. The College of Policing is a professional body that works to find the best ways to deliver policing in these difficult times, to ensure the best possible service is provided to the public across the country.  Importantly, I will now be in position to directly influence these training and management approaches on behalf of the people of Dorset.

The purpose of the board is to set the overall strategic direction of the College. Amongst other things we will help to ensure the College identifies, develops and promotes good policing practice. Supporting the professional development of individuals, police forces and other organisations to work together to protect the public and prevent crime.

I will be in a position to provide oversight and support to the College and to work to ensure it is aware of and responsive to risks, challenges and opportunities that face the profession.  

I am especially pleased that as a committee we will provide a forum for recurring public concerns. Allowing us to identify and root out common themes and persistent problems that the public face when it comes to policing. As a PCC, elected by the people of Dorset, this element is a key part of the committee’s work for me and I will ensure it is undertaken seriously and that concerns are addressed.

Another key role of the board is to lead the debate on issues around policing standards, something I already have a proven track record of doing on behalf of the people of Dorset. As a committee we will be expected to challenge public agencies and the government when it comes to policing to ensure standards are kept high and that public safety is a priority. A part of this will be to play a key role in issues that impact specifically on police funding and public confidence. Both of which are priorities I have been working on through my Police and Crime Plan.

As a former police officer who is a PCC I am in a unique position to advise and support the College of Policing and I am pleased to have been elected by my fellow PCCs to represent them on the Committee. I will work closely with them and the public to continue the good work of the College.

Martyn Underhill
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

Posted by Martyn Underhill at 9:11am

Supporting National Hate Crime Awareness week

19th October 2015

PCC Martyn UnderhillAnyone can be a victim of hate crime and targeted for their race, sexuality, religion, disability or transgender identity. I will never condone any form of hate crime and I will always encourage any victim to speak out.

I am pleased that more hate crimes are being reported in Dorset, however, we know that this type of crime is generally under reported, often because victims are unsure or scared to tell anyone. We need everyone working within the criminal justice system to take hate crime seriously to ensure that everyone can access the help and support they need and deserve, for example through the hate crime app which allows individuals to report in the privacy of their own homes.

I am committed to reducing hate crime and for example have recently co-commissioned with Wiltshire PCC, a LGBT caseworker operating across both counties, who provides specialist support for victims of LGBT hate crime. I also support the national Stand Together campaign, which was launched by Sir Peter Fahy in Manchester this year, to defeat hatred and extremism in our communities. It is important that people to get in touch with the police if they feel they are a victim of hate crime even if there is no prosecution so at least they can get appropriate support as often, these type of offences have long lasting impact on victims especially if they have suffered repeated abuse which can often affect physical and mental wellbeing.

There is a huge range of work we are doing to strengthen community confidence and cohesion in Dorset, for example through targeted community engagement and our work with partners on the Prejudice Free group, who will be showcasing their work at a conference in the New Year. We also continue to enable Equality Champions to support officers in dealing with hate crime and incidents.

It is so important that the impact of hate crime on a victim or community is not underestimated, it ruins lives. The importance of ‘getting it right’ is key to building and maintaining trust and confidence of victims and to encouraging more people to report. This is how we stand together to deliver our collective responsibility.

No-one should suffer in silence.

Posted by Carl at 5:03pm

Home Office Responds to Dorset PCC Campaign to Close Funding Gap in Firearms Licencing

23rd March 2015

PCC Martyn UnderhillEvery year, Dorset taxpayers subsidise the administration of gun licensing applications by £250,000.  I have long campaigned to raise firearms licensing fees to ensure a fair deal for residents in Dorset and the rest of England. I wrote to the Prime Minister to express my disbelief at his decision to reverse an agreed rise to in the cost charged when people apply for a permit to hold a firearms license.

Norman Baker, Government minister of State had agreed with the Treasury, Home Office, the Regulatory Police Committee and other Government Ministers to raise fees but this was vetoed by David Cameron.

I am pleased that the Home Office has finally agreed to raise the figures from 6 April 2015, when the cost of a firearms certificate grant will rise from £50 to £88 with a shot gun certificate grant increasing by £29.50 from £50 to £79.50. Across the County we manage over 14,500 fire arm and shot gun certificates.

Dorset Police estimate the cost of granting a firearms license to be £218 resulting in a subsidy of around £250,000 per year by the Dorset taxpayer. Why so much? Well, on top of office and administration costs, local and national background checks must be completed on the applicant together with a face-to-face visit to ensure they are suitable. A costly and lengthy process.

I’m pleased the campaign has seen some success; the increase in fees will see an extra £50,000 towards meeting our costs meaning the subsidy from the taxpayer will drop to £200,000. This isn’t about generating money to bridge our funding gap. It was about cost recovery, enabling rural police forces like ours to continue to deliver efficient and effective policing services.  We shouldn’t expect the tax payer to subsidise the administration costs for individuals who own firearms.

