PCC Festus Akinbusoye, “I’m not a typical Tory”

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PCC Festus Akinbusoye
PCC Festus Akinbusoye

It’s three months since Festus Akinbusoye was elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, becoming the first Black person in the country to fill the role.

PCC Akinbusoye stood as the Conservative candidate but says he does not see himself as a typical Tory. “It’s more important what you do – that you are judged on your actions – rather than your political party,” he says.

As if to prove the point, he tells us he’s recently been interviewed for a piece in the left-leaning Guardian, although does let slip that he did spend Monday with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, so he’s covering all bases.

What’s immediately obvious is the optimism that Festus has brought to the role. This optimism is combined with realism around the task ahead, particularly as he tackles the dire funding crisis that Bedfordshire’s police force faces.

Thanks to a funding formula that was devised by the previous Labour government that has not been revised since, Bedfordshire is funded as a rural police force.

This is despite being home to a busy airport and large, diverse urban hubs including Bedford and Luton.

“Before I was appointed I knew funding was a big issue, but it was a revelation to me how incredibly stretched the force is and how much the funding formula affects us,” he said.

Bedfordshire ranks fourth in the country of exposure to county lines drug dealing,” said PCC Akinbusoye. “We have got some very dangerous people in our county who will exploit and do anything to make money.”

“You can’t solve problems you don’t know about”

PCC Akinbusoye has been busy since his inauguration, getting out and about to meet communities and organisations to better understand the issues at the heart of the county.

An example of the value of this was a chance meeting with a young man on a street in Bedford that led the PCC to discover an organisation working with excluded pupils.

“I wouldn’t have known about that organisation if I hadn’t bumped into that person. I want to be out and about,” he says. “You can’t solve problems that you don’t know about.

“I am in a position where I can pick up the phone and talk to people [in positions of power] that others might not be able to.

“I want to be visible and accessible to people who may not feel they have a voice.”

Challenges

PCC Akinbusoye says the biggest challenges the county faces are drugs – not only dealing but also the anti-social behaviour that surrounds drugs and drug use – and the risk of sexual exploitation online.

PCC Festus Akinbusoye speaking to Erica Roffe
PCC Festus Akinbusoye speaking to Bedford Independent’s co-managing editor Erica Roffe

He has also invested money in support for officers writing up reports to be submitted to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS).

“Some forces are able to employ a team of people to prepare reports to the CPS which make them much harder for the defence team at a trial to counteract. We want to put the needs of the victims first,” he said.

Festus concedes that there needs to be much more coordination between the local authorities, police and other organisations and is aiming to build relationships throughout the county.

“I have so much admiration for the police officers in Bedfordshire,” said the PCC. “The enthusiasm, passion and – in some cases – hopeless optimism, is incredible.”

His praise isn’t just reserved for the officers on the Force. “The willingness of senior leadership to accept and implement my plan has been great.

“So far, I’d say it’s all good.”

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