Work taking place behind the scenes to tackle the crisis
We are living through a time of unprecedented crisis, during which the police and others are playing a critical role in keeping people safe.
And while, quite rightly, much of the focus is on the work being carried out by frontline staff, there is also a great deal of work being done behind the scenes.
As well as scrutinising the police and holding Chief Constables to account, Police and Crime Commissioners around the country have an important role to play in supporting their local forces by working closely with partners in local government and lobbying national Government for improvements.
That work is perhaps now more important than ever before and is continuing, both across the country and here in Dorset.
Last week, I spoke to the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners – the organisation representing PCCs – to raise my concerns around the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for police officers and staff.
The association has now written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, stating nationally we remain very concerned that frontline officers and staff are still not able to access the equipment they need to carry out their role safely.
This is a huge issue across the country, and we regularly hear about how our colleagues in the NHS and care sector have a critical shortage of this equipment. But as the police are expected to enforce our extended lockdown, making sure people stay at home and don’t put pressure on the NHS, the Home Secretary needs to make sure our officers and staff are also able to access the PPE they need.
We await a satisfactory response but will continue to put pressure on the Home Secretary until we receive one.
As well as being in daily contact with senior police officers, I have regular meetings – virtually of course – with our council leaders and MPs.
One issue which has come up during these meetings is confusion over the term ‘beauty spots’ – which is often referred to in national guidance.
We’re fortunate enough to live in a county which is famous for its beauty spots and which, during normal times, is visited by people from all over the UK.
But while the often-quoted national advice was for people to avoid travelling to beauty spots, there needed to be a much clearer definition of what was meant by this, and so our MPs asked for some clarity, which has now been provided.
Another issue that many people – including myself – were unaware of is that of dating apps, which have been continuing to operate as if the lockdown had never happened.
It was brought to my attention that people were still able to use these apps to arrange to meet other users at their homes, putting themselves at huge risk of either catching or transmitting Covid-19, with absolutely no warning messages in place.
I spoke to a government Minister about this, raising my concerns and asking for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to call for these apps to adopt a much more responsible approach. It is my understanding that this has taken place but I will be continuing to monitor the situation and asking anyone who is concerned to get in touch if they are aware of apps failing to provide appropriate warnings.
Concerns have also been raised by some MPs about a potential increase in fly tipping caused by the closure of public waste and recycling centres. While there is so far no evidence from the local authorities that there has been any increase in cases, it is good to see that garden waste collections are now going to start again – a good example of MPs and councils working together.
Times like this call for a wide range of organisations, from police and fire to the health services and local authorities, to work closely together, as well as with the public themselves.
The fact that officers in Dorset only had to issue 23 fixed penalty notices to people breaking the restrictions during the first few weeks of lockdown – one of the lowest numbers in the country – shows that we are able to work together.
I hope that, while the coronavirus lockdown is one of the direst situations we have ever experienced, we can all continue to approach it in this collaborative way.