Interview with Matthew Barber, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley

In the last few years, we’ve been hearing more about – and from – Police and Crime Commissioners. These are fairly new positions and I realised that I didn’t know nearly enough about what their roles and responsibilities were. There’s nothing like direct evidence, so I was glad to be able to contact Matthew Barber, the Deputy PCC for the Thames Valley, and ask him a few questions about the job.

If there are things you’d like to ask for yourself, please contact him directly at matthew@matthewbarber.co.uk, by visiting his website www.matthewbarber.co.uk, following him on Twitter at @matthew_barber, or append a comment to the foot of this post and we’ll pass it on to him.

The roles of the PCC and Deputy PPC are quite new – when were these established?

Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were first elected in November 2012, but oversight of the police is not a new concept and PCCs replaced police authorities that had been in place for many decades before.

What is the remit?

In short, the PCC exists to hold the police to account and to represent the public in setting the priorities for policing locally.

Is this an elected or an appointed role?

The current PCC, Anthony Stansfeld, was first elected in November 2012, and re-elected in May 2015. The next elections will take place in May 2020. My role as Deputy PCC is an appointed one – I took on my role in early 2017.

What do you think are the main problems facing the police at present and how can the PCCs help address these?

I think the biggest challenge we face at the moment is well known – not just providing the services that people want and deserve at a time of declining resources but also at a time when if anything expectations are increasing.

Most people have seen the statistics that crime is increasing across the country. Thankfully Thames Valley Police has been continuing to do a fantastic job protecting the public and we haven’t seen some of the increases that have affected other parts of the UK.

PCCs continue to lobby for more funding from central government and Thames Valley has been one of the most successful in forcibly putting that case. Locally the PCC is also responsible for raising money from the police through everyone’s council tax.

Just as importantly, however ,is setting the priorities for the police and helping to reduce demands. We all want the police to concentrate on their core roles of deterring and detecting crime and keeping the public safe. The PCCs has a role in supporting the police in that objective and focussing on the concerns of the public.

You’ve been in the role for nearly two years. What’s the achievement you’re most proud of?

It’s been a busy two years getting to grips with policing across an area the size of the Thames Valley. The role of the PCC is wide ranging but one area where it differs from the old police authorities is an increased role in the criminal justice system.

In Thames Valley there is a Local Criminal Justice Board which brings together the courts, prison service, probation, Crown Prosecution Service and, of course, the police. If we are going to make a real difference to reduce crime and reoffending there is much more to be done than just in policing. I am excited that from the new year I will be taking on the Chairmanship of the LCJB as I think it is a real opportunity to provide justice for victims of crime and reduce re-offending across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

And finally, if there’s one thing on your professional wish-list for 2019, what would that be?

One of the biggest challenges that Thames Valley Police has faced in recent months is in recruitment and retention. The significant number of officers are coming to the end of their service and moving on to new challenges, high employment in the Thames Valley and the length of time it takes to train new officers have all combined.

There has been a huge amount of work that has gone on in recent months to reverse this and so for 2019 I want to see Thames Valley up to full establishment. This will take some of the pressure off of our incredible police officers who have been taking the strain and also result in a huge improvement in services to the public, especially in dealing with non-emergency enquiries on the 101 phone line.

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale