November 15th, 2012, saw Jane Kennedy named as the very first Police and Crime Commissioner of Merseyside.
Despite a low turnout at polling stations and standing against five other candidates, the experienced Labour politician won 56.2% of the vote - with nearly 71,000 people turning out on a rainy, cold winter evening to support her.
Following her successful campaign, Jane said: "I make this one promise - that is to work very hard to do the best job for Merseyside, for the police and the community they serve.”
Just a week later, on November 22nd, Jane took her oath of office to mark her first official day in her new role. As part of the oath, the newly-elected Commissioner swore to represent all sections of society, work to cut criminal offices and give a voice to victims. The declaration was also an important symbol of her commitment to an open and transparent approach and being fully accountable to the public.
Following her oath, Jane pledged to reduce the cost of the oversight of Merseyside Police. She announced she would move her office from an expensive city centre location and asked the force if they could find vacant space in a well-known police station. She also promised to streamline her own office to put more money straight back into the police budget – preserving vital frontline policing.
One of Jane's first public engagements as Commissioner was to join the many women and voluntary groups and charities who work with the survivors of domestic abuse on November 25th 2012, in a parade to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
After taking office, Jane got straight to work trying to protect Merseyside from the Government's austerity measures by arranging to meet the Home Secretary Theresa May to raise her serious concerns about cuts to the Crime Reduction Grant, which replaced the Community Safety Grant in paying for all community safety work.
Jane said: “I remain very worried about the future of this important grant, which supports a range of services often provided by the voluntary and community sector and which do really important work.”
The Commissioner also spoke out strongly against the privatisation of police services and insisted it was not a path she was considering. Jane also spent much of the month meeting a wide range of partners from the commercial, community, voluntary and third sector, as well as criminal justice agencies. This included members of the Police Federation, Merseyside Voluntary, Community and Faith Network and the Probation Service.
December also saw the Commissioner launch the pan-Merseyside Community Safety Partnership - a body designed to bring together all the regional partnerships at a senior level to ensure a consistent and joined-up approach to reducing crime.
January saw Jane put in to action her commitment to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system by listening and understanding their needs. This included visiting SAFE Place Merseyside - the Merseyside Sexual Assault Referral Centre and a further meeting with the Merseyside Voluntary, Community and Faith Network. She also attended a Crime Prevention Show in New Brighton, visited the Sri Lankan community and went out on patrol with officers in St Helens.
In the New Year, the Commissioner also took the difficult decision to increase the Council Tax precept by 2% in order to protect vital frontline police services. This move to defend the police budget cost a Band A council tax payer just 4p a week.
Jane also joined senior police officers, friends and families in the first passing out parade for two years, with 19 new police officers celebrating their graduation. She wished the new officers the best of luck in their careers and spoke of her pride at attending the event.
February saw the Commissioner continue to build strong relationships around the region – attending Area Forums and Area Committee meetings in Wirral and Sefton. She also met with policing teams in the Wirral, including the Family Crime Investigation Unit and the SIGMA Unit, dedicated specifically to investigating incidents of Hate Crime.
Jane also turned her attention to business crime and attended the annual review of the Liverpool Business Improvement District (BID) - an organisation designed to forge partnerships between businesses across the City, whilst at the same time promoting Liverpool as a vibrant and dynamic place to work, live and visit. The work of the BID is supported by both Merseyside Police and Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.
She also took time out to visit an exhibition of photographs entitled ‘Portrait of a Modern Police Force’ taken by serving Merseyside Police Inspector Colin Lewis and the Force’s ‘Fashion Police’ exhibition, featuring uniforms worn by Merseyside Police from the 1800s to modern day, at the Met Shopping Centre.
The Commissioner also spoke out to condemn the cuts to the police budget as “disproportionate and unfair” after Home Office figures presented by Yvette Cooper compared the number of police officers lost across forces nationwide since the General Election. She said “The Prime Minister and his Deputy like to claim that ‘we are all in this together’, but these figures show that Merseyside is losing more police officers than all the police forces covering the constituencies of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Theresa May combined.”
Despite this setback, Jane was able to set a balanced budget for the following financial year and recommence recruitment in order to maintain police officer numbers and protect vitally important frontline services. This was in large part due to her efforts in reducing the costs of her own office by £800,000.
