Police and fire commissioner receives support following critical reports

Zoe Metcalfe, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.

North Yorkshire and York’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, who has faced calls to resign following successive critical reports of the police and fire services she oversees, has received support from some members of a watchdog after outlining transformational plans.

Zoe Metcalfe appeared confident and gave full and frank answers as 12 members of the area’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel grilled her over actions she had in place following Government inspectors raising significant concerns over both of the services, including protection of children.

The Conservative commissioner who was elected 18 months ago told an extraordinary meeting of the panel to consider her actions in holding the services to account she had responded to all of the criticisms of the services, and was overseeing a clear plan for improvements.

She said she was “robustly” carrying out her duty to hold the chief constable and chief fire officer to account and expected significant improvements in the services before the services were re-inspected in October.

Ms Metcalfe said she was determined both services become “exemplary”, and the controversial risk model being introduced for the fire service represented a “huge stride forward”.

The commissioner said both services were undergoing a “phenomenal amount of transformation” and after “massive investment” to improve the persistent issue of slow response rates to calls to the police control room, work remained “very much ongoing”.

The force’s chief constable, Lisa Winward, told the meeting the proportion of 999 calls being answered within 10 seconds had risen from 25 per cent last September to 84 per cent in May, despite a significant increase in the number of calls during that time.

Ms Metcalfe said she wanted to see more consistency in answering calls, adding: “If residents can’t get hold of the police, how do the police know what their business is out there?”

The meeting heard the commissioner emphasise how she was regularly pressing ministers to increase funding for the under-resourced fire service and that she was working to increase the number of police officers in areas such as safeguarding.

Ms Metcalfe pledged to “not accept what she was told” by leading officers welcomed, with Harrogate Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Aldred telling the commissioner she was holding the services to account better than she had done previously.

Coun Aldred said despite the services forming “a huge part of council tax” residents paid they had previously been unaccountable and that residents had not been getting value for money.

Ms Metcalfe replied it had taken four years for services on Humberside to become outstanding.

Another panel member, councillor and former police officer Tim Grogan, told the commissioner he had been “impressed” with her response to the concerns.

After the meeting, the panel’s chairman, Councillor Carl Les, said the extraordinary meeting had been necessary as successive critical reports of the services was a matter of public concern.

He said: “I was encouraged by the reports that the commissioner brought to us and I think by and large my colleagues are as well. What we’re being told is where the commissioner feels she is making progress in holding the police force and fire service to account, but the real test will come when the inspectors come back as they have the specialist knowledge as to whether progress is being made.

“However, it would appear from the interim reports the commissioner has given to us, backed up by evidence from their two chief officers, that progress is being made. I am pleased to see that on behalf of all the communities in North Yorkshire and York.”