THE new Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia received a grilling when he visited Oswestry last week.
Protecting the town’s police station, the use of CCTV to prevent crime, and Government funding cuts were the hot topics as Bill Longmore and his Deputy Commissioner, Barrie Sheldon took questions during the two-hour event.
But it was the impact of job losses at Shrewsbury’s control room that stopped the 74-year-old in his tracks after one member of the audience asked why employees had been informed of the closure via social networking site Facebook, and why Mr Longmore had not been informed before it was announced by Chief Constable David Shaw.
The anonymous member said: “I am an Oswestrian and proud of it, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that they are going to be moving it. When you are the victim of crime it is important that the person you are speaking to knows the area you are in.”
The closure and relocation is expected to take place in 2015 with the loss of 84 jobs.
Mr Longmore said not being informed was “an embarrassment”, adding: “We are taking it up with the Chief Constable. We will make a point of it because I want to make sure it is tackled the right way.”
The meeting also saw the Police and Crime Commissioner praising Oswestry, both in its support for the police and its response to his police plan which sets out how the West Mercia force will serve the region’s 1.2 million population.
But he also confirmed there would be reintroduction of custody cells in Oswestry, meaning prisoners will still be transported to Shrewsbury or Telford.
Mr Longmore has faced a tumultuous first few weeks in the post since his election win in November, last year.
But he took the meeting as an opportunity to hit back at ‘no confidence’ votes put against him after he gave the Deputy Commissioner position to Mr Sheldon, who had been his campaign manager, briefly commenting: “I know his competence; he is the right man for the job.”
Following the meeting, Mayor of Oswestry, Martin Bennett, said: “There were some very penetrating questions and I think we have given the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner a lot to think about. Whether we have actually had all the responses and answers we could have had only time will tell.”
He added that he hoped to make the visit an annual event.
The meeting had been due to take place in January but was postponed due to heavy snowfall.
Issues Bill Longmore aims to tackle:
- bringing down prison numbers and improving rehabilitation to stop the “rotating group of people coming in and out of prison”
- engaging with young people to prevent them committing offences
- cuts to senior management
- introducing technology so police officers can file reports without returning to their station
- increasing officer numbers; bringing PCSO numbers up to 400 and introducing community special constables responsible for an area over a long-term period
- PCSOs and special constables will also see increased powers, but no powers of arrest, and extended working hours to 12 midnight
- improvements to neighbourhood watch schemes
- tackling drug, alcohol and anti-social behaviour issues
- tackling business crime
- direct link between PCC office and town and parish councils for better contact
- asking town and parish councils what they think about policing in their area on an annual basis.