Whilst the new higher charge still doesn’t cover the full costs for issuing a license, it is certainly a step in the right direction. We need a sustainable process where the fees charged represent the cost of issue.  I will continue to campaign and lobby government to stop this absured public funded subsidy towards firearms license holders.

Martyn Underhill
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

Posted by Martyn Underhill at 3:52pm

Dorset PCC Supports Cuts Have Consequences Campaign

17th February 2015

PCC Martyn UnderhillToday, Dorset Police Federation becomes the 6th Police Federation (Polfed) team to join the inaugural Essex Police Federation campaign, “Cuts have Consequences”.

Of the 7 campaigns, Dorset is the first where the PCC shares the platform with Polfed, endorsing the campaign.

I have done this for several reasons:

•    The Dorset Polfed video is factual, and really highlights in a brief snapshot what consequences cuts can have.
•    Any campaign that informs the public of the issues has to be supported.
•    Any future cuts have the potential to effectively and significantly change policing in Dorset. The public need to know that.

As Police and Crime Commissioner, I am responsible for ensuring that Dorset Police is an efficient and effective Police Force. On behalf of the public, I set the strategy and provide the finance for the Chief Constable to deliver operational policing. The words “efficient and effective“ are really important, because nowhere in that expression does “public expectation” feature…nor do the words “Neighbourhood Policing.” More on that later.

The Force and I have absorbed the current cuts. We had to, the country was overdrawn at the bank, austerity called, and the police changed the way they did business to deliver the service with a fifth of the budget removed. As PCC I am proud that despite the cuts, by doing things differently and driving out savings, we have achieved a 20% drop in funding yet still ring-fenced PCSO’s and opened up police officer recruitment.

But the cuts have still hurt. We have lost staff. Our levels are now the same as in the 1980’s. But, of course, demand has rocketed. Child Sexual Exploitation, human trafficking, and honour based violence existed but were not given the requisite prominence it is today, add to that internet fraud and other cyber-crime and we can see crime is changing and becoming more complex to investigate. We have also lost buildings, and will continue to do so. I have always held the view that “losing bricks and mortar must come before losing cops”, especially as the Force has started rolling out its mobile data strategy this month, enabling officers and staff to work in the community at all times.

We have said all of this before, I mainly write this blog to say that it is the future cuts that worry me, not the past ones. If you examine the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies report, which has examined all major parties manifestos, it is clear that the Treasury may impose cuts of 6% per year, over the term of the next Parliament. That equates to a 41% cut in funding for Dorset Police from 2010 to 2019.And don’t forget we are already one of the lowest funded Forces per head of population. It equates to a huge amount of staffing being removed.

If the Force faces more cuts like that, PCSO numbers and Safer Neighbourhood Teams are hugely under threat. The whole neighbourhood policing model established over the last decade could go. That’s because the Chief Constable has to protect the public, has to prioritise “risk and harm” compared to crime prevention and public reassurance, which neighbourhood policing brings. The policing response to a 999 call, the policing response to an armed incident or policing the response to a rape allegation will always come before a bobby walking the beat.

The Cuts have Consequences campaign isn’t about politics, it’s an informative programme, highlighting and increasing public awareness.

What is political is that all politicians need to know, and so do the public, that if the cuts keep coming, policing in Dorset will change forever. Surely there are other areas where savings can be made which will impact less on the safety of our society. Time will tell.  

Thanks for reading this.

Martyn Underhill
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

Posted by Martyn Underhill at 1:42pm

Dorset PCC Welcomes A31 Road Improvement Funding

2nd December 2014

PCC Martyn UnderhillEnsuring road users are safe in our county is one of the top priorities for the public, Dorset Police and our partners. That is why it is in our Police and Crime Plan.

The A31 accident black spot along the Dorset and Hampshire border is well known and documented. Last year, both Simon Hayes and myself joined councillors and MP's in lobbying Government to address this nightmare piece of road, and it's great to see this action from Ministers. We only need to look at the tragic events involving Jade Clarke last year to understand why improvements to this gateway to Dorset are needed.

These improvements to the A31 will help to keep road users safe as they enter and leave our County. I welcome this cash injection to our road infrastructure.

Martyn Underhill
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

Posted by Martyn Underhill at 12:29pm


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Recent Posts

An exciting role at the College of Policing

Posted by Martyn Underhill

3rd March 2016 9:11am

Supporting National Hate Crime Awareness week

Posted by Carl

19th October 2015 5:03pm

Dorset PCC Supports Cuts Have Consequences Campaign

Posted by Martyn Underhill

17th February 2015 1:42pm

Dorset PCC Welcomes A31 Road Improvement Funding

Posted by Martyn Underhill

2nd December 2014 12:29pm