“Devon and Cornwall’s under-investigations crime chief was put under pressure this morning after a councillor told her to quit on TV
Cornwall councillor Candy Atherton said an ongoing police investigation, appalling crime figures and a complete failure to put one plan in place during nearly nine months in office, made PCC Alison Hernandez’s position intenable.
On Sunday Politics South West this morning, former Labour MP Ms Atherton pressed the point home and said the elected police boss must go – a call which was firmly rejected.
Speaking after the broadcast, she told Cornwall Live that it had simply “gone on long enough.”
She said Ms Hernandez, who earlier this month was revealed to have been interviewed by interviewed by police probing expenses allegations, couldn’t possibly have her eye on the ball.
“What I want is a PCC who is totally focussed on the job in hand, but we do not have that, we have someone who must be constantly looking over their shoulder and wondering what is happening next,” said Ms Atherton.
“She was elected in May for a four year term but still hasn’t got her first plan in place.”
Ms Atherton added that it “must be very difficult for her to concentrate” because of the weight of allegations.
“I’m sure you would have wanted for it to be kicked into the long grass by now, but that hasn’t happened and so now we have to move on.”
Ms Hernandez has been accused of failing to properly declare election expenses when she was employed as the general election agent for Conservative MP Kevin Foster.
And last year she was also widely criticised for taking a selfie with a firefighter outside the burning Royal Clarence Hotel.
Earlier this month it emerged that she had been interviewed by West Mercia Police, which is investigating the allegations, and that their report will go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. A decision will then be made whether the case should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Servic
Ms Atherton said last week’s crime figures, which showed the number of offences was on the increase, was also reason for the PCC to go.
She said that while Ms Hernandez couldn’t be held responsible for the increase, the county needed a police commissioner who was “fully focussed on the job.”
She admitted not supporting the decision to introduce local police and crime commissioners, the election of whom attracted just a 22% turnout last year, up from 15% the previous election.
But said this was irrelevant as the point was getting a person in the role who was not distracted.
Ms Hernandez robustly defended herself in the interview on Sunday Politics South West saying she had been elected to do a job and that would continue with it.
She said: “In terms of saying whether I’m the right person for the job, the point is that I’m elected to do this job so I am here to do it and I will make sure I endeavour to do a really good job while I’m here.”
Ms Hernandez rejected the suggestion she hadn’t brought any plans forward and said that a budget proposal would be presented in early February and that a policing plan had been formulated with the chief constable.
She said she was looking to recruit more police officers, but would not be drawn on whether – and the extent – of any planned increased to the precept, the amount on council tax bills which go to funding the force.
She suggested that a 2% rise, which the maximum allowed, could mean another £2 million for policing in Devon and Cornwall.
Ms Hernandez claimed that a police and crime commissioner being at the centre of a police investigation had actually proved a “real positive” in terms of her profile.
“The bit that has been so positive is the publicity I have received.
“I can walk down Newquay town and I will get stopped by people who want my help.”