All posts tagged 'Ann-Barnes'

Gove's academy revolution and the school place free-for-all

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, February 26 2014

Kent County Council's decision to consult over closing the Chaucer Technology College has unsurprisingly caused anger and dismay among parents and pupils, who had thought the future was secure only a few weeks ago and are now levelling accusations of betrayal.

Had the politicians had any alternative, there is no doubt they would have sought to find one.

Decisions to close schools are almost always contentious and invariably trigger campaigns to keep them open. In the case of the Chaucer School,  it has been a particularly messy affair - not helped in this case by the fact that Kent County Council had believed an academy chain wanted to take it over  but then withdrew their interest.

Chaucer's future will be determined in June but the proposal to shut it provides a vivid illustration of the tension between education authorities and the Department for Education when it comes to planning and providing enough places.

The county council's statutory obligation is to ensure that there are enough school places across Kent. In the jargon, it is now a "commissioner" of places rather than a "provider." This obligation also requires the council to make sure that there are not too many empty desks or surplus places.

This job has become much more difficult with the advent of academy schools, which are independent and outside council control. Under Michael Gove's revolution, academies have been empowered to expand and grow to meet parental demand.

Why? Because the government believes that the often illusory concept of choice is enhanced if you allow popular schools to expand.

In the brave new world of Michael Gove, in which freedom and autonomy for schools are valued above anything else, academies can expand without anyone outside the school having a say in whether it might be a good or bad thing. Councils have no power of veto over academies who want to take in more pupils which is precisely what the Canterbury Academy is doing. 

It plans to offer 50 more places to Year 7 children in a direct response to parental demand and its continuing popularity. And it is this that KCC cites as a key reason why Chauncer should close.

This growth at Canterbury Academy comes at a time when the demand for places in the district are forecast to fall over the next few years, in contrast with many other areas of the county.

The planned closure of Chaucer is not the fault of Canterbury Academy. It is simply doing what parents want and it certainly hasn't done it out of any malice towards Chaucer.

Kent County Council and the school undoubtedly have questions to answer about the way it has handled the decision, not the least of which is the apparent shortcomings in the way the news was communicated to shocked parents and pupils.

But some questions should also be asked of the government. It has sold the academy programme on claims that it will improve standards and critically give parents greater opportunity for their children to attend popular and successful schools locally - a promise that parents at Chaucer may well feel is hardly worth the paper it is written on.

An education system in which councils are given the job of planning for places but do so alongside increasing numbers of  individual schools who can do their own thing may not be totally impossible but certainly presents challenges.

And if the unfettered free-for-all for school places continues, we may find there are other schools becoming "unviable".


Why is it taking so long for Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes to announce who is to be her youth crime tsar?

Interviews for the post took place in November but since then, nothing has happened. Pressed on the issue by MP Mark Reckless at a Home Affairs Select Committee, Mrs Barnes said it wouldn't be too long before she could say anything but alluded to "various reasons" why there had been a delay.

Unfortunately, we are none the wiser as she added that she could not go into any details. Curious.


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Wanted: a new police chief

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, October 10 2013

The decision of Kent’s chief constable to retire next January means the job of finding a successor will fall, for the first time, to one person - crime and police commisioner Ann Barnes.

It will be her job to recruit a replacement for Ian Learmonth and it will help that, as the former chairman of Kent Police Authority, she has plenty of experience to draw on.

Nevertheless, the timing comes at a particularly challenging time for the force.

It continues to wrestle with the impact of government budget cuts that have already seen some 1,500 jobs lost from the force, of which 457 were police officers.

More cuts are in the pipeline as the government squeeze on public sector spending goes on.

It also comes at a time when the force is seeking to restore public confidence after a critical report that concluded there was a target chasing culture that led to one in ten crimes being misrecorded.
Ian Learmonth departure means some of the momentum he has built up on that could be lost.

Whoever the elected commissioner chooses, she will want someone who can continue to drive down crime rates in a large county with complex needs.

