All posts tagged 'Ann-Barnes'

Ann Barnes must take the blame for the youth commissioner saga

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, June 2 2015

When politicians are in a corner, they often try to deflect the blame for events that have gone wrong on third parties.

And a common target is the media.

So perhaps we ought not to be surprised that the Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes has opted for this strategy to justify her decision not to continue with having a youth crime tsar.

It would, she asserted, be unfair to place a third young person under the intense media scrutiny that her predecessors were subjected to. 

What this overlooks - in a quite breathtakingly naive way - is that it was the commissioner herself who was responsible for exposing her proteges to the media spotlight.

Indeed, her very obvious determination to score a political PR coup ensured that the spotlight shone very directly on both, particularly the first appointee Paris Brown.

At the time, the commissioner and Paris, then just 17, willlingly toured every TV and radio station to spread the "good news," the pair sitting on sofas with breakfast show presenters in a very deliberate charm offensive which also garnered swathes of coverage in national newspapers. 

The commissioner could, of course, have declined the pile of requests for media interviews. She could have done them herself and kept her crime tsar out of the limelight.

But the desire to spin a good news story blinded the commissioner and her team to the dangers ahead.

Barely days later, the story unravelled spectacularly, triggering the first of a number of PR car crashes in the commissioner's tenure.

The Mail On Sunday, offering to do a profile piece, splashed a story concerning offensive comments posted by Paris on Twitter, some of which were construed as racist and homophobic.

How had they got them? Simply by looking at her account and timeline, which fatally, it later turned out, had not been checked as part of the recruitment process.

The story might have been a classic tabloid hatchet job but the cosy sofa interviews quickly became a distant memory.

What had started as a PR dream became a PR nightmare that ended just days later when a tearful Paris announced at a painful press conference that she was to stand down.

If that was not eonugh to alert the commissioner to the risks of over exposure in the media, it is hard to think what else could have been. A sensible strategy might have been to announce a period of reflection and then quietly drop the idea.

But politicians dislike compromise and positively loathe being accused of a U-turn.

The commissioner ploughed on, saying she would appoint another youth commissioner - perhaps considering that more stringent checks during the recruitment process would be enough to ensure nothing could go wrong.

Up to a point, they did and Kerry Boyd seemed to be a safe pair of hands. Until, that is, reports emerged of an inappropriate relationship with a former county councillor who had been a referee for her application.

She was placed on the equivalent of light duties and kept well away from the public eye to a point where very few seemed to have any idea what was actually being done.

So, after two youth commissioners, there will not be a third. Instead, a forum of young people will be set up to "engage" young people, ironically one of the recommendations members of the Kent crime panel made some time ago.

Have lessons been learned? Up to a point. 

But one thing stands out above everything. It was not the media that appointed the two youth tsars. It was the commissioner. It didn't work out quite as expected.

And no amount of shooting the messenger can disguise that.

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Spinning lights, Lodge Hill and Ann Barnes' PR spend

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, February 15 2015

Conservative county councillors did their best to put a gloss on their streetlight switch-off U-turn at the authority's budget meeting but it has been an unnecessarily messy episode which the opposition parties understandably exploited.

The ruling administration did what it could to make the best of a bad job but had to face accusations that it had not actually saved any money, after spending £3m on installing the technology needed to move to part-night lighting  - effectively neutralising the predicted saving of £3m up to 2017, when it says bulbs will be replaced wih LEDs.

At least Conservative council leader Paul Carter was upfront in acknowledging that had the council known that the cost of LEDs was to fall significantly, it might not have embarked on the switch-off. (His claim that it had saved money was less convincing).

Opposition in Kent appears to have been more vociferous than other areas, which may have something to do with its size and rural nature.

To be fair, it did consult pretty widely at the outset.

Having said that, perhaps councillors did not do themselves any favours by appearing rather dismissive about residents' fears over security and crime, insisting the perception of an increase in crime was not matched by the reality.


Any public figure who spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on outside PR agencies and consumer research companies can expect to be asked to account for it.

Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes says appointing outside consultants was necessary to secure an "independent" review of the communications strategies adopted by the force.

Communications are important for any public body especially for the police.

But we doubt many people will regard it as that important to pay a PR firm close to £14,000 for an insight into what was being done and what might be done better - especially given the common complaint that they don't get to see many police officers on the street these days.

It is equally hard to justify the £2,400 spent on media training for the crime youth commissioner Kerry Boyd, whose term of office is to end shortly but whose activity has been so low profile as to make her virtually invisible.

