Guest blog: Gillian Howells, Police and Crime Panel Chair

I became involved with the Gwent Police and Crime Panel in 2016, before becoming chair last year.

Having grown up in a little village in Cwmbran, I moved to the Caerphilly area more than 20 years ago when I ‘married into’ the village, so Gwent is an integral part of my life. We have a young daughter, I love music, particularly country music, and travelling as much as I can. We have been lucky to visit destinations in Europe and have travelled Canada and America extensively. As a family we also enjoy visiting our favourite beauty spots, such as Southerndown and Langland Bay, as well as cheering on the Cardiff Devils ice hockey club.

Having taken a career break after more than 20 years in local government finance, I was looking at public appointments as a route to ‘engage the brain’. I saw an advert for the role of Independent Member on the panel and, as it was a role looking at performance within the public sector, it really appealed to me. After successfully applying to be an Independent Member, I attended my first meeting in December 2016.

The role of the panel is to support and challenge the Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure that that the function is effectively carried out and that the annual Police and Crime Plan is delivered by the Chief Constable and the Force. As a member of the Panel, the performance of Gwent Police and how the Police and Crime Commissioner holds the Chief Constable to account is something I have focused on consistently.

I am particularly proud of the framework that is now being developed with the engagement of colleagues on the Panel and with the staff in the Commissioner’s office and Gwent Police force itself.

Within the first year alone, I learnt a huge amount about how Gwent Police functions and the constraints within which they have to operate. The necessity for changes in how the force operate are increasing and they have to frequently adapt to changing technology, public perception and financial constraints.

Going forward, the current circumstances of COVID 19, in particular, have demonstrated to the wider public how increasingly important and vital the public services are.

I hope to be involved with the Panel for many years to come and to be able to play a small part in ensuring Gwent Police have the vital support and engagement they need from the Panel and ensuring that the Police and Crime Commissioner is supporting them in the delivery of their services.