SIX candidates are vying to become West Mercia’s next Police and Crime Commissioner on Thursday, May 5, but who are they and why do they think they should be the next person to hold our police force to account, to cut crime and to make sure police are working effectively?
It was only four years ago the first elections were held to elect a commissioner for West Mercia, with independent Bill Longmore winning the vote on just a 14.5 per cent turnout.
He took over the vital role – which used to be held by the now defunct police authorities – of setting a policing and crime strategy, holding the Chief Constable to account, linking the force to the wider community and setting West Mercia’s £203million budget.
Now six candidates are hoping to replace Mr Longmore and take over those roles when voters head to the polls in just two weeks time. They are John-Paul Campion (Conservative), John Raine (Green Party), Barrie Sheldon (Independent), Daniel Walton (Labour), Margaret Rowley (Liberal Democrat) and Peter Jewell (UKIP).
Here we find out why candidates feel people should vote for them on May 5, how they would run West Mercia Police and what priorities and pledges they would make.
John-Paul Campion, the Conservative Party’s Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, said:
“I offer a fresh take on the problems in West Mercia. We have seen some crime rising, one in ten burglaries resulting in a successful prosecution and council tax rising as a result.
“I will work hard to put this right by making sure we bring criminals to justice faster and that we are on the side of victims.
“I will also work hard so that people feel safe in their community.
“I will bring openness and transparency to the role. I won’t repeat the mistake of the current commissioner when he appointed his campaign manager to be his £50,000 deputy without advert or interview, as I will run open competitive processes for any public appointment.
“I will also be a commissioner for the people, out actively engaging with all parts of our community to make sure their views are at the heart of policing.
“My vision is for a secure West Mercia – keeping us safe against threats locally and nationally. A reformed West Mercia – I will champion innovation to make sure your money is spent efficiently before I ever ask you to pay any more. A reassured West Mercia – I will work hard to ensure people feel safe as for too long antisocial behaviour has blighted our towns and rural communities feel forgotten.”
Daniel Walton, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, said:
“As the Labour Party PCC candidate, it is my absolute priority to get better funding for one of our most important public services across the three counties.
“Since 2010 West Mercia Police Force has seen savage cuts amounting to £44million, and this year alone a further cut of £600,000 has been imposed.
“Whilst the police service continues to do a great job against rising crime they are being asked to do more with less.
“No other candidate is arguing for standing up for the police budget, defending the service, lobbying the Home Office and exposing what the funding shortfall is doing to frontline policing, never mind the gaps being created in fighting newer crimes. I am.
“I believe we need to consider victims first and don’t allow services that support victims of crime and that give people the confidence to come forward, to be stripped bare.
“We need to ensure the services are in place for victims and to give the one in four people who don’t come forward the confidence to come forward.
“We need to put our police back on the beat and our PCSOS back into towns and villages, working with local organisations and being a part of community.”
Margaret Rowley, the Liberal Democrat Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, said: “I believe it is important that the police should have greater connection with the communities they serve, work with partners to reduce crime and the Chief Constable should be brought to account.
“My preference to achieve this would be to replace the position of Police and Crime Commissioner with a more democratic and locally accountable Police Board composed mainly of local authority members.
“The Liberal Democrats believe this would be more effective and cheaper. However, we have to work with the system currently in place.
“Crime levels locally are simply unacceptable.
“West Mercia has been rated as one of the five worst performing police forces in the country.
“We deserve better. To get that, we need a new approach.
“I will demand immediate improvements to cut crime and prevent re-offending. I will ensure the police work more closely with local communities, meeting local needs and tackling local priorities. I will listen to local residents and act to keep them safe.
“My key priorities are to make West Mercia Police more trusted by listening to local people and making policing much more responsive to the priorities of local communities, to make it more effective by prioritising crime prevention and tackling issues that put people at risk of offending and to make it more efficient by better use of technology and partnership working.”
Independent Candidate Barrie Sheldon said: “I am the only true independent candidate – the other five candidates are aligned to a political party.
“It is important in my view that policing remains independent and impartial and that party politics are kept well away from policing.
“The people of West Mercia need the choice of a true independent candidate and I provide them with that option and a guarantee of no party political interference.
“I would adopt the same leadership style as the current Commissioner with a focus on both people and communities.
“We have invested heavily in the community, worked with key partners to deliver victim services, and reduced crime with a focus on education, early intervention, and rehabilitation.
“I am committed to work with the Chief Constable and partners to reduce harm in our communities.
“Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, road deaths and serious injury are some of the highest areas of harm and need to remain a priority.
“Local policing must be protected and strengthened at all costs and I will achieve this by continuing to adopt a partnership approach through integrated community management, and working closely with communities to develop local community policing agreements.
“Rural, business and cyber crime will remain policing priorities and further investment will be provided.”
John Raine, the Green Party’s Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, said:
“I have a strong blend of knowledge about policing, crime and justice as a university professor in the subject and researcher who has been working with senior police and justice sector practitioners for 36 years.
“I have experience of representing individuals and communities and holding public officials to account as a councillor for 16 years.
“I want to establish a more active partnership with representatives in local areas to create a strategic board with which to work.
“And I want to pursue a higher public profile and be a more out-and-about PCC, presenting and listening to people in public forums around the three counties more often and so providing more visible leadership in the role.
“I will provide more support and reassurance to victims of crime to encourage them to report the crimes they suffer, especially domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“I will prioritise speed enforcement on our roads and press for the introduction of more 20mph speed limits on residential roads.
“I will strengthen neighbourhood policing with more PCSOs visible on our streets, working closely with communities to ensure people feel safe.
“I will invest more in constructive restorative justice and rehabilitation programmes for offenders to help them address the problems underlying their criminal and anti-social behaviour.
“And I will support more sharing of specialist equipment and facilities with other agencies and police forces for greater efficiency while devolving more budgetary responsibility to local commanders to enable greater responses to local needs and circumstances.”
Peter Jewell, UKIP’s West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate, said: “As PCC, I would be alert to the possible use of the latest technology such as helmet or lapel cameras, to be linked to a police operations centre, which I believe would both assist officers and improve policing.
“The cost of such equipment is trivial in the overall cost of policing and would save in reporting costs and recording of evidence, in the event of prosecution.
“Many PCCs have very low visibility in the communities they serve but as PCC I would use every means to communicate with all groups in the community from younger people, to the elderly, and to ensure their legitimate concerns are addressed.
“As PCC, I would agree defined and accountable performance targets with the Local Police and Crime Panel and I would ensure the Chief Constable and his team are committed to deliver on these.
“I would do my very best to ensure morale in West Mercia Police is as good as it can be and to support the police in the valuable and important work they do on our behalf.
“I would encourage the Force to continue their efforts to maintain the high level of regard in which they are held by the public they serve.
“I am seriously concerned about the sickness levels in West Mercia Police because of stress.
“Because of my experience with a number of organisations around the world of the same size or bigger – there are 2,000 employees in West Mercia – it is imperative that this organisation has experienced top leadership to improve the morale of the service as a whole.”