Police and crime meeting was not cancelled on party grounds

MY attention has been drawn to an article “Meeting axed to protect Labour says opposition”, which appeared in the Rotherham Advertiser on April 29.

The headline and the substance of the article, that I, as chair of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, decided to cancel a meeting of the panel in April 2016 for partisan political reasons, are simply untrue.

In fact, they are the opposite of the truth. I wanted the April meeting of the panel to go ahead and pushed strongly for this. However, I was advised by the panel’s legal adviser that the statutory restrictions relating to the conduct of business during a pre-election period (purdah) and the guidance to those statutory requirements provided by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners led to the conclusion that the panel meeting should not be held. That advice was confirmed by the chief executive of Rotherham MBC and then by a second opinion from Sheffield City Council.

The article also suggests that the Police and Crime Commissioner also wanted the meeting to be cancelled. Dr Billings advises me that this is also untrue.

Finally where the article appears to quote me, these are not my words but in fact the advice given by officers which I circulated to members of the panel.  If your reporter had contacted me I could have explained this. But he didn’t.

It appears the article was written solely on the basis of comment and information from former UKIP councillor Caven Vines. Mr Vines’ attendance at PCP meetings was erratic to say the least. And at our last meeting, when other members scrutinised and discussed the PCC’s revised Police & Crime Plan in some detail, he asked not a single question. In light of this, his protestations of wanting to hold the PCC to account ring hollow.

Sioned-Mair Richards

(Editor’s note: This letter was sent on May 17 but was mislaid by our server).