Perhaps the advice was to not say anything or do anything in public or before the media.


It proved one of the few local flashpoints in the Rochester and Strood by-election, so what have the parties made of the government's decision to call in the plans for 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill and hold a public inquiry?

Strangely, it has produced an unlikely consensus between UKIP MP Mark Reckless and Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative candidate.

Mr Reckless says he is delighted he will not rest until he has 'won the war'. Kelly Tolhurst declares she will "continue to lead the campaign against it."

Perhaps they should stand on a joint ticket. No, we can't see it either.

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Categories: Memory | Precept

A reboot for the Kent Crime Commisioner - but will it work

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, July 25 2014

A very different Ann Barnes appeared before the inquistory Kent and Medway Crime Panel this week, a month on from being told to "reassess her style" and repair the damage done by her appearance in the disastrous TV documentary "Meet The Commissioner".

It was a less combative, more consensual and contrite commissioner who set out a range of proposals to improve the way she worked, especially in terms of her engagement with the public and the force, where many officers remain deeply unhappy they have been tarnished by association by the public relations car crash the Chanel 4 documentary proved to be.

So, what did we learn? What was clear is that the commissioner has grasped that the  Ann Barnes "brand" that proved successful when it came to winning the election has become a toxic one in office. So, there was a common theme to many of the proposals, which was a clear move to "depersonalise" her role.

This even involves re-branding her social media profile: her Twitter account no longer features her image or even her name, which you could argue is contradictory when considerinig the underlying reason behind commissioners, namely that the public have a readily identfiable accountable person overseeing the force.

There is to be an end to what she described as "confetti big bang publicity" events -  another tacit admission that her personality is a weakness as much as a strength. In its place will be greater focus on the commissioner's "office"  - again, an attempt to take away the spotlight from her and turn it....well, we are not quite sure where.

There were still flashes of the old Ann, when she referred to the panel as "gentlemen" - overlooking the three female members present and stated it was not necessarily a bad thing to have "a distinctive" style, even though that is what has landed her in difficulty.

Then there is the future of the van - dubbed Ann Force 1 during the election - which the commissioner has determined needs to be retired. Why? Because, according to Ann, she no longer wanted it "to be the story."

This may seem inconsequential but it goes to the heart of her difficulties and what underpins this reboot. The van was actually quite a good PR asset - when it came to the election, she bowled around the county in it to drum up support and the media were regularly told where it would be calling.

But in continuing to use it in office during "meet the commissioner" events, stripped off the promotional stickers, still gave the impression in some quarters that its real purpose was to continue to promote Ann - in other words, some considered it was all part of a rolling election campaign with one eye on 2016, when the next elections will be held.

You might have thought that members of the panel would have murmured their general approval with this decision but in a bizarre twist,  a succession of councillors got to their feet to implore Ann to keep the van. Cllr John Burden, the leader of Gravesham council, was among the cheerleaders. He said that if it was cost-effective and did the job, she should keep using it. A double bluff? Who knows but support came from all quarters, regardless of political allegiance.

The commissioner herself seemed rather perplexed, saying she would reflect on what the panel had said - leaving the van's fate in limbo.

Evidence, if she needed it, that rebranding is not an easy thing - and that it is particularly difficult to de-personalise a brand that has become so toxic largely because of the personality of the person involved.


Our efforts to ask the commissioner a few questions about the changes were rejected when the meeting was completed. The commissioner said she had an engagement in Canterbury and didn't have time.



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Categories: Police | Politics

Ann Barnes survives - for now

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, June 6 2014

A fiasco, a car crash and one misjudgement after another. 

Just some of the criticism levelled at the embattled Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes as she endured an uncomfortable hour and 45 minutes trying to explain to an independent panel why she had agreed to appear in the TV documentary  "Meet The Commissioner." 

It was always going to be tricky accounting for a programme which led her to be depicted as the policing equivalent of David Brent from "The Office"  and triggered a social media avalanche of criticism and ridicule.

So, her strategy seemed to be to apologise as often as she could yet at the same time not to go overboard with the contrition because it would make her look weak.

So, for every apology there was a sentence of phrase designed to convey that she was not fatally damaged. She was, she told the panel frequently, "doing a good job" adding in for good meaure "and you know I am doing a good job."( The now infamous "onion" got a mention but no-one seemed any the wiser.) So, it was an uneasy mix of assertiveness and contrition that blended about as well as oil and water.

She was least convincing about her reasons for participating, saying she had expected an "educational" programme - and admitting tha she had sought to persuade the makers to cut eight clips.

