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'Surprised' PCC reveals extra recruitment pledge won't happen

A surprise HMI report has derailed a PCC's pledge to recruit extra officers. And cadets could end up filling in the gaps.

A brutal meeting of Gloucestershire’s police and crime panel heard that the force's Chief Constable had been surprised by an HMI review that included five inadequate ratings - and that the force could resort to using cadets to meet objectives.

Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson (Con) revealed at a meeting to agree the council tax precept that his election pledge to recruit an additional 300 officers won’t be met due to funding pressures.

He claimed the combination of funding cuts and a critical HM Inspectorate review of performance had led to resources being diverted into improving failing service areas rather than adding to the Uplift allocation of new recruits.

Mr Nelson told the panel: "It's as a consequence of a lack of investment over the last few years."

He explained: "When I took over the appointment I had a very critical report from Her Majesty's inspectorate which concerned my predecessor's time in office.

"And that was really very critical. Five areas inadequate, the lowest level of performance. It led to the chief declaring a critical incident within the force. That was a complete surprise to me. The extent of how bad the HMICFRS report was going to be."

The HMI PEEL assessment, published last autumn, rated the force as inadequate in five areas: investigating crime, supporting victims, disrupting organised crime, protecting vulnerable people and strategic planning.

In a detailed rebuttal in response to the verdict, the force said it was battling legacy IT, the impact of  COVID-19 on staff time and other pressures.

More staff were now being deployed in the control room and crime management standards areas as part of improvement work.

The Home Office grant for Gloucestershire being among the lowest in the country has added to financial pressures that mean senior officers are working to avoid a deficit.

But the PCC also claimed the force had been caught out by the HMI’s new audit process.

He told the meeting: "One of the reasons why it was a shock to the chief was that it was a brand new method of assessment. The force, due to a lack of investment, did not have sufficient auditing capability. We are increasing the amount of audit staff going forward."

They aren’t the only hires as Mr Nelson revealed his own office team has been expanded with three new roles. These included an analyst plus a South West Policy Officer whose £57,253 salary is being funded across the five South West PCCs.

Mr Nelson said wanted to find new ways to support Road Safety and to “be creative in crime prevention”.

He “felt that Police Cadets was one avenue that could be explored”.

Panel members were unimpressed – not least by a decision by the PCC not to brief them ahead of the meeting.

They warned that over the next 12 months, they wanted to see “much improved” policing in the County.

Independent councillor Philip Burford said: “Twice the commissioner has said the HMICFRS report was a shock to the chief. That's probably the most worrying phrase I've heard in this meeting since I've been a member of it. Because, frankly, if the chief doesn't know that he's got a problem, we've all got a massive problem."

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