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My view: It should be coppers not commissioners

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: August 16, 2012

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I HAVE robustly opposed the Government's plans to introduce police and crime commissioners because of unnecessary and undesirable party-political influence being brought into policing, the concentration of power in the hands of one individual, and cost.

The degree of unfettered party-political control over the governance of policing after November is, I believe, a sinister development.

The Government has not produced one shred of evidence to show how these changes will improve policing and make residents feel more safe and secure.

It looks highly likely the changes will increase the cost of police governance, leading to even fewer police officers being employed.

It is obscene that at this time of austerity the Government seems prepared to spend £75 million or so on the PCC elections in November, while the number of police officers is being cut.

I also now see the Home Secretary wants another £3 million to publicise these elections – clear evidence that this policy is flawed.

My view is clear: It should be coppers not commissioners.

However, we are where we are, so given my opposition to commissioners why am I standing as an independent candidate at the upcoming election?

Basically I feel these changes could harm policing if the person elected has a rigid party-political position or strange ideas which the police would not be able to legally deliver.

I believe my experience as a member and, a former chairman of the Police Authority for Cornwall, Devon and the Isles of Scilly, plus my national role at the Association of Police Authorities, gives me considerable experience and a range of contacts both locally and nationally.

This experience also helps me to understand the dangers of the new system of governance imposed by Parliament which will help me to mitigate some of the downsides.

Why stand as an independent? I have long argued that it's wrong to bring party politics into policing and I am not prepared to deviate from this position.

If some of my political "friends" don't like it, so be it – I am not going to indulge in a U-turn over this principle.

The Government was not prepared to listen to public concerns about this before the legislation was passed. The election on November 15 gives the public a chance through the ballot box to register their concern by rejecting candidates wearing a party political rosette.

If elected, I am clear that my accountability is to the people of the area, not to a minister in London giving directions to commissioners of his or her party colour.

From my local government experience I am used to engaging with communities. I would regard this as a priority in terms of setting an agenda for the policing of crime in the two counties and the islands.

While I was chairman of the Police Authority two important policies were adopted. Firstly, it was agreed to increase the number of officers over a six-year period from 2,800 to 3,500. This was delivered.

Thanks to Government cuts, we are now having to lose officers again, with current financial projections suggesting we are going back to a level of around 2,800 – not acceptable in my book.

The second policy made our force one of the six pilots for the introduction of Police Community Support Officers, with six being deployed in Honiton and six in Truro. They have been a big hit and we now employ 359.

PCSOs are funded currently by a grant from the Home Office. This will be absorbed into the general police grant, which would give any commissioner who subscribed to the policy platform on which the Home Secretary and Police Minister were elected in 2010 the opportunity to take away funding from PCSOs.

It will be my policy to continue to fund our excellent PCSOs. I also will look for every affordable opportunity to avoid as many of the cuts to the police officer strength as is possible and look for the opportunities to start rebuilding numbers back towards the previous level of 3,500.

This means fighting our corner with Government over the short-changing of Cornwall, Devon and the Isles of Scilly in terms of the police grant.

This is not a throwaway line, as the fiscal evidence exists to show we should get more money through the police grant.

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