Vaccinating police officers should be a ‘priority’

A Wiltshire councillor has called for a faster roll-out of vaccines to police officers – as “protecting those who protect us must be a priority.”

Jonathon Seed, who is standing to become the next Police & Crime Commissioner in Wiltshire and Swindon, wants the “highest levels of protection” for the force.

In England, all frontline health and social care workers have been offered the Covid-19 vaccine.

But an independent report from a government advisory panel, published earlier this month, suggested that “occupational vaccination” should be addressed as part of a second phase.

At the meeting of the Police and Crime Panel today (January 7) Cllr Seed spoke about the need to ensure that those on the frontline are protected with the vaccine.

Cllr Seed, who represents Summerham and Seend, said: “We have a responsibility to make sure that police officers and staff who are not able to work in a COVID-secure way are protected by the vaccine. I want every officer who is working on the frontline to have that protection. Protecting those who protect us must be a priority.

“We know that there are officers and staff who are in harm’s way because of the frontline role that they carry out. Roles such as response officers or working in our custody suites. Criminals don’t respect social distancing requirements, they don’t care about health and safety and we have heard of too many instances where officers have been spat at, coughed at and deliberately targeted by people who want to do them harm by spreading the virus.

“I want the highest levels of protection for those officers who spend their days and nights keeping our communities safe and I am pleased that the Policing Minister is listening to the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Police Federation about protecting our frontline with the vaccine.

” I continue to be inspired by the dedication of Wiltshire Police Officers and the way they have stepped up to police the restrictions brought in as a result of the need to curb the spread of this deadly virus.”

His call comes after Wiltshire Police chief constable Kier Pritchard also made the case for police officers receiving vaccines as a priority.

He said officers had put themselves in harm’s way, sometimes “almost blind as to whether or not there was a risk”.

He told the Swindon Advertiser: “I think there’s a real case for saying that all frontline workers should be prioritised.

“My officers and staff throughout this pandemic have put themselves in harm’s way.

“They do that every single day.”

The police force in Wiltshire has been exemplary during this crisis

Cllr Jonathon Seed is the Conservative candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate for Wiltshire & Swindon and a councillor in Wiltshire.

Our national electoral closedown in mid-March came after two days of intense speculation at the heart of Government and was unwelcome news in political circles. I am the local Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate and had entered the “final straight” of the race to be elected as PCC for Wiltshire and Swindon. I suspect that many of us had been in denial of the inevitable. When the Prime Minister made the announcement on that stark Friday afternoon that all elections were to be postponed for a year we had our first dose of reality.

The effects were hard – but in all of this we need to recognise that many were dealing with much more severe emerging consequences of the virus. However, I still had to dismantle a political team and put them on hold for a year including making paid staff redundant. Major printing orders were cancelled at the very last moment, an office had to be closed, and we had to put my campaign account into mothballs. All of this had to be explained to thousands of supporters in very short order. I was fortunate in being able to (just) stop my major leaflet and poster orders.

I was less fortunate in that I had given up my local political roles and will simply have to find something else to occupy my time for the next year. Campaigning is suspended whilst we do our bit to help the local effort to tackle COVID-19, but we will be back and we will be ready to fight the election next year with restored and renewed vigour.

Ten days later, although lockdown was expected it came as suddenly in Wiltshire as the rest of the Country. We knew that we needed it, but like all “medicine” many did not want to take it when the time came. The effects were as difficult here in Wiltshire as the rest of the country. There have been mercifully few local cases and a relatively small number of deaths in the County but each one comes with personal tragedy and grief. Local businesses (including my own holiday business) have been devastated and many of us are facing life in reduced circumstances. However we are all in this together and it has been heart-warming to be a part of an inspirational community response to the national crisis.

In Wiltshire there have been very few difficulties that the local and rural communities have not risen to. Our Council swung into action with an immediate transfer of activity lead from politicians to officers. Wiltshire Council officers have done a grand job in reorganising to deliver essential services needed by residents and to distribute help to businesses in very short order. However, it has been at the most local levels that the real British community spirit has emerged. Every one of the villages that I represent rapidly established individual community support groups and as their local Councillor I am active in support, ranging from arranging liaison with County Hall to delivering support leaflets in my local community.

