North Yorkshire’s third police, fire and crime commissioner in the space of a year has been repeatedly told her first plan to improve policing is “bland and generic” and fails to reflect the passion she displayed before being elected.
Almost four months after securing 41,760 of the first and second-preference votes in a by-election for the £74,000 salary role in November, Conservative commissioner Zoe Metcalfe appeared composed as she faced the criticism from members of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel.
Ms Metcalfe emphasised to the meeting the plan had been hastily developed due to a lack of time since the election, so her main intentions for were to promote continuity and setting longer-term, but realistic ambitions.
The meeting heard several members praise the commissioner for highlighting her intention in the plan to restore public confidence in the office, following sharp criticism of her predecessors.
However, numerous panel members raised concerns that the plans lacked detail on key issues facing the residents and businesses in North Yorkshire and York as well as the force, ranging from public safety and sexual violence to cycle thefts and call answering times.
The meeting was told North Yorkshire was seeing a marked rise in fraud, with it impacting on both communities and businesses, but the force had among the country’s lowest fraud clean-up rates.
Panel member and chief executive of sexual violence charity Survive Mags Godderidge told the commissioner that despite mounting fraud offences there was scant detail about what action the commissioner proposed to take to tackle it and the plan did not explicitly mention sexual violence as a crime.
She said: “If it is not talked about people think it is not important.”
The meeting heard the plan also lacked basic information such as performance targets and had the appearance of general civil service documents rather than a specific blueprint for action in North Yorkshire.
Martin Walker, a retired district judge and independent member of the panel, added the plan referred to ambitions rather than how they were to be achieved.
He said: “It’s too generic. Lovely words, but where’s the detail?”
Another panelist, former police officer and Selby district councillor Tim Grogan, said residents in his area were “really frustrated” about police response times to incidents and answering calls.
He said the nearest reference to the leading issues he could find in the plan simply stated North Yorkshire would work to ensure “appropriate resources in appropriate places”.
Coun Grogan said: “It’s full of fine words and good intentions, which is great, but it’s very very generic.”
Another member, Fraser Forsyth, said while Ms Metcalfe had provided a real sense of what she stood for ahead of the election, the plan she had produced was “bland” and “doesn’t seem to have your passion in it”.
Ms Metcalfe responded to the vast majority of the comments saying she accepted the concerns and would either seek to reflect the points in the plan or consider and discuss them further.
She added the document had been produced under “really tight timeframes”, but “maybe you need that bit of Metcalfe sparkle through it a bit more”.