It was an uneasy performance for someone who has sought to make her plain-speaking style an asset and it did not convince some members, notably the leader of Swale council Andrew Bowles, who said he was not persuaded that the commissioner wold change her ways.

An anticipated vote of no confidence did not surface for unexplained reasons alhough there are some interesting rumours as to why. But the panel, which some regard as toothless, did bare some teeth - ordering the commissioner to "change her style" and be more co-operativel.

But the meeting undeniably marked a new low point for the commissioner who will have to make some dramatic and radical changes to the way she operates if she is to restore her battered credibility.

And there is still the unresolved inquiry about her new youth commissioner Kerry Boyd, facing claims over an inappropriate relationship with a former county councillor who gave her a reference for the job. 

That presents yet another banana skin for the commissioner, who has made the position a key plank of her  four-year term. If she is forced to dispense with a second youth commissioner after the Paris Brown debacle,  she really would be at a point of no return.

As to her avowed intention to stand for a second term, I suspect that will not happen.

Even though she has two years left in office, her credibility has taken such a battering that it is hard to see how she could engineer a recovery that would convince sceptical voters she would be the right person to stand for a second term.




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A PR car crash for Kent's crime boss + UKIP's purple tide: the week in politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 30 2014

Here's my round-up of another busy week in Kent politics, featuring an odd miscellany of onions, airplanes, Ann Barnes and - perhaps inevitably - a man called Nigel Farage...

AFTER its victory at the European election, an understandably euphoric UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the next objective would be to propel his "people's army" into Westminster. "Who knows, we might hold the balance of power," he said.

He made it clear the party has set its sights on Kent - where UKIP topped the EU poll in every area bar Tunbridge Wells - as a key battleground in 2015.

As to his own intentions, he more or less confirmed he would stand as a candidate in Kent - saying that it would "probably" be in the south east "somewhere by the seaside."

That would be Thanet South, then.


Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg cut a chastened figure after enduring a torrid week and looked decidedly off-colour when interviewed about the hammering his party took in the EU poll.

Things turned even worse when there was a botched attempt to undermine his leadership and persuade party activists to dump him before the election.

But when things are that bad for a politician, anything that could be seen as a glimmer of hope is seized on.

Although it wasn't much to cheer, at least the party didn't go into a major meltdown at the Maidstone council elections, where it took the largest share of the vote and defended most of their seats. Its perfomance was overshadowed by UKIP's breakthrough, taking four seats on the council for the first time. 

The Lib Dems even won a seat from the Tories - but that gain was wiped out when they lost a seat to Labour. Still, in politics, it is often the small things that count...


IF  Nick Clegg had a bad week, it has been nothing in comparison with the truly gruesome one Kent's crime commissioner Ann Barnes experienced.

Her appearance in a warts-and-all Channel 4 documentary "Meet The Commisioner" was a PR car crash to top all PR car crashes.

Even before it was aired, the Kent Police Federation said the clips used as a trailer for the programme had damaged the reputation of the force.

The full programme triggered a frenzy of largely critical social media activity and spawned a parody Twitter account called @AnnBarnesOnion after the commissioner was seen struggling to explain a system of policing priorities based onion.

Viewers were aghast, comparing the show to "The Office" and the Olympic spoof "Twenty Twelve" and most did not think that it showed the commissioner in her best light.

But if it had damaged the reputation of the force, that was nothing compared to the damage done to the commissioner herself. Even one of her former aides and campaign managers, Howard Cox, admitted she had been badly advised to take part.

In characteristically forthright fashion, she defended her participation, saying she wanted to use it to make people understand what her role was.

The irony is that the programme did just that, providing a fascinating insight into what a commissioner does, only not in the way Ann Barnes expected.

In particular, it vividly illustrated that among the public, there is still widespread misunderstanding and confusion over the role, with many thinking commissioners are rather like crime-fighting sheriffs who can ride into town and chase away all the hoodlums.

Perhaps inevitably, she said there had been some "mischevious editing" and in a lengthy statement posted on her website said she was frustrated and disappointed by what had been broadcast.

But for once, her usually hyperactive Twitter account, which she says is the most followed of all crime commissioners, seemed to go rather quiet.

Meanwhile, someone took up a light aircraft trailing a banner reading #ANNBARNES out and flew over police HQ in Maidstone, making her the David Moyles of crime commissioners.

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Categories: Precept

The crime commissioner, the TV documentary and another PR car crash

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, May 20 2014

We will have to wait until next week to see the television documentary about Ann Barnes, Kent's crime commissioner but the preview clips released by the programme makers suggest she may not come out too well. As Channel 4 puts it, the programme sets out to answer the question of whether the commissioner is "an independent breath of fresh air" or a "gaffe prone amateur."

