Questions to police and crime commissioners: Ian Johnston

Ian Johnston Ian Johnston said he would be meeting the chief constable once a week on a one-to-one basis

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One month since the four new police and crime commissioners (PCC) in Wales started their jobs, the BBC News website posed them a few questions to see how they were getting on.

Two independents, one Labour and one Conservative were elected last month in what was described as the biggest shake-up of policing for almost 50 years.

The commissioners will be in post until 2016 and will have the power to set policing priorities, budgets and also to hire and fire chief constables.

Last up is the commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston.

What have you been doing in the job so far?

The two main challenges facing the newly elected PCCs are the setting of the budget (including the police precept part of the council tax) and agreeing and signing off the policing plan for 2013/14.

In addition PCCs are expected to formulate relationships with the police chief officer team, leaders and chief executives of local authorities and many leaders of other statutory and voluntary organisations.

In your opinion, are PCCs paid too much? Why?

You may wish to reflect on the fact that PCCs can hire and fire the chief constable and that on a daily basis PCCs interact with chief executives of local authorities, the head of probation and health etc.

The chief constable is paid £140,000 and chief executives are typically paid £150,000. The PCC in Gwent is paid £70,000.

AMs are paid circa £50,000 and MPs are paid £65,000 plus expenses!

Have you appointed any staff or taken on any staff from the former police authority? Will you be doing so?

On 20 November 2012 all staff previously employed by the Gwent Police Authority (nine in total) transferred to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

You may wish to note that the OPCC will need to evolve to become a totally different body from the "old" police authority.

The role of the OPCC will be unrecognisable from the police authority particularly in respect of the commissioning aspect.

The OPCC will have responsibility for managing and allocating funds in respect of community safety partnerships, victim support, drug intervention programmes and many more statutory and voluntary sector organisations.

There is a need to review the current roles of the "transferred staff" and then build a team to deliver the new service.

On how many occasions have you spoken to the chief constable so far? What about mainly?

We have agreed a structure whereby we meet on a one-to-one basis once a week.

The OPCC senior staff meet with the chief officer team on a regular basis. I also see the chief constable at various meeting/events.

Have you learnt anything surprising in the job yet?

I realised that the role would be demanding but perhaps underestimated how demanding.

The challenge to set the budget and agree the policing plan against a very tight deadline was always going to be difficult.

Encouraging and explaining to people how the new governance arrangements will work is also very challenging and on occasions frustrating!

Have you had much contact with the public so far? What have they been saying to you?

I am trying to balance the "givens" (plan, budget etc) with regular contact with the public.

I have attended a large number of events and my diary for the new year shows that I will be at public meetings three/four nights a week after working the day shift!

In terms of what the public are saying, they are mostly very positive and wish me well.

I have encountered some negativity which is normally linked to sour grapes regarding their preferred candidate.

If all people who tell me they voted for me actually did, I should have won by a bigger margin!

Q&A: Alun Michael (South Wales)

Q&A: Winston Roddick (North Wales)

Q&A: Christopher Salmon (Dyfed-Powys)

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