The week started with Ann Barnes announcing her determination to press ahead with finding a new youth commissioner after the debacle of the first appointment.

It has ended with her facing the much more significant job of finding someone to lead one of the largest forces in the country.


A bit like Margaret Thatcher, Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes is not keen on U-turns.

Which explains why she is to push ahead with another recruiting a Kent youth crime commissioner.

The unfortunate events that surrounded the appointment of Paris Brown as her youth crime commissioner, who quit the role days after getting it because of abusive tweets, has not deterred her.

She told members of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel this week that she was "passionate" about the role. Not every member of this cross-party committee was convinced although - indeed, the most sceptical was Cllr Mike Hill, the former vice chairman of Kent Police Authority who implored her to back away fromtthe idea.

Those who expressed reservations were told they would eat their words in a year's time.

It was characteristically forthright and uncompromising stuff. The commissioner has staked a great deal on the role - it was one of her key manifesto pledges although during the meeting she asserted that the original idea was not hers but the public's.

That was apparently a case of "misspeaking" - what she meant, she later clarified, was that it was in her manifesto and people expected her pledge to be fulfilled.

It was a revealing comment though. The commissioner knows that she will be judged by voters on whether she has done what she said she would do.

Failing to deliver a youth crime commissioner would hand her opponents a handy stick to beat her with. It is not one she wants to give them.

The commissioner is not for turning.



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The Ann Barnes wagon will roll on but it has suffered a setback

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, April 12 2013

It has not been a good week for Kent's police commissioner Ann Barnes, after a spectacular public relations car crash over the appointment and then swift resignation of her 17-year-old youth tsar, Paris Brown.

There are arguments on both sides about the events but no-one can deny that the normally sure-footed commissioner has had a setback.

After a day or so basking in generally positive coverage of her appointment, her team was forced on the defensive in the face of a media maelstrom that raised questions about her judgement and the perceived failings of the recruitment process.

Worse, it had triggered two separate police inquiries and a request for a report from a cross-party group of councillors.

And on top of that, suggestions of a degree of tension between the force and the commissioner.

The entrails of this grisly saga have been well and truly poured over. One issue it has vividly illustrated is that commissioners are acting in quite different ways to police authorities.

The government argued that the concept of directly-elected police chiefs was better than a system in which anonymous, largely unknown and appointed police authorities had responsibility for strategic governance. Hard to argue with.

The trouble is that anyone elected to public office has, in the back of their minds, just what the voters will think of them when they next go to the ballot box.

And it is this that in some senses has arguably been at the root of the commissioner's difficulties this week. The idea of a youth commissioner appeared to be a good one and certainly played well - at last initially - with the media and public.

Had it worked out, you can bet safely that the initiative would have featured heavily in Ann Barnes' election publicity in 2016.

The question is: would a police authority - for all their faults - have championed the idea? Kent to my knowledge never did and neither has it been something the chief constable has ever exhorted.

But elected politicians know they are accountable to voters and are always seeking initiatives that will mark them out as distinctive.

Unfortunately, they run the risk - as in this case - of being accused of gimmicks or PR stunts in the cause of enhancing their own reputation.

Strategic governance and keeping an eye on the money is what commissioners are really about but it is not awfully sexy.

Which is why we are seeing some of these more colourful ideas being promoted. It actually adds to the public's confusion over their role - it is already evident that many misunderstand the powers of commissioners, equating them with sheriffs riding into town and clearing out the hoodlums. 

And unfortunately, when you court publicity, it can sometimes backfire.

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Categories: Politics | UKIP

Tough call for employers in social media minefield

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, April 12 2013
The offensive tweets that cost 17-year old Paris Brown her job as Kent’s youth police and crime commissioner, and the far more disgusting comments about Baroness Thatcher, underline the dangers of social media.

People who tweet seem to forget that this is a public forum, not a private chat in a pub or restaurant. They seem to think it’s a tiny chatroom involving a handful of friends. But it’s a global place where it’s important to respect libel laws and decency.

