The women who want to become the new police commissioner

Can either of them get enough votes to defeat Stephen Mold?

It’s just five weeks until the unitary elections. We’ll be having a focus on politics in the run up and to receive our articles subscribe here (free and paid options)

By SarahWard

In 36 days time Northamptonshire residents will go to the polls to vote for a new police, fire and crime commissioner. Ana Savage Gunn is the Liberal Democrat candidate and Clare Pavitt is standing on a Labour and Cooperative ticket.

Both will go up against serving crime commissioner Stephen Mold who NN Journal interviewed last month, and who has held the post since 2016. We spoke to them about what they would do if elected.

Ana Savage Gunn (Liberal Democrat candidate)

After serving for several years as a police officer in Northamptonshire Ana Gunn knows all about the reality of police life. Having joined the force in 1985, she worked as a firearms officer before having to retire in 1996 for medical reasons. After that she worked as a international security consultant in America and then went into business.

During the pandemic she has had a job working as a health care assistant in the care home where her mother lived (in order to see her) and has also been working as a volunteer at a vaccination centre.

But it’s the job of police, fire and crime commissioner that she really wants. And if she gets it she says putting more officers on the street is a must.

“Our priorities have to be set by the public and I want the public to feel safer and that for me is getting more police officers on the street.  Because we are 30 (police officers) less than we were eleven years ago. I would try and take some money out of the police and crime commissioners office and put it back to the police. 

“I would put more police community support officers back in as they are brilliant at community policing. Police officers that have experience you need to hold for the bigger jobs, but community policing is vital.

“The government has underfunded everybody - police, social services, education, the Crown Prosecution Service and I think it is coming home to roost now.

“We are seeing a rise in domestic violence, rape prosecutions have gone down, knife crime has gone up and I think the conservatives have just realised that they have cut too close to the bone, definitely the police service, because they are now trying to desperately add back the 20,000  police officers and staff they they have cut since 2010. 

“We’re 30 officers short of where we were in 2010 and that includes the 200 officers that we have been promised we are getting this year. And we’re paying more for it because the precept has gone up.” 

The role of the police and crime commissioner is to represent residents and hold the chief constable to account.

The Northants Police force is currently rated as inadequate by the police inspectorate and it was only this month that serious concerns raised in 2018 about how it investigated crime and managed demand were lifted. An inspection report published last week said while improvements had been made, the force still has a number of improvements to make in how it protects vulnerable children.

Unsurprisingly, Savage Gunn does not think Stephen Mold has done a good enough job during his five year tenure. In a recent interview with NN Journal he gave himself an eight out of ten for performance. Savage Gunn says she would rate him more as a four.

Referring to the poor inspections in recent years she said: “What was the PCC doing? He is there to make sure the force is effective and efficient and he was asleep at the wheel.”

She also thinks he should have said more publicly on the most high profile crime in the county for many years - the death of teenager Harry Dunn outside RAF Croughton at the wheel of American Anne Sacoolas who fled the country and has so far escaped justice.

“He could have voiced his indignation on behalf of Northamptonshire residents and he didn’t.”

Savage Gunn is however a fan of Chief Constable Nick Adderley who has been in charge since 2018 and says he is leading from the front. She is also a supporter of his taser initiative - which has seen all Northants Police officers equipped with the electric weapon to increase their safety.

Clare Pavitt (Labour and Cooperative candidate)

This is the second time Clare Pavitt will have gone to the polls in recent years, after unsuccessfully bidding to become the MP for Kettering in 2019.

She says the experience on that campaign trail showed her what was really going on in Northamptonshire.

“It became more and more apparent to me that some of the real issues are around crime and community safety and in particular around young people, county lines, organised crime, violent crime. And so when it came out for the candidacy for crime and crime commissioner, I spoke to some Labour Party colleagues who had become police and crime commissioner and they said it is one of the roles where you actually can roll your sleeves up and make a real difference. You can get into the nitty gritty of it and make effective change and that really inspired me to say yes and bite the bullet and do it.”

Perhaps with a dig at her opponent, Savage Gunn, Pavitt, who has worked in local government for many years, says that too much operational knowledge can cloud the questioning of the force that will be necessary for the role.

“Where my strengths lie are that I am very people and decision-making focussed - I understand our communities and I have a background in service improvement and equality and diversity as well. I have those key strengths. You look at what are the improvements, what are the findings and what needs to be done and how do we action this to move forward.

“I think if you have too much operational knowledge you don’t see outside of what you know.

“It is a massive job - there is no denying that - because of where the force is at the moment with regards to effectiveness and efficiency and we have the changes in local government as well.”

Pavitt thinks that much of the county’s recent woes are down to poor leadership.

She said:

“The political leadership across the spectrum of public service has seriously let this county down. Not just our children and young people who are endangered, but our communities as a whole. And the staff that work for these public services are being doubly let down as residents and as employees. The resources and tools they need to deliver the job for their communities just aren’t there, which is causing them undue stress and having effects right across the board.”

To tackle this Pavitt would lobby and fight for the fairer funding review to move forward again. Her first job if elected would be to sit down with the police and fire bosses and quickly go back out to the community and tell them the key actions of what her office will do.

She would also want to raise her profile across the county so that residents know how to contact the commissioner and get out into the communities to find out their concerns.

And she wants to help raise awareness of many of the ‘hidden’ crimes that are happening.

“There needs to be a better awareness within the wider community. Something we may see on a daily basis might not trigger as unusual, but as we have that awareness that these particular signs could potentially be modern day slavery, could be a young person being enticed into drug trafficking, we are more likely to report it. People need to have trust in the reporting system. We need to build that trust in our communities to be able to stand up and say ‘no’. We let things become part of our everyday culture - we just start to live with them and we need to stop doing that.”

As a woman who carries a rape alarm and has taught her daughter how to carry a key between her knuckles to protect herself, Pavitt would put a focus on tackling violence against women and girls and better criminal justice.

“That’s not just about street lights or having more CCTV it is about having a strategy that focuses on healthy relationship, education. Why are rapes not being convicted?”

Asked about her chances of becoming the new commissioner, she said: “I’m optimistic, and I’m going to give this campaign 100 per cent”.