New chief constable will "exude leadership and command", says new PCC

New PCC Mark Shelford

New PCC Mark Shelford - Credit: Submitted

Avon and Somerset’s new police and crime commissioner has promised to “shout and scream” for more funding for the force and has already spoken to the Home Secretary. 

Conservative candidate Mark Shelford received 34.4 per cent of first preference votes and was elected after second preference votes were counted, beating Labour’s Kerry Barker. 

He is only the area’s second PCC, filling the shoes of independent Sue Mountstevens, who stepped down after nine years in the role. 

The PCC sets the strategic direction for the force and one of Mr Shelford’s first tasks will be to appoint a new chief constable after Andy Marsh announced he would leave in July for a new challenge. 

Asked what qualities he is looking for in a new chief constable in his first interview as PCC – just two-and-a-half hours after he officially began on May 13 – Mr Shelford said: “Somebody that exudes leadership and command and has unshakeable belief in the Peelian principles of policing. 

“They need to have all the qualifications, knowledge and experience. Key to me is the leadership piece. 

“Andy Marsh has been an exceptional leader who has really changed Avon and Somerset for the better. He came in at a difficult time when there had been quite a few chief constables and morale was quite low. 
“He had to deal with a really difficult time and led exceptionally well.”

He said he would not rush to appoint a new chief constable and has asked his team to put together a timeline by early June. 

“I don’t want to hire somebody and find they’ve only got two years of service left. You need time to take over and run and mould a uniformed organisation like this to get it right. 
“I don’t want them coming in and going out again. For whatever reason that’s what my predecessor did. I want to learn the lessons from that.”

One of Ms Mountstevens’ first moves when she was elected in November 2012 was to appoint a new chief constable. 
Nick Gargan was in post for 14 months before he was suspended following allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour towards female officers and staff’. There were two acting chief constables before Mr Marsh took up the role in February 2016. 

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The appointment of a new chief constable will not rest solely on Mr Shelford’s shoulders. The candidates will have to go through vetting and psychometric testing, and be questioned publicly by the police and crime panel. 

Mr Shelford confirmed he will hold the Conservative Government to account and call for a review of the funding formula that historically has not favoured Avon and Somerset. 

He said: “I’ll be shouting and screaming to make sure it’s better balanced. I and a number of other Conservative PCCs were on a call with the Home Secretary and the Minister of Policing last night talking about this very thing. 
“They were receptive. It’s clearly a complicated set of decisions they need to make. That’s not frightened me before. I’ll go out and shout for resources.” 

The former soldier said he could not make a commitment that individual police stations would remain open. 
“One of the first pieces of work is to look at the operational footprint and make sure we’re as efficient and effective as possible,” he said. 
“Taking police stations away won’t doesn’t help offer reassurance. 
“Covid may have given us an opportunity as there may be office space available. 
“I can’t say there won’t be changes – I’m sure there will be. My aim is to have that community coverage. Neighbourhoods are the most important part of what we do.”

Asked what his top priorities are, Mr Shelford said: “My first priority is to go out and visit as many of the police family as possible in my first 30 days. 
“My second is to make sure we have a police and crime plan made from my manifesto. 
“The next priority is recruitment; the chief constable is the most important.”

He will also have to appoint a new chief executive and a deputy PCC. Both roles were previously held by John Smith, who stood as an independent in the race to become PCC.