THE failure of Warwickshire police and crime commissioner Ron Ball to attend a public meeting in his home village of Bidford has caused a bit of a stir.
Mr Ball had been due to take part in a meeting of the Alcester and Bidford Community Forum on Tuesday evening last week. Indeed, the whole event had been constructed around his anticipated presence.
But on the previous Thursday—less than a week before the meeting—Mr Ball announced that he would not be taking part in the proceedings because of a personal engagement but sent his deputy, Dr Eric Wood, instead.
This did not go down very well with Stratford district councillor Daren Pemberton (Lib Dem, Bidford and Salford), the chairman of the forum. In fact, Cllr Pemberton saw red.
Shortly before Tuesday’s meeting Cllr Pemberton said the invitation to Mr Ball had originally been made informally about three days after his election as police commissioner last November.
“The formal invitation was made just before Christmas and he accepted in January,” said Cllr Pemberton. “We’d done the advertising and leaflets were printed with the use of public money. Then at about three-thirty last Thursday we received an e-mail from his office saying he was not coming.
“I thought he must have been summoned by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to a meeting in London, but in fact he’d decided to pull out because some friend he hadn’t seen for a while decided it was the only night they could get together.
“I sent a stroppy e-mail to him yesterday [Monday] that prompted him to ring me about five o’clock. He said, ‘I’m entitled to a private life’. But the whole thing had been built around him. The other person was the crime prevention officer. We built it up as a crime and policing evening.”
Cllr Pemberton said being police and crime commissioner was an important job. “You don’t apply to be the police and crime commission and think it’s a two-day a week job—certainly not on £65k,” he said.
“He was quite happy to make time to talk to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5 Live three weeks ago about police and crime commissioners engaging with the public and how
important it was. He will make time to speak to Victoria Derbyshire, but not the people who elected him.”
Dr Wood told the Herald it had been “a very lively meeting” at which he had outlined the role of the police and crime commissioner and spoken about the police and crime plan and the budget for policing.
He said: “Whilst I can understand Cllr Pember-ton’s disappointment that Ron was not present, the residents seemed more concerned with discussing issues rather than personalities. The matter was not raised during a wide-ranging question session.
“I was personally grateful to Cllr Pemberton for his warm welcome and I’m sure he’ll extend the same courtesies when Ron attends a future meeting of the forum.”
Cllr Pemberton said more than 50 residents attended —a big turnout—and they were disappointed to hear that Mr Ball was not attending. But he agreed with the comments made by Dr Wood in his statement.
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