We welcome Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Constabulary, to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West business community.
Hello Sue, tell us about your role as Police and Crime Commissioner
The Police and Crime Commissioner has a variety of responsibilities including holding the Chief Constable to account, formulating the 5 year policing plan to prioritise local issues and managing the council tax contribution. My main role is to improve the criminal justice system and improve the connection between the police and the public. I think there has been a disconnection between them and I want to give local people more of a voice in policing.
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
My main challenge is financial: we need to find £15m in funding for the next two years, which is a big ask. The public will have to think hard about what they are willing to pay for policing via their council tax. This could be anything from a freeze up to a 10% increase, though anything above 2% requires a referendum.
Do you believe the current difficult economic climate has any effect on crime rate?
The current figures are very good: crime is reducing, detection is increasing and over £35m has been saved from the budget. However, these figures are not going to last forever with a background of reduced budgets. We need to discuss expectations with the public, especially in regards to what the police are not going to do.
Are you getting enough support from the government?
The government are also in a difficult situation and I am happy with the support I am receiving from the Home Office. In particular I am pleased with initiatives around mental health. Because of a lack of health provision, people with mental health issues are sometimes housed in police cells rather than mental health facilities. This is completely unacceptable; cells are inappropriate facilities for the mentally ill. I have discussed the issue with Ministers to prevent this from happening in future.
How are you working with South West businesses?
I want the South West business community to be more involved in local policing. We are launching the business crime forum at the end of September along with a rural forum. We are working closely with the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and other business organisations to give south west businesses more of a voice.
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships or advisory roles?
Being Police and Crime Commissioner keeps me very busy, so I don’t have any other roles. It is also important in this position to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to someone taking on a new leadership position?
Make sure that you focus on the priorities. You have to admit to yourself that you are not going to be able to do everything. Assess what you can realistically achieve and where you can have the greatest impact. Make sure that you are enthusiastic, hard working and honest.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy running and I have taken part in many 10k runs and local half marathons, though I’m probably not capable of doing one at the moment! I also enjoy gardening because it physically removes me from the workplace and gives me time to think. Finding time to spend with my husband is very important.
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
It’s an interesting question, and I suppose my personal inspiration is my father. He was a hard working businessman who always had the highest integrity. His word was his bond: if he had shaken your hand on a deal nothing could make him change the terms.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
I have a pile of books by my bed generously donated by friends and family but I generally only have time to read when I am on holiday. Sadly most of my reading is briefing papers! My iPod has lots of music that I like to run to, mostly from my younger days such as the Beatles and Genesis. I must admit to not keeping up with the charts!