Is the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner worth her £85k salary?

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
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WOULD you recognise Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner?

One year ago, Vera Baird was elected to the post on a 16.4 per cent turnout. She received 56 per cent of the vote.

But do the people of Wearside know their own commissioner?

One today described her role as “worthwhile”, though another felt her £85,000 salary was “a waste of money”.

Mrs Baird does have the support of Police Minister Damian Green, who feels the commissioners have made a positive difference.

He also mentioned the three per cent fall in crime across the country, though a YouGov poll found just nine per cent of people believed the commissioners had contributed.

The position was introduced after concerns about the lack of accountability of police authorities.

The roles of the commissioner include maintaining the efficiency of the force, setting their budget and strategic direction and holding the Chief Constable accountable.

Mrs Baird campaigned with the promise of combating violence against women and antisocial crime, as well as championing neighbourhood policing.

Her strategy to tackle violence against women is set to be unveiled next month which she says is one of her proudest achievements.

She was formerly MP for Redcar between 2001-10, but lost her seat after anger at the closure of Teesside Steelworks, suffering the highest swing against a Labour candidate.

Meanwhile, Mrs Baird’s Durham counterpart, Ron Hogg, has spoken of his first year in office.

He said: “The public should have confidence in their police force as they work hard for our communities.

“I will continue to monitor performance and crime rates and will work with the police and partners, to protect all of our communities but especially those who are most vulnerable.”

He has tasked the police with reducing the impact of domestic violence, hate crime and anti-social crime, while improving road safety. Financially, he has challenged his force to save £5 million over the next two years, due to Government cuts.

We showed a picture of Vera Baird to a cross-section of the Sunderland public.

Alan Fisher, 71, Fatfield, retired, said: “She’s something to do with the police. I do think it’s a worthwhile role, but £85,000 is a lot of money and I haven’t seen a great difference.”

Lisa Riley, 42, Sunderland city centre, a cleaner, said: “I don’t know her or how well she’s doing. With antisocial crime, it’s down to the parents not police.”

Bill Hawkins, 58, Thorney Close, said: “I don’t know, is she local? I’ve never seen her on camera. That salary is not fair, you could get two or three extra bobbies on the beat for that.”

Keith Thompson, 73, Grindon, retired: “That’s Vera Baird. Her job was to sort out the police budget. I know her because my son’s in the police. Whether she does a good job, who knows?”