Those who defended Paris Brown by saying the tweets were merely silly youthful comments when she was younger miss the point. Her words could never have been used in a publication and revealed an unattractive side to character whatever the age. They fatally undermined her credibility and once revealed, would have affected her ability to do the job as well as she might.

Tweets reveal character. There are many young people in Kent who have never tweeted such offensive words.

Equally, the teachers and others who glory in the death of one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, however divisive and controversial she might have been, show depths of unpleasant character and attitude.

How can teachers teach our children responsibly with such opinions? They above all should be fair minded to anyone is public life. I suppose exceptions could be made for Hitler, Pol Pot and their evil like - but not an historically significant British figure.

Teachers are role models to the young and should set the finest example of tolerance, fair-mindedness and balance. To jump on anyone’s grave or celebrate a death leaves a nasty taste.

The consequences of what is written on social media are potentially serious. The young may have an excuse because they are not old enough to be aware of them. There is no excuse for the more mature who know that their comments will last forever in cyberspace.

Many employers now search social media when vetting candidates for a job. The discovery of Paris-type comments or those delighting in Lady Thatcher’s death will undoubtedly harm job prospects.

An employer choosing between two candidates with similar talent and personal attributes, will surely hire the person who has not posted offensive comments on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, or left incriminating photos on Facebook.

Kent employers who do not routinely check social media in the recruitment process - as the recruiters of Paris Brown naively failed to do - will certainly do so now.

But they must also beware of making a decision based on any social media revelations of other personal information such as age, religious faith, ethnic background, disability or sexual orientation. Rejecting a candidate may be challenged as unfair discrimination.

Social media are fraught with danger. Rumours are often presented as damaging fact.

Recent cases underline the need for businesses to adopt a social media policy covering existing employees and potential recruits. And that will mean making judgements on the scale of offence. Do they fire employees for offensive social media comments? What one boss condemns as offensive may be deemed reasonable by another. Do they forgive with a warning that it should not happen again?

Do they hire people who have made offensive comments in younger days? Again, it could be a matter of opinion. Lines in the sand will have to be drawn.

It’s a tough call in the new social media minefield.

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Categories: Business

The misfortune for Mrs Barnes was getting a real teenager

by The Codgers' Club Friday, April 12 2013

by Peter Cook

Good for Ann Barnes the Kent police commissioner. Standing up for her young people’s commissioner Paris Brown, against the outraged Mail on Sunday shows real courage and strength of purpose.

Just as her appointment of Paris, using her own salary to help fund the post, showed imagination and initiative.

What a shame her robust defence of her protegee was unsuccessful because what better way to get messages through to teenagers, than through a teenager?

The misfortune for Mrs Barnes was that she got a real teenager for her money. One that in the past has used social media indiscreetly, incautiously and politically incorrectly. One that expresses herself sometimes through derogative terms such as “pikey” or “fag”.

It’s not pretty. It sounds offensive. But it’s what teenagers do. You only have to sit on the top deck of a bus full of school kids to know that.

Of course Mrs Barnes could have opted for a nice young lady with a home counties accent and impeccable manners, who was discretion itself.

Although being a well brought up middle class girl in no way makes you immune to binge drinking or drug taking, and certainly not to tweeting about such things.

And how would this perfectly pleasant young person go down among the teenage sub-culture on the Isle of Sheppey. They would eat her alive I imagine. She wouldn’t have a hope. You need to know a society from the inside if you want to make a difference.

There are not many of us whose teenage utterances would stand scrutiny by the voraciously nasty Mail on Sunday or its counterpart the Daily Mail. Fortunately Twitter was not even a concept when I was young.

Sadly Paris Brown has been forced out of her job by this press campaign before she had a chance to get started.

I hope she is not too damaged by the experience and that Ms Barnes is able to recruit another teenager to do the work Paris had been engaged to do.

