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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucestershire PCC unapologetic over manifesto u-turn

Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is unapologetic about breaking his manifesto promise for 300 more officers saying it is the right decision for overhauling the force.

Chris Nelson was slammed by members of the police and crime panel on Friday when his new budget revealed a reduction in the number.  

Cllr Ray Brassington (LD, Four Acres) said: "How can you adjust your manifesto position? Surely you are breaking your promise to the electorate?".

Mr Nelson responded: "I don't think so. I don't think it's something I need to apologise for. People should feel proud and content with what I'm offering."

During his campaign, Mr Nelson pledged to recruit and train 200 officers and 100 PCSOs (police community support officers) and 150 special constables - 450 people in total.

At the meeting he told members he now planned to recruit 115 police officers, four PCSOs, 100 voluntary PCSOs, 200 special constables, and 178 staff- 597 people in total.

He said the change was down to him learning within days of being elected that the force had been put into special measures.

It was judged 'inadequate' in six areas- investigating crime, supporting victims, recording data about crime, responding to the public, protecting vulnerable people and good use of resources.

Mr Nelson compared the scale of the challenges the constabulary faced to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the "major criticism" of the constabulary was down to a lack of investment in people and IT and "demands a change in approach".

Mr Nelson said his new plan would cost more initially but was the right way of rebuilding the force which had been "hollowed out" over the years.

He added: "Sticking to my manifesto, irrespective of what is happening in the world, would have been easier but in talking with the chief constable and lots of other stakeholders it was obvious we needed to address a range of issues."

A major overhaul has begun to replace "antiquated" operating systems within the constabulary and trial new ways of managing its records.

Mr Nelson said: "We're moving towards a force that's driven by performance and data."

However, Cllr Joe Harris (LD, Cirencester Beeches) did not accept his explanation and said: "Many people put their trust in you because they expected 300 more bobbies on the beat.

"Promises remain immune to circumstances. We are hearing a lot of waffle about why that is going to happen but for me it's about integrity and if you say something in an election, you do it, especially if it is the main tenant of your campaign.

"Will you apologise for the promise you made and aren't going to deliver?'

Mr Nelson responded: "We've covered that."

Cllr David Gray (Con, Winchcombe and Woodmancote) said: "I think you have reacted in a commendable way and I applaud the focus you have brought to so many areas."

Cllr Sajid Patel (Con, Barton and Tredworth) said: "The constabulary is heading in the right direction."

The panel approved Mr Nelson's proposals to set a revenue budget for 2023/24 of £145,787,817 which will result in a council tax rise of 5.36%.

A band D property will pay an increase of £15, bringing its total paid towards police each year to £295.05.

The increase will raise an extra £5.8million and help pay for measures including an increase in the road safety fleet. Six more vans will be added this year at a cost of £1.444m.

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