‘Leighton Buzzard public must get chance at PCC meeting to have their say on policing’

Councillor Ray Berry
Councillor Ray Berry

Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has been challenged to allow plenty of time for public input at next week’s meeting in Leighton Buzzard, or risk the wrath of residents who want to have their say about crime.

The PCC “roadshow” rolls into town on Thursday, August 30, with locals invited to attend Mentmore Road Pavilion in Linslade for a 6.30pm start.

PCC Kathryn Holloway and her crime plan

PCC Kathryn Holloway and her crime plan

The event is scheduled to last two hours, but Leighton Buzzard town and Central Beds councillor Ray Berry fears it will be a case of the PCC preaching to the audience about what has been achieved in her two years in the post.

Cllr Berry revealed he had attended a briefing in Bedford earlier this summer which transpired to be a briefing on her successes during time at the helm.

He said: “It was down for two hours, and it was five minutes short of that when she stopped. There wasn’t time for questions in open discussion. If you wanted questions you had to ask privately afterwards. She is coming here to do as presentation, she doesn’t want an open discussion.”

A PCC ‘roadshow’ in Dunstable on Wednesday saw an agenda for the evening handed out but it was apparently cast aside to allow the public to have more of a say.

Cllr Berry said the town council had received comments from the public asking why the Leighton Buzzard meeting wasn’t being well publicised and pointed out: “The town council and Beds Police went as far as we could to try to hold a joint meeting.

“The PCC chose to go it alone and it is up to her to publicise it, which she has failed to do. She has not told people when and where other than the piece in the LBO. Does she really want the public to be there?”

He added: “I believe the role of the PCC is unnecessary, I don’t believe it works. When is she going to start to do something that actually shows what the job is worth?”

He was also critical of the PCC’s invite for mayors and councillors to join in with the ‘Give A Day To Policing’ initiative and spend a day or shift on the frontline with officers.

He claimed the offer, which runs up until September 5, hadn’t gone out to Leighton-Linslade councillors directly, although it was publicised in last week’s LBO after a media release was issued.

He added: “This is in the school holidays. I am a grandparent, why pick this time?”

The PCC had originally agreed to face the community at Astral Park Community Centre on July 30 after being on annual leave when an earlier public meeting saw senior officers take questions from the public in the library in June.

But the July date was called off at the request of councillors due to it clashing with a council meeting.

Cllr Amanda Dodwell has also been hugely critical of the current policing situation, describing the police hub at the fire station as a “token gesture” and claiming that recent meetings held by senior officers in the town showed that the force could manage without a PCC.

South West Beds MP Andrew Selous also recently stated that crime in Leighton Buzzard has increased by two thirds since October 2012 and has demanded that Beds Police restore cover to the levels before community policing hubs were introduced.

Mr Selous, who chaired the policing public meeting in Leighton Buzzard in June, is concerned that the changes have resulted in the withdrawal of 30 officers from the town and the loss of a 24/7 presence.

A spokesman for Mrs Holloway denied Thursday’s meeting had been poorly publicised, adding: “We are using social media to advertise and our own email lists we have of the public who are interested.”

She said the format of the evening would have “plenty of time for questions”.

On Cllr Berry’s criticism about the ‘Give A Day To Policing’ invitation, she added: “No Councillor has been approached directly, it has been an open invite.”