On the basis of the clips released, it seems the programme may well lead many to conclude that it is the latter. 

"What is my job..." the crime commissioner struggles for an answer>>>

Some have already clearly made their mind up and although Mrs Barnes has appealed, through a statement issued by her office, for people to wait to see the whole programme before rushing to judgement, damage has already been done. 

She may blame "mischevious editing" for creating an impression that she doesn't really know what she is doing. She claims to have thought "long and hard" before deciding to participate in the warts and all film and concluded it fitted with her intention to be open and transparent about everything she does.

The only problem is that documentary makers want to make entertaining programmes and their subjects have zero editorial control - something that the commissioner must have known or at least been advised about.

For someone who shrewdly masterminded a successful election campaign and comprehensively saw off her rivals to secure the post, she has, in office, shown some poor judgement.

it also adds weight to those who argue that one of the faultlines of the commissioner model is that once in post, commissioners always have an eye on how decisions they take will play with the voter. Mrs Barnes probably calculated  that being filmed for a documentary would be a  useful way of raising her profile and could be used to show how her objective of being "the most accessible and visible crime commissioner" was being realised.

It was also an opportunity to show her independent nature - one of the reasons she proved popular with electors was that she was not a candidate from any of the mainstream parties.

Whatever the final programme shows, she has already  handed her opponents more ammunition - you can already see what will feature in the election literature of other candidates come the next election.


By coincidence, a report from the commissioner's office due to be presented to the Kent and Medway Crime Panel, presents a largely positive tone about the commissioner's strategy of being "accessible and visible."

It states that the commissioner has "the most influential and most followed Twitter account amongst the 41 crime commissioners" with a Klout score of 60...with the report noting that President Obama has a score of 99 and Dame Kelly Holmes has 82.

How that Klout score is measured is complicated but many followers will be familiar with the one of the tactics of promoting activity on Twitter accounts known as "twanking" - defined as the over-generous sharing of information.




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Politicians in high visibility jackets and chatting about boilers? There must be an election looming

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 2 2014

Here is my round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and Medway. 

1.  If  you haven't seen a politician for a while - get ready. One could be on your doorstep soon. The European election is just around the corner and the May 22 poll - with the results on May 25 - looks like being marginally more exciting than perhaps it has been in the past. Chancellor George Osborne was first out of the gate, with a visit to Ebbsfleet where his much treasured 'garden city' project will be.  At the moment, there's not much to see except a muddy quarry but the Chancellor was whisked away for a tour of the field, resplendent in a high-visibilty jacket, boots and a had hat. Mind you, Dartford MP Gareth Johnson had by far the best jacket, replete with so many fourescent strips, he could be seen from space.

2. Following hard on George's heels was his chief tormentor the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who popped down to Medway to rally support  among Labour activists and in doing so, enjoyed a lengthy conversation about boilers - possibly too lengthy -  and seemed very impressed by the variety of cakes his guests offered. For once, Ed had UKIP in his sights rather more than the Conservatives, although he contrived to get the key "cost of living" phrase in several times. David Axelrod would have been impressed. 

3. Talking of can't keep Nigel Farage out of Kent that long and although he wasn't physically in the county, his decision not to stand in the Newark by-election, resurrected speculation that he had a county constituency in his sights - either Thanet South or Folkestone and Hythe and the fact that you can't go very far in Folkestone without seeing a UKIP billboard may be a tantalising clue. But UKIP was a bt miffed when some wag put alternative slogans on them  of a satirical nature. And Nigel passed another political right of passage when he was egged by a protestor on a visit.

4. Crime commissioner Ann Barnes had a spot of bother over the costs of an office relocation to Kent Police HQ in Maidstone. At £150,000 it seemed rather a lot, especiallly as, until a national newspaper started asking questions, no-one had appeared to have known about the expenditure. Still,  she fought back and just about managed to rebut the claims - among them a suggestion from an "anonymous" source that she was a bit of a Diva. Still, if it was supposed to be a good news story because of the long-term savings, it seems odd that the commisioner was not shouting about it from the rooftops.

5. And finally, there was news that the government was to crackdown on betting shops in town centres by unveiling new powers to councils that would allow them to block bookies from opening. For once, there seemed to be cross-party support for the policy. Political harmony during the run-up to an election? I'm feeling rather queasy...




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Categories: Politics | Precept

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

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