Published: 00:01, 05 June 2014
Kent’s beleaguered crime commissioner Ann Barnes has survived to fight on in her £85,000 a year job after a tumultuous week that saw her facing calls to quit.
Mrs Barnes endured an uncomfortable near two-hour grilling over her decision to take part in a fly-on-the-wall TV documentary that was ridiculed as a public relations car crash.
And her office was rocked by claims concerning her new youth commissioner Kerry Boyd.
She was reported to have had a relationship with a married father of two who is a former councillor and is now the subject of an inquiry.
But despite the adverse publicity and setbacks, the commissioner said she was determined to carry on and insisted she was the best person for the job.
Mrs Barnes was summoned to appear before councillors on an independent cross-party panel to explain why she had agreed to take part in the Channel 4 documentary “Meet The Commissioner”.
Despite offering several apologies for what she accepted had been a mistake, she faced some harsh criticism from the panel.
She faced claims that she was guilty of “misjudgement after misjudgement” and was forced to concede that she had “bridges to build.”
She accepted the programme was a mistake and revealed that she had tried to persuade Channel 4 to take out some of the more embarrassing clips.
“It was too focused on me, it was not the educational programme I expected it to be. With the benefit of hindsight, would I do it again? No, I would not.”
She was apologetic over the damage to the reputation of the force, telling the panel: “I would like to apologise especially to those hard-working members of the force who I know are very upset about the documentary.”
Of the scenes in which she was seen struggling to define her job and sought to explain a system of prioritorising crimes known as “the onion” she said: “It may have damaged my reputation but I will have to take that on the chin.”
Her repeated attempts to apologise for the TV programme, along with an acknowledgement that she had to build bridges to restore her reputation, did not satisfy many members of the panel.
One of her harshest critics Cllr Andrew Bowles, the leader of Swale Council, said: “We have had misjudgement after misjudgement after misjudgement and there is nothing that I have heard that gives me optimism that we won’t have further misjudgements if the status quo pertains.
“She has to consider whether she is part of the solution or part of the problem. I’m not sure you’re hearing what we’re saying. I’m sure you’re listening, but I’m not sure you’re hearing.”
Cllr Annabelle Blackmore, expected to be elected the new Maidstone council leader, said the commissioner had treated the crime panel with contempt.
But in the face of the criticism, Mrs Barnes shrugged aside suggestions that she resign.
“I have looked long and hard at the work I do in the county. I work incredibly hard, you know I do....I do deliver and I do know my job. I am going on with business as usual.”
The panel chairman Cllr Mike Hill ordered the commissioner to change her style and the way she engaged with the public.
“There is no doubt the reputation of the force has been damaged by association,” he said.
Video: Ann Barnes gives her opening statement to the panel
Mrs Barnes is now expected to start a three-week holiday.
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