If she is able to keep even a few youngsters out of trouble the experiment will have paid off and the money will have been well spent. The cost of youth crime, in both monetary and human terms, is immensely greater than a £15,000 salary.

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Categories: Moans and groans

How the race to become Kent's first elected police commissioner was won...and lost

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, November 18 2012

Conventional wisdom has it that elections are lost rather than won. In the case of the race to become the county's first elected police commissioner, it was a case of both.

Ann Barnes, an independent, deftly exploited the public unease that there was something wrong about the idea of having a party politician in charge of policing - even in a strategic role - and exploited it for all it was worth. She was aided by the fact that the issue of policing independence was also dominating campaigns elsewhere and media coverage duly reflected that. It is worth noting that she was not the only independent voted in on Friday - five others were, too.

The campaign never really got into the issues that it probably ought to have been about - which candidate had the best and most credible manifesto for cutting crime and making our towns and villages safer.

To the extent that it did, all six candidates pretty much said the same thing - more visible policing, a crackdown on drug dealers, better value for money etc - leaving voters, already perplexed at the whole concept, wondering just what the difference was between them in any case.

For the Conservative team in Kent - who I am told knew on Thursday they had lost and had tipped off Central Office to tell them so - the frustration was that they were seen as the party that was responsible for "politicising" the police and were tainted by association, no matter how many times Craig Mackinlay, who deserves credit for accepting defeat graciously,  declared he was his own man.

Still, it was a bitter defeat for the Conservatives, who tried unsuccessfully to portray Ann Barnes as a Liberal Democrat in disguise and actually fought a reasonably solid and clear campaign.

But they knew that even among their own supporters, there was disquiet about the idea and plenty chose not to vote or if they did, either backed Ann Barnes or chose her as their second candidate - or simply stayed at home.

Ann Barnes' campaign worked because it struck a chord with people and that chord kept playing throughout the entire campaign. It was a simple, coherent message and she was even able to avoid too much focus on the fact that she had, as chairman of the police authority, spoken out against the whole idea.

Of course, winning the election is one thing. She now has the arguably much more important job of implementing her crime plan and dealing with the shrinking police budget. Overshadowing that is the story of the arrests of five officers facing accusations of manipulating crime figures.

It will not be easy and as a candidate who has vowed not to countenance more cuts to the budget, she may face some awkward decisions. One of the problems with commissioners is that they will be balancing want against need in a much more direct fashion than the appointed police authorities.

And it would be naive to expect any commissioner not to have one eye on their popularity with the public as their term of office gets underway. They know, even if they are independent, that come the next election, they will be judged on results and whether crime has been cut.

The debate about politicising the police will no longer have quite the resonance it did this time round.

Like it or not, Ann Barnes will be just as much a political figure as anyone who comes from a mainstream party political background.

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Categories: Conservatives | Politics

Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 14 2012

IT is one of the ironies of the government's proposals for directly-elected police commissioners that public indifference to the idea is in stark contrast to the importance voters place on crime and safety.

(You see the same with Europe and voter turnout in the EU elections).

So, if the forecasts of pollsters are credible, turnout in tomorrow's ballot looks like being pretty dismal although there are some surveys suggesting that it might not be as bad as some fear.

Read our special report on the elections and find out who the candidates are

Plenty of people dislike the concept of elected commissioners and are uneasy about the idea that politicians who have to serve the twin interests of their party and residents may be in charge of such an important public service.

Many others remain thoroughly confused by what is going on and are labouring under the misapprehension that they are voting for American-style sheriffs, who will have control of the police force on a day-to-day basis.

Even some of Kent's candidates have failed to grasp the distinction between their strategic role, outlining pledges that stray into the chief constable's territory.

The government has to shoulder some responsibility for this confusion and apathy. It has not done as much as it should to promote the elections and explain clearly what they are about.

But this week's ballot is not on the government's handling of its flagship policy, much as some want it to be.

It is about who you think is the best person to do the job of ensuring Kent Police is keeping the streets, towns and villages safe and making sure that taxpayers are getting value for money.

