PROFILE: John Savage - "I'll strive to bring public and police closer"
On November 15, the people of former Avon and Somerset will vote for their first Police and Crime Commissioner. In the second of four profiles this week on the election hopefuls, crime correspondent Daniel Evans talks to Labour candidate Dr John Savage.
Why are you standing to be elected the Police and Crime Commissioner?
This rather theatrical process of electing a single leader doesn't seem necessary. But if it's going to happen, I wanted somebody to do it that was capable of taking on that level of leadership and making a success of it. I know I have the experience to do it well.
Policing the area well is incredibly important to all our lives.
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I've always had the notion that the key pillars of society are education, health and policing.
If elected, what would your main priorities be?
I believe the British police service is the best in the world. It stands, together with our education and health services as an essential part of a civilised society.
As your Police and Crime Commissioner my first priority would always be to ensure that you can live in safety and that your homes and possessions are protected.
This is a strategic opportunity to change the relationship between the public, the police service and the criminal justice system. As a whole, it needs changing.
It's a significant opportunity to set down a route where we can change that interface, but understand the needs of the public while grasping the good stuff that is going on already.
I would listen to the general public and the organisations that express their views. But I would also listen to the police service and try to understand it.
I will work tirelessly for a closer relationship between the needs and desires of the public and the work of the police, build on the success of neighbourhood policing and ensure victims of crime have a voice at the heart of policing.
The public pays for the society they live in and they have the right to expect that the facilities like policing are provided, and provided with efficiency. In terms of policing, we need to be much more intelligent about how we can provide that response.
Drugs, alcohol, health and education are all intrinsically linked. I don't think we can do any of these key jobs, like policing, without looking at the strategic whole.
It cannot be denied that there is disadvantage in Avon and Somerset – there are gulfs that exist between people living in certain places. We should give them the incentive to change.
We need to encourage young people to have a function in their communities – lots of young people do, but the anti-social few need more encouragement.
I want to be working cheek by jowl with the new Bristol mayor and the other leaders in the region. I want to represent the rural areas and the city.
What experience do you have, professional or otherwise, to bring to the role?
I have more than 40 years of business experience, working in senior roles in the public and private sectors and have held responsibility for annual budgets in excess of £1 billion. I have a track record of success in delivering change and improvement in large organisations including chairing the Learning and Skills Council South West, being executive chairman of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, working in the Regional Development Agency and, latterly, as chairman of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust. I am also a former High Sheriff of Bristol.
How would you ensure crime continues to fall in Avon and Somerset given the climate of current and future budget cuts?
The reduction in recorded crime over recent years has been a remarkable achievement. But I'm not making any promises to anybody – these are difficult times.
More is expected of our police, while budgets are being cut. There are no easy answers but I will ensure the police service prioritises neighbourhood policing over privatisation and that the service really listens to the public it serves.
The role of commissioner calls for nerve.
This is not for knee-jerk reaction, but clearly there will have to be changes. I'm not going to do anything dramatic with the first year's budget. You're not going to see a huge amount of money diverted into one area. It's much better to talk and listen. "Think twice and act once" is a great mantra to live by.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary gets at least £20 million less in Government funding every year than its assessed need. What would you do about that and potential future funding cuts?
I would oppose any further reductions of front-line policing and fight for a fairer allocation of funds. It's about not being in thrall to Government – if it's a straight fight with the Treasury I've done that before.
The current funding formula is wrong. Of course there needs to be a mechanism by which funds are allocated to areas that find themselves depleted, but we have to be careful that we don't damage the cities and regions that can produce that money, like Avon and Somerset.
Greater Bristol is one of the fastest growing places in the UK. There is great potential for economic growth and we need to supply the services to support that growth.
The community safety budgets currently controlled by councils will be allocated by the commissioner. What would you spend the community safety budget on?
The community safety budget clearly needs to find its way to the places that could benefit from it. I support the community concept, but we need to make sure we get the very best use of the money. I'm very mindful that these are precious funds for local communities.
For more information, visit www.labour.org.uk/police- commission-candidates or www.choosemypcc.org.uk.