An inimitable style

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DEALING with the media is virtually a daily occurrence in my position and, over the years, I have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) of meeting hundreds of journalists and broadcasters from almost every media outlet in this country and many others across the world.

Every now and again I come across someone who stands out in their profession and really shows how the job should be done.

Paul Watson, the Head of News at the Hartlepool Mail, was one of those people and I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of his death over the weekend.

Being interviewed by Paul was just like having a chat with a mate. He had his own inimitable style which was almost apologetic at times when he had to ask some uncomfortable questions and you could guarantee our “chats” would end up digressing to football or the family.

His coverage of any story was always very fair and very balanced. He would never try to put words in my mouth and always ensured I had the opportunity to get my point across accurately.

What absolutely shone through in every conversation I ever had with Paul was that he cared passionately about what he was doing and that made it a true pleasure to work with him over the years. He will be sorely missed.

My role as chair of the Cleveland Police Authority came to an end last week and we made the transition to the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

I’ve said before that it was one of the most challenging and sometimes unpleasant roles I have ever done.

Some of the problems related to Operation Sacristy have been well documented and the officer misconduct part of the investigation is nearing completion.

The criminal investigation continues and will do so for some time to come and now shouldn’t get in the way of business for the PCC.

In fact, I believe the PCC is inheriting an extremely well run and well governed organisation which has recently received a clean bill of health from the auditors. This is actually quite some achievement considering the state the police authority was in a little over a year ago.

I wish Barry Coppinger every success in his role as the new Commissioner and look forward to working with him over the next six months.

Hartlepool is currently delivering the lowest crime figures on record and the force has some of the best public satisfaction rates in the country.

Good planning by some excellent partnerships is key to our success and I will certainly invite the commissioner to come and be part of our success and help us get even better.

As part of the responsibilities, he will get most of our community safety budget so it will be vital that he understands what we do in Hartlepool and, more importantly, why we do it.

The best way to do that in my view is to become an integral part of our partnerships and I’ll look forward to welcoming Barry to be part of our team.

There are many similarities between the role of a Police and Crime Commissioner and an elected mayor and I fully understand some of the challenges facing him.

The most important part of the job is to be accountable for your decisions. It doesn’t particularly matter what the decision is but you must be able to explain and justify each and every decision you make.

Virtually every decision will have an impact on the public purse and therefore the council tax that each household in the area has to pay.

When the full extent of Operation Sacristy is made public, we will see how important it is to be absolutely transparent with every single penny of public money that is spent.

If a commissioner does their job properly, they will bring extra transparency to the expenditure of what used to be police authorities and I’m sure Commissioner Coppinger will continue the ethos of transparency and accountability that I had helped to instil in the Police Authority.

I will become part of the new Police and Crime panel that has been set up to hold the Commissioner to account, made up of Councillors from across the Cleveland area.

Sadly, despite my protestations, Hartlepool only got two seats at the table as opposed to Stockton’s four, Middlesbrough’s three and Redcar’s three.

Many of the members are former members of the police authority so will have an in depth knowledge of police matters and should therefore be able to support and scrutinise the Commissioner effectively and I’m sure party politics will be left at the door.

Things are changing at a rapid rate and it is absolutely crucial that a lot of the good work that has gone on in the past does not get lost in the mayhem and forgotten about.

Hartlepool has punched above its weight for a long time when it comes to policing and community safety matters and we need to keep on doing so.

If you have a successful formula, why would you change the recipe?

I know we have a successful formula in Hartlepool and we have the results to prove it. I look forward to Barry Coppinger becoming one of the ingredients in our formula and helping us gain even more success.