It is not unreasonable to suggest that public reaction to the elections for the Police and Crime Commissioners held in November 2012 ranged from apathetic to hostile.

This has impacted on my first seven weeks of office in that I have been conscious of the need to work to try to address the situation of low public credibility and eliminate the misunderstanding of what is intended by the changes.

The second main issue has been to agree on a budget for the year beginning on April 1, 2013 and, at the same time, formulate the Police and Crime Plan.

As a directly elected Commissioner I have taken on the main the responsibilities formerly held by the 17 members of the Police Authority.

A key element of the role is specifically to seek out public opinion on the way in which the Constabulary conducts itself and performs its duties and for those views to be reflected in policy making.

This is a new way of doing things and does not represent another layer of bureaucracy, I am committed to ensuring that the people of Cumbria are listened to through the Police and Crime Plan, which sets out the future policing priorities.

I have had the opportunity to visit the six local district councils, meet with the county council and engage with the media. I am now planning visits to meet members of the general public in seven locations across the county in the next six weeks, to collect evidence about what people want to include in the Police and Crime Plan, which has to be completed by the end of March.

I would urge people to either attend or let me know your views via the internet as you really do have an important role in shaping policing.

To help with the defining of the Police and Crime Plan I have taken the opportunity to experience operational policing. I visited Carlisle and Barrow on ‘Festive Friday’ and ascertained an insight into the problems that officers and PCSOs face.

Walking round Carlisle to see the problems created by what we euphemistically refer to as the ‘night time economy’ and witnessing anti-social behaviour and its impact on vulnerable people in Barrow, leave little doubt of the breadth of the challenges.

Recent reductions in officer numbers have forced the current Temporary Chief Constable Bernard Lawson to plan different ways of policing the county.

I have also had meetings with the Superintendents in the three Territorial Policing Areas.I plan to go out on patrol in the Kendal area and want to experience the different types of crime associated with rural areas.

The immediate requirement on the Police and Crime Commissioner is to present the proposals on the budget and the Police and Crime Plan to the Police and Crime Panel.

These are public meetings – the first was held in Penrith and the second is scheduled for Kendal on January 22.

The Panel is made up of elected representatives from the six district and county councils plus two independents and hold me, the Police and Crime Commissioner, to account.

In Cumbria, I also have the issue of the suspension of the previous Temporary Chief Constable Stuart Hyde to resolve. The Police Authority asked the Chief Constable of the South Wales Constabulary to investigate allegations and that process is still under way.

I shall be at the Westmorland Shopping Centre on January 28 from 10am to noon to hear your views about the future policing priorities.

Alternatively, please visit to take part in an online survey or email me on

Police and crime commissioner Richard Rhodes