And while there are undoubtedly imperfections in the arrangements for commissioners, the policy, for the first time, gives voters a direct say in who they want to do that job.

No-one has ever voted for anyone to be on the police authorities and the checks and balances on what they did were pretty non-existent.

Police commissioners, on the other hand, will have to be more transparent and accountable to residents. They will also be answerable to independent crime panels, who will be able to summon them to account - in public - about their decisions.

So, many may not like the idea but it would be wrong to stay at home as a way of registering disapproval.


Making a prediction on the result appears to be beyond even those involved in masterminding their candidates' election campaigns.

The low turnout, coupled with a new voting system involving second preferences could skew the outcome in unpredictable ways.

For what it is worth, I would be surprised if any of Kent's six candidates win by securing a majority on first preferences.

Which brings us to which two candidates will make it through to the final round and the tricky issue of where second preference votes will go.

Best guess? There will be a run-off between the independent candidate Ann Barnes and the Conservative Craig Mackinlay.

But knowing where second preferences will go is virtually impossible. Possible scenarios? The Conservatives may pick up second preference votes from UKIP supporters - whose campaign has bordered on invisibility - and some of those backing the English Democrats.  

There is no natural second home for Labour supporters but I would guess they will go for an independent candidate (if they use it) as a strategy to stop the Conservatives winning.

Liberal Democrats have no candidate but it's a stretch to think they will back a Conservative or Labour candidate and are most likely to go for an independent and that will be Ann Barnes. Some may opt for Dai Liyanage who is a former Liberal.

One thing that could tip the scales is postal votes. Ann Barnes sent out a personal letter with the postal voting pack and her team believe it has paid dividends. For some reason, the Conservatives did not and feel they may have missed a trick.

Given all the uncertainties, perhaps the only safe thing to predict is that by Friday we will have Kent's first-directly elected police and crime commissioner...

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Categories: Police | Politics

Why the argument over the politicisation of policing won't determine who becomes the Kent police commissioner

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 7 2012

It would be overstating matters to say that there has been a sudden rush of interest in the race to become Kent's first-directly elected police commissioner. I certainly don't detect any Obama type bounce.

Voters will go to the polls next Thursday and there remains a fear the turnout will be dismal - possibly as low as 15%.

That is not to say people are uninterested in the issue of crime and policing.

It is one of the ironies of the government's flagship reform that public apathy towards a new generation of elected police chiefs is in direct contrast to polling which consistently makes crime - and fear of crime - a major pre-occpuation of voters.

The problem with the election is that when you examine the manifestos and policy pledges of the six candidates standing, there isn't an awful lot that separates them.

They all believe in giving greater support to victims. All - to varying degrees - oppose creeping privatisation. All want to give the criminal fraternity a harder time; all believe in the importance of visible policing; they all want to improve social cohesion. And so on.

It's as bland a set of commitments as the bowls of rice contestants in "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!" face over the coming weeks.

The candidates were given a chance to air their views and proposals at a hustings meeting at the University of Kent's Medway campus last night.

During the evening, someone tweeted: "I promise to prioritorise visible policing and get tough on crime. Not just tough, zero tolerance tough...have I won yet?"

Sarcastic, yes but they have a point.

The specific policy pledges, such as they are, have often been eclipsed by soundbite politics in which, it seems to me, the candidates have been more inclined to talk in generalities about their aims and aspirations and have been a little fearful of being too specific.

Partly, this is a reflection of the fact that the commissioner has a strategic rather than operational role and candidates are wary of stepping into territory where they might be regarded as interfering in day-to-day policing.

While they understand this, in general the public don't - or are at least confused.

At the hustings meeting, there was a telling moment when the candidates were asked to identify a single strategy proposal for bringing down crime that did not involve the words "zero tolerance". The answers were as woolly as a flock of Romney Marsh sheep.

Which brings me to the issue that has set a few sparks flying - the debate about the danger of policing becoming politicised by commissioners.

