We speak to Olly Martins as he officially becomes Bedfordshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner.
‘Excited - but a little daunted’.
That is how Olly Martins feels as he officially steps into the role of Bedfordshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner today (Thursday) after winning last week’s election.
The winning Labour candidate admitted he had spent the days since the election ‘being briefed up to the eyeballs’ but was relishing the challenge ahead: “It is a year zero kind of thing, it’s a completely different set up to anything we’ve had before.”
Thursday, November 22 sees the official handover from the former Bedfordshire Police Authority. Olly was keen to offer his thanks for the efforts made by the authority, in particular in the run-up to the change.
Recalling when he first heard of the idea of elected police chiefs, Olly said: “I thought it was a bit of an American import. The Prime Minster wanted something different to say on law and order. I don’t think it has been that thoroughly thought through and it was quite dogmatically imposed.
“The result is that 41 PCCS are feeling their way through this, and this is a very poor way to develop policy.
“However, I have a responsibility to do all I can to make a success of it.”
The big talking point surrounding the PCC elections had been the record low turnout by voters across the country: “The turnout was undeniably disappointing. I was pleased Bedfordshire was one of the highest turnouts but it was still pretty dire.”
Olly won the vote in Luton but didn’t in either the Central Beds or Bedford council areas.
He said: “I am from Luton and we did well in Luton. However, I am absolutely determined to say I am commissioner for the whole county, and I am there for the whole county.
“Bedfordshire is like the whole country in microcosm. Luton has many of the problems of a London borough. Bedford is a typical market town, while there are many rural areas too.
“It’s not like all the problems stay in Luton. I am here to police all the county. We need to tackle the problems of Luton but there isn’t a wall around Luton.”
He was aware of the diverse politics in Bedfordshire, with Labour enjoying a strong position in Luton, the Conservatives dominating in Central Beds and Bedford having a Liberal Democrat mayor. But he said whoever had been elected would have had the task of working with people across the political spectrum.
Olly fought the election stating his aim to reverse the contract outsourcing some police work to G4S. He reiterated this week: “My position hasn’t changed. We are not at the point where we have to make a decision on it but my position remains the same.”
Overall Olly believed the police do ‘a difficult job very well’: “However there have been issues and areas they can do better in.
“I really want to play a role in valuing the police and helping the police through this difficult time of change and cuts.
“As commissioner I want to encourage them in doing as professional a job as possible, but in a way that is supportive, not critical or hectoring.”
The first major item on Olly’s to do list is to set the budget, never easy in a time of cutbacks.
“I am taking quite a cautious approach, but I do also want to look for opportunities to show that there has been a change here,” he said.
He pledged a commitment to spend as much time as possible out and about across the county, and wanted a transparent relationship with the public - listening to the issues and concerns, and then taking the appropriate action.
He has had the chance to sit down with Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock ‘a couple of times’, and said: “I think we have a good relationship. We have a shared vision of where we want to take Bedfordshire.”