ELECTORS go to the polls on Thursday to choose a Police and Crime Commissioner to represent Lancashire – a role that is being introduced across England and Wales for the first time. It will signal the biggest reform to policing since the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. But how do the four candidates intend to make their mark on the role? To help electors make an informed choice at the polls, reporter Vanessa Cornall put some key questions to them.
What will be your first priority if you are elected, and how will you tackle it?
AFZAR ANWAR Lancashire led the way in bringing back local community policing. I will make sure this success story is not undermined by spending cuts. My top priority is frontline community policing so that everyone feels safe and secure in their home and neighbourhood. In my experience as a criminal barrister, a conviction is more likely to be obtained when the intelligence and evidence comes through the community via the frontline police officers. These officers are in close links with communities and also are aware of the usual culprits in that same locality.
TIM ASHTON My first priority is my main priority – to get police to spend more time on the streets, instead of being stuck in an office, filling in forms or worrying about health and safety directives. I will scrap any daft target or red tape that prevents the police from catching criminals.
ROBERT DROBNY My first priority is to get more police back into our communities. That includes rural communities, not just towns and cities. I want to see the return of the police 'force' as opposed to a police ‘service’ and show the criminals of Lancashire that we will not tolerate anti-social behaviour and violent crime. I will be turning PCSOs into fully warranted police constables, with real powers. I will also recruit more Special Constables. I will campaign for less paperwork for the police, enabling them to be back out there on the streets of Lancashire keeping us safe.
CLIVE GRUNSHAW The main theme of my campaign is to protect frontline, visible policing. We will have lost over 500 police officers through the cuts and still have more to find. As a member of Lancashire Police Authority I know that the police are already stretched and this situation will get even worse. We must ensure that the police service is maintained and the public are protected. If I am elected, the mandate of the public will be a powerful voice against the cuts and I will use my position to fight for more investment in policing.
What do you think the biggest crime concerns are for people in Lancashire?
AFZAR ANWAR My priorities will be to combat serious organised criminals and stop drug dealing on the streets of Lancashire. I will have more visible policing on the main routes entering Lancashire to deter cross-border criminals. I will also have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence and make sure sexual exploitation of children is met with successful prosecutions and offenders receive long sentences. I will work with the Crown Prosecution Service, Probation Service, courts and the local victim support service to make sure that offenders are convicted and punished accordingly. There will be no compromise on civil liberties.
TIM ASHTON Being burgled – especially if you are at home when an intruder breaks in. Anti-social behaviour, including alcohol-fuelled problems, and the grooming of young girls for sexual abuse.
ROBERT DROBNY Anti-social behaviour is the blight of our communities. We need to crackdown on this. Why should the law abiding citizens of Lancashire put up with the yob culture? Domestic violence is a real ill in society. I want to put more resources into protecting victims of this dreadful crime. We need to take a firm approach in prosecuting these cowardly offenders. Violent crime needs to be stamped out. People deserve the right to live without fear of being attacked. There’s only one place for violent offenders and that’s looking at a cell door!
CLIVE GRUNSHAW Every time I go out and meet people on the doorstep or in the community there is one recurring theme; the worry people feel about the loss of police jobs and PCSOs. The public want direct contact with the police and to maintain and build on the relationship of trust and support. People want visible policing and a fast response to anti-social behaviour. Concerns have also been raised about road safety, people drinking alcohol in the street, domestic violence, child sexual exploitation and tackling persistent offenders.
How will you address concerns about crime?
AFZAR ANWAR I will hold regular sugeries with the public in different parts of Lancashire so people have more say about policing in their areas. I will make sure that young people are part of our policing plan and engage with the larger community through schools, colleges, universities, churches and local mosques. I will continue the good work of community safety partnerships and involve more voluntary and statutory organisations to reduce reoffending and anti-social behavior issues. I will work with the Crown Prosecution Service, Probation Service, courts and the local victim support service to make sure that offenders are convicted and punished accordingly.
TIM ASHTON I will make sure that householders are given legal protection to use reasonable force to defend themselves. I will push councils to use the new powers they have to ban drinking in early mornings on the streets and I’ll come down like a ton of bricks on the places that sell booze to kids. I will also expand services that deal with sexual abuse and domestic violence.
ROBERT DROBNY I will be putting the message out to criminals that Lancashire will not tolerate you any longer. More warranted constables on the streets will show them the way. I will be robust in my approach to carrying forward the wishes of the population. I will also be making the Chief Constable aware of what my priorities are and ensuring that they are carried out. I will also work for the victim and liaise with the sentencing authorities to ensure that tougher sentences are dished out for repeat offenders.
CLIVE GRUNSHAW Through incorporating the issues raised by the public into the Police and Crime Plan. The Police and Crime Commissioner's role is to be the voice of the public in policing so the concerns raised by the public must take priority. Then I would discuss the priorities with the Chief Constable and the options available for him to deliver them? It is important to stress that operational policing is the responsibility of the Chief Constable and is protected from any political interference.
How will you ensure cuts to not affect the service police provide?
AFZAR ANWAR I want to be clear that I do not want anybody who is elected to be police and crime commissioner to make cuts an excuse for not delivering the results. One of the ways forward would be to stop achieving central government-led targets and focusing on reducing crime. You can then identify any waste of resources. One option includes the precrept on council tax which I am not very keen on as a council tax-payer.
TIM ASHTON First, we need to recognise that while the number of police has gone up, so the number of burdens placed on them by the previous Government have also gone up. We need to make sure that cuts do not affect frontline policing and we’ll do that by scrapping unnecessary back office functions and processes.
ROBERT DROBNY The Police and Crime Commissioner will have to make extremely difficult decisions in relation to how the budget is used on policing. If there are cuts to be made, let’s be clear, the people of Lancashire do not want to see job losses for our police constables and neither do I. We should look at the management jobs at the top first and work down. I say, ‘start as we mean to go on’, and the first salary that I will be cutting is the Police and Crime Commissioner’s wage. I will lead by example.
CLIVE GRUNSHAW Through collaboration with other forces and working more effectively with the voluntary, community and faith sector. We would look at innovative schemes such as targeting persistent and prolific offenders. This is because, if done properly, it will make a real difference to the safety of the residents in Lancashire and save a significant amount of funding that could be reallocated into other areas of crime reduction. It would be achieved through working more intensively with persistent offenders, and their families, in a multi-agency partnership approach.
How will you cater for East Lancashire's needs when force leaders are based in Preston?
AFZAR ANWAR I am the only candidate from East Lancashire. The only way forward is fairness. If we get the fair share of our budget there is no issue. At present the East Lancashire area is the most populated area in Lancashire and therefore needs to be looked at fairly when it comes to deal with budget allocations. If elected I will make sure East Lancashire is not left out.
TIM ASHTON Well, if I am elected as Lancashire’s first-ever Police and Crime Commissioner, I will not be spending every day sat behind a big desk in Preston. I have spent the last few months getting out and about across the county, in shopping areas and villages, such as Colne, Rawtenstall, Burnley, Blackburn, Clitheroe and Oswaldtwistle and, if I win on Thursday, those roadshows will continue, month in, month out. Nothing fancy or expensive – just meeting the public on the streets and keeping in touch.
ROBERT DROBNY I will be setting out a community policing plan for the county. The ‘one size fits all’ policing plan will simply not work in a county that has such diverse communities. We have both rural and urban areas in our county. We cannot afford for the rural communities to be neglected and forgotten but we also have to protect our towns and cities. If necessary, I will put resources into not just areas but streets. I will be prepared to listen and to take a pro-active stance towards issues that may arise.
CLIVE GRUNSHAW Lancashire's police service should be delivered locally, throughout Lancashire. At present it is a divisional structure with each area have its own command unit. This will continue and I would look to strengthen the local bases. This will include opening a new police station in Accrington as the present one is not fit for purpose. Lancashire is a diverse county, culturally and geographically. We must ensure that the police service is also able to cope with the different needs from the rural communities.
- TOMORROW: Candidates answer five more key questions