Police and Crime Commissioner hits back over delivery of leaflets claims

Friday 26th March 2021 6:30 pm

Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez

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Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner has responded to criticism made in a South West Labour Party press release this week regarding the distribution of leaflets outlining police achievements to addresses in the force area.

In the press release, Plymouth City Councillor and Labour’s candidate for the commissioner role Gareth Derrick denounced as “scandalous” the decision by current Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez “to distribute ‘highlights’ of her past year as PCC to every home in Devon and Cornwall just days before the election regulated period (‘purdah’) starts”.

The Labour Party press release went on to state that “the Conservative Commissioner authorised the delivery of official PCC leaflets to every home in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the same week that formal notification of the next Police Commissioner election was published on March 24th”.

The leaflet in question contained images of Mrs Hernandez with the Chief Constable and described highlights of the last year of her extended term of office and various facts and figures about funding the police.

The Labour Party press release claims: “The cost of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has increased by around 33%, and the police precept by over 37% during the Commissioner’s term of office – while officer numbers in March 2021 remain 7.5% below what they were in 2010.”

Councillor Derrick is quoted as saying: “This is scandalous and potentially illegal self-promotion by the Police Commissioner Alison Hernandez just as she is about to kick-off her campaign for re-election. I estimate this leaflet will have cost… public money… that could have been far better spent on fighting crime and keeping people and communities safe.

“People across Devon and Cornwall are already angry that her office costs keep going up, and now she’s wasting taxpayers’ money in this disgraceful way. People are expecting more police officers, not more leaflets.”

Cllr Derrick adds the claim: “The Commissioner took an oath of fairness and impartiality at the start of her term, but this thinly disguised electioneering leaflet clearly breaks the spirit of fairness and is squandering public money to try to secure her re-election. I’ve received messages from many people about this, which reflect the Commissioner’s scant regard for the standards that she is expected to meet in public life.

“I have raised a formal complaint to the Chair of the Police and Crime Panel, Cornwall Councillor Chris Batters, and asked the Panel to take action.”

Regarding the complaint, Councillor Batters, who is Liberal Democrat councillor for Lanivet and Blisland, is quoted in the press release as saying: “This is very typical of the Commissioner. She has a habit of doing this, so often over-stepping the mark and seemingly refusing to understand the difference between right and wrong.

“This information should have gone out in February, when the police budget was confirmed, not just before the election. Her predecessor had the integrity to avoid this kind of behaviour and the public were much better off for it.”

Responding to the allegations made made in the Labour Party press release, a spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said: “The OPCC has a legislative obligation to inform residents of the force area about changes to the police precept. The police precept document is sent every year to households in the force area, usually with their council tax bill. It assists the office in fulfilling its legal obligation, provides transparency around the spending of public money and explains the uplift in police officer numbers that communities in Devon and Cornwall have helped fund.

“The 2021 leaflet was published and distributed some weeks before the pre-election period as defined by the Police Area Returning Officer.”