Jane marked 100 days in office on March 1st by hosting the second Merseyside Community Safety Partnership meeting. She also attended the Royal Court to show her support for a powerful play written by local playwright Maurice Bessman and commissioned by Merseyside Police to deter young people from getting involved in gun and gang crime. 'The Terriers' sends out a stark message warning teenagers of the horrific consequences of getting involved with serious crime.
She continued to show her commitment to victims by speaking at a conference hosted by Families Fighting for Justice and by signing a pledge to stop the Government from abolishing Disability Living Allowance.
Another busy month also saw Jane sign a contract to give the go-ahead to the development of a new joint Police and Fire Command and Control Centre in Bootle and visit the Force’s specialist Matrix Unit – a team dedicated to tackling serious and organised crime. She also made time to listen to resident’s concerns at Sefton Council’s East Area Committee, attend a Local Solutions event and sign a pledge to meet representatives from Liverpool’s three universities every term to discuss issues around student safety. She also took time to warn shoppers of the dangers of cannabis during Cannabis Action Week.
In April, Jane published her Police and Crime Plan for 2013 to 2017, setting out her priorities, agreed with the Chief Constable, for the Force over the coming years. It includes a focus on serious and organised crime, improving support for victims, an emphasis on visible and accessible neighbourhood policing and sets out how Merseyside Police will go about tackling these issues.
It also contains information on the allocation of both the policing budget and the Crime and Disorder Reduction Grant, formerly given to Local Authorities and Community Safety Partnerships, so that the public can see how resources are being distributed, as well as details of the Police Commissioner’s Fund; a charitable grant to be given to organisations that help to reduce crime and improve community safety in their areas.
Jane Kennedy said, “The plan is an opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Merseyside that I am focussing on the issues that they tell me matter to them.”
In May, Jane was again out meeting a wide cross-section of the Merseyside public, including students at Wirral Grammar School for Boys and more than 60 residents in Formby at a Homewatch AGM .
She also undertook discussions with Merseyside Probation Trust’s Chief Executive Annette Hennessy to discuss changes to offender management under the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.
The Commissioner also released her plans to move offices, relocating from an expensive city centre building to vacant space in a well-known police station in Allerton. This allowed her to announce she would be making additional year-on-year savings of £700,000 that would be redirected to protect vital frontline policing.
She also welcomed a Home Affairs Committee report which confirmed she was one of only 10 PCCs that had provided all required financial information and her office had the second biggest percentage reduction in budget compared to that of the Police Authority.
In June, Jane responded to the issues raised by the Police and Crime Plan centering around governance arrangements for the Force and transparency on the website. She also spoke out to again urge Home Secretary Theresa May to protect vital police services - highlighting that nearly 1,000 people, including more than 600 police officers, had been lost to the Force in the previous three years. However, following the Government’s announcement of its Comprehensive Spending Review for 2015, it became clear that Home Office funding would be reduced by 6% in 2015/16 – she made it clear that if such a reduction was passed on to the Force it would result in a £15 million reduction, the equivalent of 300 police officers.
Jane said: “Big cuts in the budget for 2015 will potentially cripple their ability to maintain vital frontline services which protect the public and maintain safe communities.
July saw the Commissioner launch her fund for crime-fighting community organisations. The Police Commissioner’s Police Property Act offered grants of up to £5,000 to organisations which help to reduce crime, tackle reoffending or improve community safety. The money for the grants comes from the auction of stolen property or property the police are unable to return to its owners and would be used to help the priorities outlined in the Commissioner's Police and Crime Plan
It was also the month that the PCC confirmed the appointment of her new Chief Executive, Dr Joanne Liddy. Dr Liddy had been working at the Home Office where she was Director of Complex Casework. She had previously worked for the Borders Agency as Regional Director for the North West and led the Home Office’s Victims of Crime Unit.
During this busy month, the Commissioner also launched a Youth Advisory Group, designed to inform her on young peoples’ perspective on the criminal justice system. She also accompanied police officers on a series of dawn raids cracking down on cannabis farms.
