17 September 2012

Stop and Search Your PCC - Conservative Candidates

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In the second of a series of longer articles addressing the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections, Elena Papamichael analyses some of the issues and trends playing out among Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidates.

​The Conservatives have 36 confirmed candidates so far, and of those candidates, 5 are female (14%) and one is non-white. Jan Parmer, who is likely to win the PCC position in Bedfordshire, is predicted to become the only non-white appointed PCC in the country.

As would be expected of candidates running on a party ticket, the manifestos of the Conservative candidates are more homogeneous than those of the independent candidates, who come from a variety of political affiliations and sentiments, and vary in their proposed policy priorities.  The Conservative candidates’ top priorities appear to be; to get hard on crime (especially anti-social behaviour), and to reduce costs, which hints at a programme of privatisation of the police force.

The backgrounds of the Conservative candidates are overwhelmingly party political- 71% of the Conservative candidates are current or former politicians. There are also a high proportion of candidates with army experience; 9 out of the 14 candidates who are ex-military are representing the Conservatives. There are also several candidates from commercial and business backgrounds, with a focus for the role on ‘efficiency’ and cutting costs. The fact that the Conservative Party is not funding the £5000 deposit to enter the elections, may mean that some less well-off candidates do not find the funds to enter, although this has not appeared to be an issue thus far.

Overall, the conservative candidates see their top priority as PCC as cutting crime, made clear on the Conservative website ‘Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners will be driven by one clear objective: to cut crime in their local policing area.’ Kent hopeful Craig McKinlay, founding member of UKIP who then joined the Conservatives, and is also a chartered accountant says that the police role is about ‘totality of crime reduction’Tony Hogg, ex-Navy Cornwall and Devon Candidate believes in ‘a police force, not a police service.’

There appears to be a particular focus on antisocial behaviour for Conservative candidates, a theme that is consistent across a wide array of constituencies and geographical areas. Cost-reduction is also a key value for candidates. Katy Bourne standing for Sussex lists some of her top priorities as Cutting crime & catching more criminals, tackling anti-social behavior and delivering value for money from our police force.’ These priorities are echoed by Julie Iles, magistrate and business woman ‘I will focus on three areas: - cutting crime, getting a better deal for the taxpayer and promoting a culture of excellent service in our police force.’

‘Value for money for taxpayers’ is a common pledge from Conservative PCC candidates and is indicative of the programme of privatization of the police force that the Conservatives have begun to embark upon. Victoria Atkins, criminal prosecution barrister’s top priority is obtaining value for Gloucestershire taxpayer’s money, and ex-RAF Leicestershire PCC candidate, Sir Clive Loader plans to impart ‘high standards of effectiveness, efficiency and professionalism to the role’.

Privatization will entail not only back office functions but also key policing services becoming outsourced to private contractors, such as crime investigation, forensic work, answering 999 calls, custody and detention and many other police duties. However, a poll by ComRes for Unison, shows that privatisation of police services is extremely unpopular, and the police force are largely in opposition too. For this reason, despite privatisation and outsourcing plans from central government, Tory candidates on a local level may be cautious to be seen endorsing a policy that is so unpopular with the public.Candidates from both the Conservatives and Labour have denounced privatisation plans and Surrey Police have already abandoned plans to privatise services as it was perceived that PCC candidates are likely to oppose it.

Therefore in the lead up to the elections some PCC candidates may tread carefully on the topic of privatization in order to win votes from the public, or face losses in several key areas, given that Labour are fighting primarily on the position of opposing privatization and cuts.