This is a time for those of us trained to deal with crises and difficulties (in my case through twenty odd years of military service) to use our skills. I chair our Melksham Community Area Board and which was very quick off the mark with the establishment of a formal support network for the 25,000 residents in our area with an advisory website and more volunteers to coordinate than we can use. Our local unitary councillors attend a weekly Skype meeting and work together to share experiences and deal with issues. Part of the joy of this effort has been to see our local politicians immediately dropping their political differences and rolling up their sleeves to work together for our residents. Amongst national difficulty, our local businesses are gaining support and changing how they operate. Many pubs have moved to provide takeaway services, farm shops are booming, and local village stores are delivering. No one needs to feel alone or isolated and we all help somewhere in this.

Our Wiltshire police force has also dealt admirably with the challenge of changing circumstances. The Wiltshire response to policing the COVID-19 restrictions has been exemplary with the measured and sensitive enforcement needed being applied with a light but firm touch. The Chief Constable has been leading this deployment from the front with clear direction to officers trying to deliver a new message in policing. There also has been an upside to the severely reduced road traffic in that it has allowed officers to target criminal activity much more easily and this has directly resulted in the severance of at least one significant county drug line. Also spare a thought for the volunteer police special constables who continue to risk themselves for NO remuneration. Our thanks and admiration are doubly given to them in these difficult times. Life is also difficult for our PCC who is unable to retire as planned but has immediately announced his willingness to stay for the extra year. It is widely known that he is not in the best of health and is not as actively mobile as he once was but he soldiers on.

The national message is of a Government leading the response as best it can in the most difficult of circumstances (in spite of appalling journalists pursuing their own “attack” agenda and badly misjudging the national mood). The local message from Wiltshire is one of stoic perseverance, a wonderful rural community spirit, the British coping with a crisis as they do best and a superb local police force getting its policing response to COVID-19 just right. When we emerge from this crisis, as we surely will, Moonrakers will be able to look back on what they did in these difficult times with quietly reflective pride.

Gathering of Conservative PCCs and candidates

I attended a gathering of Conservative PCCs and candidates in London on 7th August. We had some quality time with both the Home Secretary in CCHQ and the Prime Minister in No 10.

I lobbied hard for fairer and increased funding for our police in Wiltshire and Swindon, and I was pleased that both the PM and the the Home Secretary listened to the reasoned and balanced rationale I put forward.

Disrupting and dealing robustly with poaching

There are some crimes that only affect our rural communities and I have been  very pleased that poaching is something that Wiltshire Police have been disrupting and dealing with robustly.  

Operation Artemis was launched in 2017 following representations from farmers and their workers, gamekeepers and estate owners because poaching has long since stopped being the “one for the pot” image we may have.  

Criminals and gangs involved in poaching are organised and can travel long distances to take part in illegal activity in our countryside. Illegal betting can see large amounts of money pass hands, which can be linked to other crimes such as burglary, drug dealing and fraud. In addition to livestock, game, deer and wildlife being killed and stolen, landowners, tenants and game keepers can be intimidated, threatened and attacked by poachers who often use weapons for their illegal poaching. Damage is caused to footpaths, bridleways, woodland, crops and to wildlife and their habitats by these criminals when they target our countryside. This impacts on livelihoods and creates fear in our rural communities.  

I am very encouraged by Wiltshire Police working much more closely with those affected by poaching so that intelligence and information can be acted upon promptly and people can be reassured that action has been taken. I will however be following up on a recent increase in illegal activity in the Steeple Ashton area of Wiltshire to ensure that the police continue to have the cooperation and proactive assistance of local people. I will also be asking for an update on the impact of Operation Artemis, which has been running now for almost two years. 

A quick reminder… when reporting incidents of poaching that have occurred, call 101 and quote ‘Operation Artemis’. If you are aware of illegal activity taking place at the time, call 999 and provide as much location detail as possible.

Justin Tomlinson MP for North Swindon and Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health

Justin Tomlinson MP for North Swindon and Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health 

It was good to catch up with Justin Tomlinson MP for North Swindon and Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health. Here’s what Justin had to say about me and my campaign… 

“I am delighted to be supporting Jonathon Seed to become our next Conservative PCC. I am encouraged about Jonathon’s willingness to get out in to our communities and meet with residents so that they can help shape policing priorities.  

I know Jonathon to be extremely hardworking and passionate about listening to and working with the public, which is has been doing in his role as a local councillor for many years.  

People in Swindon want to have a PCC who meets and engages with them so that their concerns about policing can be raised directly with the person who is elected to give them a voice. I am confident this is the type of PCC that Jonathon will be and I am extremely happy to lend him my support.”