Canvassing for Hampshire’s new Police and Crime commissioner kicked off in Eastleigh on Saturday when UKIP candidate Stephen West launched his campaign in the town centre.
On 15 November for the first time ever, the public across England and Wales will elect police and crime commissioners who will set budgets and decide how crime should be tackled in their area.
The elections, which could cost as much £80 million, will replace the current system of local Police Authorities with directly elected commissioners in a bid to save money while making decision makers accountable to the public.
Stephen West is currently one of six declared candidates (deadline for applications is October 31) and claims to be the only candidate to have ever worn a police uniform having previously served as special constable for 12 years in Essex and Thames Valley.
The Electoral Reform Society has warned that lack of awareness and interest in the election could see a turnout as low as 18%. Given that the turnout in Eastleigh central ward at last May’s local elections was just 26% it wasn’t surprising that many potential voters on Saturday seemed disinterested while some others seemed to under the impression that Stephen West already was the elected Police Commissioner, with one man even imploring him to intercede in his case.
West has based his campaign on six pledges:
- No reduction in numbers of front line police
- No real terms increase in your Council Tax police contribution
- Zero tolerance on anti-social behaviour
- Reduce overall crime levels
- Support victims of crime
- Support campaign to tear down speed cameras
I asked West how, if elected he would manage maintain frontline officers and keep the precept down in the face of government cuts?
West said he believed there were still ‘internal economies’ that could be made by increasing the range of services that could shared between forces and by making efficiencies in back office admin.
West also pledged to tear down speed cameras which he described as a “cash machine for councils” but would try to enable residents to petition for lower speed limits in their area.
In addition the Ukip candidate promised to make a crack down on anti-social behaviour – which he described as a ‘Blight on neighbourhoods’ – his main priority.
Stephen West’s selection by Ukip for the £100,000 a year post came hot on the heels of his well publicised defection from the conservatives. He cites division in his local party and general dissatisfaction with the direction of the coalition as reason for his switch that has now left Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council – where he sits as a member for Tadley – under no overall control.
The November 15 election will use a form of proportional representation – the supplementary vote system – to determine the winner. Voters will be able, if they wish, to choose two candidates ranked in order of preference. It’s possible for a candidate to win with a greater number of second choice votes though it’s not entirely clear which candidate or party a low turnout and the supplementary voting system might favour.
There are five other candidates:
Micheal Mates (Conservative)
Jacqui Rayment (Labour)
David Goodall (Lib Dem)
Simon Hayes (Independent)
Don Jerrard (Justice and Anti-Corruption Party)