Bedfordshire’s PCC responds to criticism of all-male crime panel

Former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative). Image: Office of the PCC
Former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative). Image: Office of the PCC

Increasing the number of non-councillor members is one way of addressing Bedfordshire’s all-male police and crime panel, a meeting heard. But, there cannot be positive discrimination in co-opted member selection, the panel’s chair said.

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Pane challenges, scrutinises and supports the county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC).

Following last month’s local elections, all the councillors sitting on the panel are now male, as are the three independent members.

Read: Women’s rights charity says all-male police panel is “disappointing”

At the panel’s first meeting since the election (Tuesday, June 6), Bedfordshire’s PCC. Festus Akinbusoye, said: “I need to just say something as a matter of public record.

“It is something that is very, very concerning to me, I think it does not demonstrate the very best of Bedfordshire.

“Even though it is not within my gift to do anything about this, it would be somewhat irresponsible of me to not highlight this issue,” he said.

“As far as I’m aware, we’ve had more women elected to councils in Bedfordshire than ever before.

“Bedfordshire Police has done a tremendous amount of work in recruiting more female officers, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is about 67 per cent female.

“And I would like to think that the population of Bedfordshire as a whole it’s probably about 50 per cent female.

“However in front of me today is a police and crime panel that is all male.

“This is the only police and crime panel in the whole country, as far as I’m aware, that does not have a woman on it,” he claimed.

“It is a concern for me at a time when we’re going to talk about violence against women and girls, domestic abuse, safer streets, and misogyny in policing.

“[These are] issues that directly affect women, but we do not have the voice of women being represented in the panel,” he said.

The panel’s new chair, Paul Downing, said the issue had already been discussed before the main meeting.

“There may be a get-out-of-jail card,” he said. “Because I think we can increase the number of co-opted members.

“Co-opted members are the independent [non-councillor] members,” he explained.

“That would go out to advert, and that advert would be responded to by whoever.

“When I’ve looked up ‘how you do you advertise a job?’ you cannot be discriminative about who you have – it has to be fair and open.

“But it is possibly a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” he said.

The PCC said he will be writing to the council chief executives and council leaders about the recent panel selection process.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter