Seven candidates who are vying to become the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands have told the Birmingham Post why the public should vote for them.
The full list of candidates for the £100,000-a-year job was officially announced by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, October 23.
Around 2.6 million people in the West Midlands have the chance of going to the polls on November 15, in nationwide elections that will cost the country £100 million. The list of candidates includes former Birmingham councillor Matt Bennett for the Conservatives, Bill Etheridge for UKIP and former Detective Superintendent Cath Hannon, an independent.
Other candidates include Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones, a former member of West Midlands Police Authority, who is standing for Labour, former Birmingham councillor Ayoub Khan for the Liberal Democrats, former CID detective Mike Rumble, standing as an independent, and Bishop Derek Webley, the former chair of the police authority, also an independent.
The Home Office has spent more than £3 million on advertising to encourage the public to turn out and vote amid fears only a fifth of voters will turn up.
Speaking to the Post last month Policing Minister Damian Green said the elections were vitally important in holding the force to account. The Commissioner will scrutinise the force, set priorities, oversee the budget and hire the Chief Constable.
Mr Green said: “This is your chance to have your say on how policing is conducted, to ensure officers are doing the jobs you want to see carried out.
“For the first time ever they will now have a democratically elected voice.
“Commissioners will set the agenda for policing in the West Midlands. They will hold officers and chief constables to account on your behalf.”
The Post has asked each candidate to tell us in 200 words on why the people of the West Midlands should vote for them.
Matt Bennett - Conservative
As Police and Crime Commissioner I will put residents first ensuring that in the West Midlands criminals are more likely to be caught than not.
In 2011/12 just 22 per cent of crimes in the West Midlands were solved – one of the worst rates in the UK. Criminals are much more likely to get away with it than be caught and punished. For too long the police authority has stayed silent as criminals walked free and local police stations were closed.
The choice in this election is clear; either vote for the status quo, low detection rates and local stations continuing to close or vote for change. Vote for the candidate that will put the law abiding majority first, who will make sure if you commit a crime you will serve your time. I will stand up for the public and make sure crime goes down
I pledge to:
* Introduce zero tolerance policing of crime and anti-social behaviour
* Ensure the police spend more time on the streets and at the times and places where crime is highest
* Keep local police stations and front desks open
* Introduce a contract with the public, setting out what residents can expect from the police
* Hold at least one public meeting every fortnight
Mike Rumble - Independent
My knowledge as a former police officer, coupled with experience running a successful business, gives me a unique set of skills that no other candidate possess. I will support the staff of the West Midlands Police and, importantly in doing so; I will be supporting the residents of the West Midlands, making sure your voice is heard and that the officers deliver the service we so rightly deserve.
I will halt the policy of police redundancies and I will cancel proposals to contract out parts of the police service to private security companies.
Instead I will work with the Chief Constable; the Police Federation and support staff unions to modernise business and work practices that free officers to patrol our streets, be proactive and innovative wherever possible and reactive when the public need them.
I will also address the public concern about police investigating police complaints. I will negotiate with the Chief Constable to return the police investigators to front line policing and replace them with independent non-police investigators, so that the public can have confidence that complaints are investigated impartially.
Voting for me, an independent candidate will provide a truly independent voice for the residents of the West Midlands.
Bob Jones - Labour
I’m West Midlands born and bred. For over 20 years I have campaigned against crime and anti-social behaviour.
This record of putting the police and the community before any vested interest, I became chair of West Midlands Police Authority and of the National Association of Police Authorities, due to support from all political parties. In 2010 I was awarded the CBE ‘for services to policing’.
In those roles I oversaw the introduction of new crime prevention strategies, the pioneering of neighbourhood policing, investment in our police officers and their support services. This meant that between 1998 and 2012 we saw a halving of crime in the West Midlands.
My priorities will be:
* Protect neighbourhood policing from further government cuts
* Retain police and community support officers
* Oppose the privatisation of core policing services
* Fight for a fair funding deal for the West Midlands Police Service
* Set up local policing boards in each area to ensure local people set local priorities
* Put victims first by ensuring that funding for Victim Support is safeguarded
Bill Etheridge - UKIP
I stand for change in the way our police are managed.
I do not believe people join the police force to spend all of their time filling in forms or sticking to inefficient working practices.
My promise is to put the rights of the victim ahead of the rights of the criminal.
I will get more bobbies out on the beat by changing police priorities. Visible, effective policing is what the public need and demand. This policing will be carried out by people employed in the public sector , there will be no privatisation of the police whilst I am the commissioner. Not now, not ever!
The police commissioner will have a high profile role. I will use the voice that role allows to demand more appropriate, tougher sentencing from judges.
It is crazy to have efficient policing bringing criminals to the courts only for those courts to administer the equivalent of a slap on the wrist rather than a tough and just sentence.
I will demand excellent policing but in return I will be an advocate of excellent pay and conditions for those working in the force.
I am the candidate for real change and common sense policing.
Ayoub Khan - Liberal Democrats
I grew up in Aston and have nearly ten years experience working for integration, crime reduction and community policing as a Lib Dem councillor in Birmingham.
I retrained as a lawyer after rushing to help a man who was shot and badly wounded yards from my home in 2002.
The PCC should be a responsible local champion of public opinion. Decisions should be driven by consultation, not political dogma. The community first approach of the Liberal Democrats suits the role. I will leave no stone unturned to search for savings, but if it is clear the remit for our force cannot be met, then I will challenge the Government on the funding settlement.”
I oppose the privatisation of police functions. The risks are too great. The £100k salary the Tories want to give this job is ridiculous. I will halve the salary and ensure the rest goes to front line policing.
We need to prevent crime, protect public and property but also re-assure people, especially the vulnerable.
The current response time of 15 minutes is much more than fire or ambulance. Where commanders believe it is safe, there is scope to despatch officers singly to allow a five minute target response time in town centres.”
Derek Webley – Independent
British policing is based on public consent, acting without fear or favour. Policing leadership should be the same.
Five reasons why I’m standing in this, my first election:
* Putting victims first
* Local policing must be free of party politics
* Protected communities and neighbourhoods
* Ensure efficiency and stability in the force without privatisation
* Target policing at crime hotspots – preventing crime, protecting the public and catching criminals
Everyone should have their say on policing.
We expect a lot of the police, and they put themselves in harm’s way for us. Nevertheless the Chief Constable must be held to account as I have done in the past. I will promote open and transparent leadership with your views at the heart of decision making.
Policing must be right for where you live.
I’ll target crime hotspots in your neighbourhood, when people know there’s a grip on crime, they’ll come forward and stand up for their neighbourhood.
Policing in the West Midlands will improve if it’s focused on your neighbourhood’s needs. The alternative is policing skewed by party politics. Local policing must be free of party politics ensuring the public comes first.
Cath Hannon - Independent
I have lived in the West Midlands my whole life and understand some of the issues faced by those who live here.
I can offer a unique set of skills and abilities that are not available from any other candidate
I am independent. I am not restricted by political boundaries or alliances.
I have only one boss and that is the public. I have over 30 years knowledge and experience of keeping the residents of the West Midlands safe.
I have worked my way up to the rank of Detective Superintendent and developed a deep insight of the policing environment and culture and I will be ready to work for you from day one.
I have also tackled a wide range of criminality including murder, gang violence, terrorism, organised crime and anti-social behaviour.
If elected I will:
* Ensure that your views are heard and acted upon through ongoing communication
* Cut the crime that concerns you by consulting you, your communities and businesses
* Review the criminal justice system to ensure that victims and witnesses are at the heart of the process
* Tackle violent crime, abuse and hate crimes head on.