Actually, the argument has been about the party politicisation of policing, which is not exactly the same thing. Even independent candidates will become - if they win - "political" figures, albeit under a non-party political banner.

Some people are genuinely concerned about this and contend that it will be the issue that determines the outcome.

There's an instinctive unease among many about the idea of police control being vested in a politician. (It reminds me of the quote about education being too important to allow politicians to be involved).

Ann Barnes, who is one of the leading independent candidates, has made the issue the centrepiece of her campaign.

The campaign literature of Dai Liyanage, another independent, is headed "Not Just Another Political Puppet."

But is this an issue which has the resonance on the doorstep some think it has?

At the hustings meeting, it was striking that the audience didn't actually seem to care terribly much about the candidates' political colours.

The questions they asked were not party political ones but focused on what would be done, for example, to tackle anti-social behaviour or drug dealing.

In other words, who would do the best job to make our towns and villages safe?

And that, it seems to me, is what the election should ultimately be about.


ONE of the complaints made about the election is that not enough has been done to publicise it. Public disengagement has certainly been an issue.

So, why has the Police Area Returning Officer Nadeem Aziz decreed that the media are to be banned from using social media like Twitter and Facebook to report from the election count at Dover town hall?

To call it bizarre is an under-statement and there are questions about whether it as any legal force, especially when these are the ways in which many people now expect to get news.

We are challenging the ban and so too are some of the candidates and their agents. Let's hope commonsense prevails.


The six candidates standing in the election have, as a result of a challenge by a member of the audience at the hustings meeting, agreed to declare the donations and expenses of their campaign's before polling day. (Electoral law means they don't have to until after the election)

We'll be publishing all these when we get them all.


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Categories: Politics

Open to scrutiny? Why it could be hard to hold Kent's police commissioner to account

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, October 30 2012

One of the many arguments advanced for  elected police commissioners  is that they will improve the accountability of police forces and will replace the bureaucratically-appointed police authorities.

It is claimed that as they are directly-elected, commissioners will be much more responsive to the public's concerns around policing.

You only have to read some of the candidates' policy pledges to see that this is something they are already attuned to, with many committing to populist policies like putting victims first, dealing with low level anti-social behaviour and being less harsh on motorists.

But if  you want greater accountability, you generally need greater transparency and arrangements for strong checks and balances in the system. Which is where the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel come in.

This panel, already operating in shadow form, is an important part of the new arrangements.  Its primary job will be to hold the elected commissioner to account - on behalf of the public. It will have strong statutory powers to call the commissioner to meetings, question them about decisions and policy and additonally can veto the commissioner's budget and the appointment of a chief constable.

Which is all to be welcomed, especially as these sessions will generally be held in public.

When it comes to what information the commissioner will be required to provide to the panel, the statutory requirements again appear robust.

The key word here is "appear." A document setting out the protocols - called the Information Sharing Agreement - has just been published and will be considered by the panel next week.

It raises some issues for me about whether there could be too much leeway for commissioners to withold from the panel information they have asked for and whether important discussions around the commissioner's activities could take place behind closed doors.

First, the positives: the protocol states that the panel will be able to review any decision taken by a commissioner and those decisions will have to be published by the commissioner. There will be regular performance reports to the panel as well as reports on a range of subjects from the budget, complaints and the police and crime plan.

The panel will additionally be able to request information "on an ad-hoc and unplanned basis" to help it  "scrutinise the actions of the commissioner." 

However, there are qualifications around such requests for information. The protocol says the information must be "reasonably required" by the panel. Unfortunately, there is no definition in the legislation of this - and it will be for the commissioner or their representative to determine whether a request is reasonable or not.

More concerning is the section of the protocol headed "Incidences when information will not be shared." Clearly, it is hard to counter the argument that information will not be disclosed where it might compromise the force's operational ability to tackle crime.

But the document states that "members of the commissioner's staff are not required to disclose to the panel..evidence or documents containing advice given to the PCC. This also includes political and legal advice."  

