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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Police commissioner’s office defends “woke” plan as committee complains it’s being “rushed” to give opinions


Bedfordshire’s new police and crime commissioner is in a hurry to publish his plan for the next three years and it is putting strain on a watchdog committee to respond in time.

Festus Akinbusoye made a promise during his successful election campaign in May that his police and crime plan would be up and running in 100 days, prompting members to complain that they are being rushed.

We made a commitment to make it public in the first 100 days,” Mr Akinbusoye, a Conservative, told the Bedfordshire police and crime panel.

We need to get cracking on this,” he insisted.

The panel, hosted by Bedford Borough Council on Monday (26 July 2021) heard the commissioner has attended 36 parish and ward meetings, on top of national gatherings since being voted in.

To meet his commitment the plan has to be published on 18 August 18, but the 12 member panel has to consider it at a meeting in public first.

Having two weeks to read the document and give their responses caused consternation.

Cllr Neil Bunyan (Cons, Flitwick) said: “I suppose all we can say is dib, dib, dib“, while Cllr Alison Graham (Ind, Silsoe and Shillington) said the timetable is “pushing it“.

Commissioner Akinbusoye said he appreciated the “pressure” the members were under.

But he added: “We have a short time to deliver the plan and I know the clock is ticking.”

Independent member Paul Downing, who was chairing the meeting, said: “I don’t buy into this 100 days stuff – it’s American politics.”

But Clare Kelly, the chief executive of the commissioner’s office, reminded members that at their meeting in June they had agreed to the timetable that they were now questioning.

In my mind it was agreed and the office has been working towards that“, she said.

Cllr Mohammed Nawaz (Lab, Kempston Central & East) said he had to leave that meeting early and had missed the item.

Another couple of weeks wouldn’t make much difference,” he said.

Cllr Graham complained that members needed to look at the plan together to assess it as a group.

Despite a meeting of the panel being in the schedule for 10 August, she asked: “Is it fair on people who have booked holidays?

And Independent member Lee Melville said the panel is “owed” a delay of two to four weeks “out of respect.

It is one of the most important things the commissioner will do and I do feel we are now rushing it,” he said.

Seven members of the panel of 12 attended the online meeting and voted by four votes to three to give feedback at an in-person meeting on 10 August.

The meeting was told that an online set of questions had already been filled in by 500 people.

The chief executive said some had complained that the plan is “woke“.

They are asking us not to use language that is deemed politically correct or a focus about young people being victims,” she said. “This will not change as it is not appropriate to move language to a blame culture.

David Tooley
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency: funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, and used by qualifying partners. It’s like a franchise: different companies with different approaches, but using common editorial standards and all publishing into the same system.

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