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'I'll change': Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes reveals new approach after 'car crash' Channel 4 documentary

By Paul Francis

Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes has promised a new approach to her work in the wake of the much-criticised TV documentary that led some to call on her to quit.

Mrs Barnes appeared before a meeting of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel today to respond to calls to reassess her style and repair the damage caused by the documentary.

She outlined a series of measures designed to improve the way she engaged with both the public and the force.

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes when she appeared in a TV documentary. Picture: Channel 4/Richard Ansett

She told the panel: "Yes. I have a distinctive style which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have reflected on what you [the panel] said. I need to put right the upset that some feel."

She promised an end to "confetti Big Bang publicity" and a focus on delivering her police plan.

"I am getting rid of the van. It has been very useful as Kent is a large county, but I do have to acknowledge that its reputation has been tarnished I do not want it to become the story..." - Ann Barnes

Mrs Barnes acknowledged her approach to the role and consulting with the public - one of the key tasks of commissioners - would need to change.

"It will have to be the right mix of style, tone and language relevant to the audience," she said."

She also revealed she would no longer oversee the Kent Police press office after concerns were expressed that they might become involved in promoting her work.

The panel was also told she would be ditching her van - dubbed Ann Force 1 - but several panel members urged her not to, prompting one of the more unusual exchanges.

She said: "I am getting rid of the van. It has been very useful as Kent is a large county, but I do have to acknowledge that its reputation has been tarnished I do not want it to become the story."

Crime commissioner Ann Barnes

That was a reference to concerns of the panel that it might be seen as a campaign vehicle.

But several panel members urged her to reconsider. Cllr John Burden, Gravesham council leader, said: "If you are using it and it is effective and the least costly option then you should keep it."

At the end of the meeting, the commissioner said she would reflect on what the panel had and would reconsider her decision.

Panel chairman Cllr Mike Hill said the commissioner had addressed many of the concerns raised by the TV programme. "We look forward to a good relationship on the future," he added.

Earlier, it was revealed the calamitous Channel 4 documentary on Mrs Barnes is claimed to have led to 40% of the 170 people who contacted her office being "positive" about what she was doing.

And now it has been suggested that none of those who wrote to air negative views after the broadcast should be recorded as formal complaints against the commissioner.

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes eventually spells her job title correctly. Picture: Channel 4

It means she will escape any formal censure and none will be passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission or to Kent’s own complaints panel for investigation.

A report by Police and Crime Panel Policy Officer Mike Campbell concludes that none of those who contacted the commissioner's office amounted to a complaint and therefore should not be recorded as such.

He wrote: "In my judgement, none of the criticisms amounted to a complaint against the commissioner and I therefore agree with the decision of her chief of staff to treat them all as correspondence to be replied to rather than complaints to be recorded."

Ann Barnes in the converted motorhome she uses to travel to events across Kent. Picture: Channel 4

The short two-page report says the crime commissioner's office provided a 10% sample of the correspondence to be analysed - a fraction of the 170 letters received.

The complaints policy adopted by the Kent and Medway Crime Panel says "a complaint does not have to be marked as such to be considered a complaint, nor does it need to be in writing".

It also says there is no right of appeal where a decision is taken not to record it as one.

A separate report by the commissioner to the panel sets out a fresh policy on engagement with communities - but could trigger more criticism.

It says immediate changes “include altering the corporate identity so there is continued focus on the work of the commissioner as the elected member” and making the website “a more business-oriented corporate identity.”

One section includes a reference to “enhancing and developing two-way information flows, communication, understanding and dialogue with all partners and stakeholders.”

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