The Commissioner also agreed proposals for Neighbourhood Policing which ensured there would be no reduction in the number of neighbourhood constables or sergeants. Additionally no PCSO were made redundant. The review confirmed both the Commissioner and the Chief Constable's commitment to maintaining neighbourhood policing while still delivering excellent standards of service.
In August, Jane unveiled her first Annual Report. The report detailed the intensive work undertaken by the Commissioner since taking office, as well the efforts made by her to build a relationship with the Chief Constable, the Force and criminal justice partners around the region. The report provided the public with an opportunity to review and appraise her work.
The Commissioner’s new Chief Executive Dr Joanne Liddy also started work. Meanwhile Jane was out in the community renewing her commitment to tackle hate crime by adding her voice to the No Place For Hate campaign in St Helens.
An open letter to Helen Grant MP, the then-Minister for Victims and Courts, saw Jane question the “unnecessary vandalism” of proposals to close the pioneering North Liverpool Community Justice Centre.
September saw the Commissioner’s Community Engagement team put in place. The six-strong team were established by Jane to act as her “ambassadors”, enabling her to better understand the public’s priorities across the region. Each officer is responsible for covering a Force Basic Command Unit and is also dedicated to a different equality strand.
The month also saw the Commissioner praise the Force for a summer crackdown on the illegal and anti-social use of bikes, speak at the Police Superintendents’ Annual Conference and welcome an independent review of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The start of the Autumn saw Jane throw her weight behind a project aimed at increasing diversity in the Force. New initiative, the Phoenix Leadership Programme, was aimed at increasing the recruitment of under-represented groups to the special constabulary and regular police force. Backing the scheme, Jane said: “The public want to see a police force which is representative of all the communities it serves.”
She also joined forces with 20 other PCCs to write to the Home Secretary Theresa May declaring her support for the draft Data Communications Bill as a way of protecting the public from terrorist attacks by recording data from telecommunications and internet traffic.
The start of October saw the Commissioner add her weight to a crackdown on school bullies. The anti-bullying strategy – Challenging Bullying is Everyone’s Business – was developed by Liverpool City Council in partnership with schools and was launched at the Town Hall. She also took time to recognise the hard work of licensing and enforcement officers at their national conference and marked World Mental Health Day by speaking of her commitment to ensuring people with mental health needs do not end up in a prison cell. Jane also united with representatives from the Students’ Unions at all three Liverpool’s universities as part of her pledge to listen to their concerns.
Diversity initiative, the Phoenix Leadership Programme kicked off in October and was hailed a “huge success” by the PCC who reiterated her commitment to ensuring Merseyside Police becomes truly representative of the community it serves.
In October, the PCC also pledged to spread the anti-gun and gang message as she became the new ambassador for powerful play ‘The Terriers’. As ambassador, the Commissioner not only supported The Terriers with a £20,000 crime and disorder reduction grant, she also hosted a special "lunch on the stage" to raise furthers support and funds for the production. The Commissioner further maintained her commitment to engage with young people by hosting the second meeting of her Youth Advisory Group and by announcing her intention to recruit a young apprentice.
Despite uniting with Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson to again urge the Government to rethink their proposals to close the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre, in October it was confirmed the innovative court centre would close, sparking Jane to voice her disappointment.
There was better news though, when official Government statistics released this month showed crime had fallen on Merseyside for the seventh year running. The 2.8% drop in the 12 months to June 2013 meant there were 2,577 fewer victims in the region.
Meanwhile, a wave of colour took over the Commissioner’s office as October drew to a close as her team donned pink for Breast Cancer Campaign.
In a busy few days before marking the anniversary of her election, Jane visited the Force’s horse and dog section, participated in safety briefings to urge everyone to enjoy Bonfire Night safely and joined with other PCCs to condemn the Government’s plans to privatise the probation service. A fall in the number of reported incidents on Bonfire Night was later welcomed by the PCC.
November also saw Jane announce the second release of funds for community groups making a real difference in their neighbourhoods through her Police Property Act Fund. ‘The Terriers’ play also returned to the stage, thanks to funding and support from the Commissioner.
She also backed a police campaign making people aware of the dangers to their homes and cars in the winter and joined a lively debate with pupils at Hugh Baird College in Bootle, before heading down to London to join other PCCs to mark the anniversary of their election.