Suppose a chief constable was to advise a commissioner that a policy proposal, or spending commitment might be unviable or have adverse consequences for crime detection? Under the protocol, any written advice could be witheld.

Suppose a force chief executive was to advise a commissioner that their action strayed over into operational affairs rather than strategic ones? Again, it need not be shared with the panel.

It also states the panel will have no powers to "request information from the Force...other than general rights under the Freedom of Information Act" - which presumably means that police chiefs, including the chief constable, could not be asked about anything - something that the soon-to-be-scrapped police authorities do at their meetings. (It is not clear at all whether the panel has any powers to summon the chief constable to answer questions).

Another section, headed "Requests for information to be exempt from public disclosure" states that the commissioner will be entitled to request that information provided to the panel "is not published or [be considered] exempt from public disclosure".

It adds that while the commissioner "recognises the Panel has a duty to operate in an open and transparent manner, there is certain information which is sensitive in nature and which would not be appropriately released in the public domain."

Where the panel accedes, the sensitive information may be debated in "closed session."

The protocol emphasises that these occasions will be the exception to the rule but even so, it appears that there are loopholes that could allow our elected commissioner to be less accountable than they should.

If elected police commissioners are to gain public confidence , it is important they discharge their duties in as open and accountable way as possible.

That applies equally to the panel charged with scrutinising what commissioners are up to.

Read the Information Sharing Agreement here:

kentpccpanel.pdf (139.45 kb)

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Categories: Police | Politics

Gloves come off in police commissioner race.

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, August 15 2012

There hasn't been much by way of excitement in the race to become Kent's first elected police commissioner. But after a relatively lacklustre start, it seems the gloves are coming off as rival candidates square up to one another.

The arrival of the forthright and uncompromising former Kent Police Authority chairman Ann Barnes as a candidate has undoubtedly stirred things up.

This week, she garnered some healthy media interest after leading a delegation of independent candidates to Downing Street to take issue with the Home Office rules that mean would-be commissioners won't get a 'free' mail shot to outline their manifesto pledges to voters.

It was a deftly executed PR move - although I doubt the specific issue is one that many people are terribly exercised about.

The truth is most voters pay very little attention to such mailshots and many more get thrown in the bin or used for the cat litter tray than are carefully read by people before they venture out to the polling station.

What was interesting was the reaction her intervention prompted from the Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay, who issued a lengthy statement to the media saying the costs of allowing an election address would be enough to pay for 40 front-line police officers.

His statement was more intriguing for another reason. In it, he speculated about the independent nature of Mrs Barnes' candidacy, stating "it would appear that many declared independent candidates are far from being so."

What could he possibly mean? Well, here is the rest of what he had to say:

"I make no obvious connection at this stage but given that Mrs Barnes’ campaign team is substantially made up of Lib Dems, with a campaign manager who has stood unsuccessfully three times in Parliamentary elections for the Lib Dems, I shall let the public decide whether Kent Lib Dems have found their true candidate hidden behind an independent facade and are now expecting Kent taxpayers to spread their message."

Mrs Barnes’ campaign is being masterminded by Peter Carroll, who stood twice in Folkestone and Hythe and once in Maidstone as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

The Lib Dems are not fielding a candidate and behind the scenes, the Conservatives appear to think that it could be a useful strategy to plant in peoples' minds the idea that Mrs Barnes, if not an out-and-out Lib Dem is effectively their candidate.

Mrs Barnes' campaign team have decided to say nothing in response to these comments by Mr Mackinlay but are not as upset as you may think.

The view is that it shows the Conservative camp is rattled and if their line of attack means they keep Mrs Barnes' profile up and help establish her as a viable independent candidate, it is all grist to the mill.

Still, these are skirmishes in the phoney war.

What really matters is what the candidates intend to do if they become police commissioner. If they persist in tit-for-tat politicking, they may find voter disinterest is even worse than some fear come the actual election in November.

Read our special report on the race to become Kent Police Commissioner here

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