Commissioner defends absence after councillors question ‘personal judgment’

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett. Photo: Bill Smith Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett. Photo: Bill Smith

Lauren Cope Lauren.cope@archant.co.uk
Saturday, August 9, 2014
7:02 AM

Norfolk’s police commissioner has defended the number of public meetings he has missed after his “personal judgment” was called into question by councillors.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett was expected to join the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel at County Hall yesterday to consider his draft Annual Report for 2013/14, which charts the progress being made towards his objectives.

But due to a personal commitment, Mr Bett sent deputy Jenny McKibben in his place.

The meeting heard that it was the third public meeting out of eleven that the commissioner has missed, with legal advice meaning he did not attend one in July and personal circumstances preventing him from appearing at one in December.

David Harrison, Norfolk County councillor, raised concerns over the commissioner’s absence.

“It leads you to wonder if he doesn’t attend and with the expenses, what we can do. The question is judgment - his judgment on crime is quite good, but the personal judgment doesn’t seem to be there,” he said.

But Mr Bett insisted that his focus was in the right place.

“Today’s Police and Crime Panel meeting was scheduled as an additional meeting in order to meet statutory requirements and due to the fact that I was at the funeral of a very close family friend, I was unable to attend.

“I am pleased that the draft Annual Report was able to be presented to the panel today - reducing crime and reoffending in Norfolk is our top priority and we are looking forward to commissioning new collaborative projects to tackle offending and support victims of crime,” he said.

The commissioner is currently under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after he was found to have claimed for 70 trips from his home in Thornham to his HQ 43 miles away in Wymondham from November 2012 to August 2013. He has agreed to pay back the bill of £3,024, but a probe is ongoing. During yesterday’s meeting, the panel heard how collaboration with Suffolk Police had saved the force more than £11m - but that cutbacks were still on the horizon.

Although another £11m is expected to be saved by 2017/18, a further £9m will need to found by March 2018.

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12 comments

  • Firstly apologies, my figure assumed that every eligible voter counts, not those few that voted. Jack, if you mean that this Government is democratically elected then I can't help you, nobody voted for a coalition and first past the post does not reflect the views of the majority, which does not vote. The issue is Mr. Bett and his negligible behaviour, not the messengers.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Obviously we are stuck with Police and Crime Commissioners until the Government has a rethink. The sad fact is that a number of the forty-one have made the newspapers - Mr Bett included - for all the wrong reasons. Against that, other have played a straight bat and not done anything incorrect or offensive. I would put money on a change in the law at some point, abolishing them and transferring their powers to the Police and Crime Panels, i.e. reverting to pretty much the previous system.

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    Nemesis

    Monday, August 11, 2014

  • Ingo - how is the creation of an elected position by parliament undemocratic? Of course, it isn't. It's obvious you disagree with the idea of PCCs, and maybe you lobbied your MP accordingly at the time but that, like the fact that most people didn't vote, doesn't make the process undemocratic. It was easy enough to find out about the position and the candidates - I recall them being in the paper, on the radio and on the TV, plus with contact details available.

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    Jack1956

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • I always seem to be correctly factual errors by Ingo Wagenknecht. Stephen Bett was elected with about 7.5% of the vote of the whole electorate. Bad enough but not quite as bad as the 1.5% Ingo quotes. If you are going to criticise, it helps to start from firm ground.

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    Old Hand

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • The turf war going on as usual. The December meeting Mr Bett is alleged to have missed is a bit of a mystery as none is listed on the NCC web site nor are there any minutes of a December meeting in the NCC archive. The only thing that seems to have gone on in December was the committees examination of Mr Bett`s proposed deputy PCC which they endorsed. Hardly a matter requiring Mr Bett`s attendance. This nonsense has gone on long enough. The Chief Constable runs the force overseen by Mr Bett who was more democratically elected than the committee of 17 of the old police authority and its dozen full time staff that cost the rate payers 1.3 million a year or put another way 100th of the overall police budget. Now we have the police and crime panel flexing its muscles, wanting to control both the chief constable and Mr Bett. On top of which we have the EDP who never liked the idea of PCCS from the off and run every negative story in bigger and bigger headlines they can about Mr Bett. If anyone in Norfolk doesn`t know about who their PCC is they must be living on planet zog.

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    BG

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • I wonder if this could lead to an unfair dismissal and costly legal wrangle? The jury's out on this one and will take a while to decide.

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    bedoomed

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • Jack 1956, the role of police commissioner was forced upon us in the most undemocratic manner, the voter participation said it all, despite the massive publicity drummed up, only about 1.5% of the electorate elected him. It is regretable that Mr. Bett announced his deputy rather than having her elected, or at least been the result of a fair interview amongst equals. John Martins poinst of scrutiny and attendance are both valid and pertinent.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • Stephen Bett seeks to play down the importance of yesterday's meeting. (I am surprised that he didn't simply describe it as a "statutory inconvenience".) But if you look at the agenda, the primary purposes of the meeting were to consider his draft Annual Report and "to hold him to account for the full extent of his activities since the last Panel meeting". The last Panel meeting, before this one, was the meeting on 4 July. Of course, Mr Bett failed to turn up to that one also. I wonder how much notice he gave this time of his intention to stay away. Funerals of close friends are important, but sometimes holding an important public role with responsibilities attached will mean that you cannot attend. In any event, why did he not ask the Chairman in good time to move the meeting to later in the day?

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    John Martin

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • The job being done by PCCs across the country is much more than was achieved by the old Police Authorities. Our problem here in Norfolk is Mr Bett's judgement, not his role - in addition to some appalling public image decisions he has basically followed Labour's tax and spend agenda. He hasn't turned out to be 'the safe Bett' at all. I wonder if he'll stand for re-election on his record?

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    Jack1956

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • It would be interesting, even now, to know exactly what the "personal reasons" were that prevented him late in the day from attending the December meeting of the Panel.

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    Nemesis

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • The man should have never got the job, as he hasn't the time to commit to it with all his other interests.

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    Vic Sponge

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

  • He should be sacked, another one under investigation over expenses, he is not above the law. And not doing his job by the sound of it

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    Derek McDonald

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

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