Essex PCC Nick Alston says he leaves police in better position than in 2012

Nick Alston

Nick Alston - Credit: Archant

Outgoing police and crime commissioner for Essex Nick Alston says it has been a “great privilege” to serve the county and that he is very proud to have improved the force’s transparency.

Conservative Mr Alston became the county’s first police and crime commissioner (PCC) in November 2012, and was responsible for appointing chief constable Stephen Kavanagh in 2013.

Mr Alston says he believes that Essex Police is now in a much stronger position, both financially and ethically, than when he began the role.

He said: “When I first came into the role, Essex Police was very much a reactive force. There was no real plan with regard to finances, and a lack of transparency within the force.

“I felt it was very important that we changed that, and although there are still challenges ahead, finances have been stabilised, and I think the next three or four years look far more stable.

“The chief constable, with my support, has also succeeded in driving a high ethical approach to changing the culture of the force. The discipline he has instilled has raised standards considerably. You only have to look at the number of officers he has sacked and misconduct hearings he has held to see that.

“I am very proud to have helped Essex Police with its openness and transparency as well as transforming the way that crime can be reported in the county. There is still work ahead, but I am genuinely pleased with what has been achieved in the past three and a half years.”

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Mr Alston says he made the difficult decision to put the council tax precept to its maximum every year during his tenure as he believes Essex Police remains underfunded.

“I’m still of the opinion that Essex Police does not get its fair share of central government funding and some of the decisions that have had to be taken have been very difficult.

“Losing valued colleagues, such as a number of PCSOs, has been hard and I pay tribute to the professionalism of officers, who have faced an increased workload with fewer resources.”

Reducing Essex Police’s estate, from 25 front counters in the county to just 10, was essential to make savings as well as enabling the force to meet the demands of 21st century policing, according to Mr Alston.

He said: “Saffron Walden is a great example of a building unsuited to modern day policing and I believe it will go on the market very soon.

“I am pleased that we have been able to keep a base in the town, and with the new methods of reporting crime online, I think we will be able to serve the public in a more modern and efficient manner.”

The force was criticised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in a report published in February for its work in dealing with vulnerable people and supporting victims, which Mr Alston said was accepted.

“In many ways, there was nothing in the reports from HMIC that surprised me. I think it’s fair to say that certain areas, like work with vulnerable people, have been neglected in previous years and it has taken close management and good leadership in such areas to make changes.

“I am confident of improvement, although it will of course take time before those changes are embedded.”

With the Essex police and crime commissioner voter turnout in 2012 being the fourth lowest in the country, at 12.8 per cent, Mr Alston is hopeful of more engagement with the county’s public this time around.

He said: “It’s difficult to say whether it will be better this time around, I really hope it improves as I think it is very important that people have their say in who they want holding the police to account.

“PCCs are the bridge between the public and the police and so I encourage everyone to get out and vote.”

Mr Alston said family reasons were behind his decision not to stand for the position again.

“My family life is very important to me and I want to give back some time to them. I’m 63 now, 64 in a few weeks and while there are some PCCs who are older, I feel it is the right decision.

“It has been tough, but I have enjoyed the role. It has been a great privilege to serve the county and I am confident the improvements will continue at Essex Police.”

The PCC election takes place today (Thursday).