Questions to police and crime commissioners: Alun Michael

Image caption Alun Michael says he is learning something new every day

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.

Next up is the commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael. We will feature the final one on Sunday.

What have you been doing in the job so far?

I have worked full-time since the election. I have had a series of meetings with the chief constable and members of the senior team, as well as meeting the team that I have inherited from the former police authority and having a series of formal and informal meetings with members of staff individually.

On "handover day" I met the outgoing police authority members and also attended the formal meeting of the new policing panel.

At that time I took the oath of office and made a statement about my priorities.

I have banned the use of the initials PCC having discovered on the doorsteps that members of the public haven't a clue what they stand for.

Eradicating meaningless initials, acronyms and jargon in favour of simple, clear language is a priority - and I am pleased to say that this approach has been supported by the senior team.

I have visited each basic command unit across South Wales at least once for a full briefing session in each case. I have had full briefing sessions on the legal aspects of the changeover.

I have met the leader and chief executive of each local authority to discuss local issues and the challenge of reducing crime and disorder. I have met other councillors in most local authority areas.

I have met the other commissioners in Wales on three occasions, including a meeting with the Communities Minister, Carl Sargeant AM.

I have met the representatives of the Police Federation, the Superintendents' Association and Unison, with a meeting planned with GMB representatives shortly.

Civic vandalism

I have visited the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, met a number of voluntary organisations, and presented awards to adults and young people involved in a mentoring programme. I will be meeting others in the new year.

I have spoken to a conference for Victim Support and have meetings planned with Victim Support and Women's Aid. I have had detailed briefings on a number of specialist areas of work including violence, sexual offences, security issues, finances and other aspects of policy.

I attended a ceremony to dedicate Rumney recreation ground to see it designated and protected for future generations and to celebrate the victory of local people in stopping an act of civic vandalism which the previous administration on Cardiff County Council were determined to impose on the community.

I have responded to the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on drugs policy.

I have met with the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner for Wales to develop a good early overview of the police complaints system.

I have met with our internal auditors and the Wales Audit Office so that I can understand the work they have been engaged in to date and our audit arrangements going forward.

Deep cuts

I have approved a new scheme of governance so that both my office and that of the chief constable can continue to operate effectively without any disruption to the service.

I have held discussions with the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales and also the head of the Youth Justice Board Cymru.

I have taken part in a number of interviews, including being part of an outside broadcast for the Radio Wales Good Morning Wales programme, at Swansea Central Police Station, as well as a discussion on Radio Cymru.

I have agreed with the chief constable that we will jointly appoint a single Independent Audit Committee following public advertisement and started that process.

I am working with the chief constable and his team on the policing plan and also we are working through the financial challenges and choices available in a time of deep cuts which provide the South Wales Police with enormous challenges. Those challenges will be met, but it will not be easy.

I've probably missed a number of meetings - there has been a lot happening since 15 November.

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

That's not a matter for me. It must be remembered that this is a big and challenging role with major responsibilities, but the pay level is not a matter to which I have given any thought.

The rate of payment is decided by the home secretary, not by commissioners. i believe she decided on a level of pay below that which was advised by an independent assessment.

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

I have inherited the staff of the former police authority, along with two major vacancies which had been left unfilled pending the election of a commissioner.

I am currently assessing the staff needs, the roles of the staff members and assessing the expertise needed to make my work effective.

The vacancy for a finance director is about to be advertised.

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

Dozens of times about all aspects of policing, challenges across South Wales and the national context of policing.

It's vital that we work closely together and have a full understanding of each other's roles and priorities.

The chief constable has been very generous with his time, as have all members of the senior team, and that has helped me enormously.

Have you learnt anything surprising in the job yet?

Lots. I'm learning something new every day, even though I have been engaged with issues of policing and criminal justice for many years.

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

I have met many members of the public in a variety of circumstances, before and since the election, but it must be remembered that the South Wales Police serve a population of 1.3 million.

It would be unwise to extrapolate from the comments of those that I have met to say that "the public have been saying x or y".

Meetings with the chief constable have included discussions about how to make sure that we are both able to receive plenty of feedback from a variety of forms of engagement with the public to inform our respective roles, and to make sure that the record of positive engagement with the public continues to develop on a positive trajectory.

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