Another priority for the commissioner?

Date: Monday 8th April 2013

SIX months into the job, Cumbria police and crime commissioner Richard Rhodes has been outlining his future priorities in maintaining the county as a safe place in which to live. Top of the list are victims of crime, youth justice and domestic violence.

In view of the revelations that his office spent around £700 on a chauffeur-driven luxury car to take Mr. Rhodes and his wife to two functions, the commissioner might consider adding another priority — more prudent use of public funds.

Considering the multi-million pound budget of which he is in charge, £700 might seem like small change. But the message sent out at a time of budget tightening and job losses within the police force makes it a big deal, especially when public funds have already been used to buy him a car costing more than £19,000. The hiring of a Mercedes and driver to take Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes to the events involved might have produced the most convenient form of transport, but it was not the most politically astute nor the cheapest.

There is no reason to suggest that Mr. Rhodes is not perfectly equipped to tackle the challenging role to which he was elected. He is widely experienced in the field of criminal justice and his agenda seems to have the support of senior police officers. In addition, he has travelled around the county to meet members of the public to seek their views on what policing priorities should be in the future and keep them involved in the process.

Difficult decisions lie ahead, particularly as Mr. Rhodes has already said that Cumbria faces losing more than 60 front-line police officers within four years and that savings will be sought in “back room” departments, which has worrying implications for those employed within them. Mr. Rhodes’s office is introducing what it describes as “alternative arrangements” regarding how he makes his way around the county. Chauffeur-driven trips in luxury cars should certainly be struck from the list.