Sue Mountstevens: "One year on and I love the job"
IT WAS always going to be a big job. Replacing an entire police authority at a time when forces continue to be hamstrung by budget cuts was always going to be a huge challenge.
But, one year on, Sue Mountstevens told the Bristol Post: "It's a job that's been much better than I thought it would be. It's been more challenging, but it's a very worthwhile job and one that I've thoroughly enjoyed.
"The year has gone so fast, it's unreal. It's a hectic job, but you hear the expression 'if you love what you're doing it's not your job anymore' and that's what it's become really.
"I would love to be able to divide myself into more people to be able to attend all the phenomenal things that I get invited to, but sadly there's only one of me, although for some people that would probably be enough.
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"It just becomes a way of life and it's been different for me because I've never been a politician, I've never been a councillor. It was quite a change, but I absolutely love it."
Ms Mountstevens, of the well-known bakery family, ran for election last November 15 on the independent ticket, determined that party politics should not figure in the new role created to replace the police authority she was part of, alongside councillors and independent members.
She won by a landslide, defeating her closest rival and Tory favourite Ken Maddock by almost 60,000 votes.
As for achievements, Ms Mountstevens is particularly proud of setting up the Independent Residents' Panel which scrutinises complaints against the police.
She is equally proud of the Action Fund, a £200,000 pot opened up for charities and community groups to bid for grants of up to £5,000.
Ms Mountstevens, a married mother-of-three from North Somerset, added: "I suppose one of the most delightful things is meeting so many people.
"It's been an absolute privilege to meet groups of people, carers, survivors, victims of crime, the organisations, small and big that are out there daily doing their job of working with people with very little reward, very little recognition. To meet people like that certainly has opened my eyes to some of the issues across Avon and Somerset."
Finally, she is proud that her four main priorities – tackling anti-social behaviour, violence against women and children, burglary and creating a louder voice for victims – have been embedded into the constabulary's plans too.
She added: "The fact that crime is continuing to come down and detection rates are increasing against a backdrop of having to find savings of £35 million, I think, is pretty impressive."
Ms Mountstevens, 58, anticipates that police forces will continue to be hit by Government funding cuts and it will have an impact on overall officer numbers in Avon and Somerset, as it has done over the past four years.
"These cuts are only going to increase," she warned. "No matter what government is next, no-one is going to turn up with a pot of gold.
"When 80 per cent of your budget are people, and there is going to be continually less money from central government, that is where it's going to be.
"But I will always support putting money into people before I put money into buildings."
Would Ms Mountstevens stand again for election in 2016?
"I'll make a decision much nearer the time. I've only done one year so far."