NOMINATIONS are set to begin for candidates wanting to become the new Police and Crime Commissioner of Lancashire.

The controversial directly elected role will replace the current police authority system, in which an independent body sets the budget and strategic direction for policing in the county.

Conservative county councillor Geoff Driver said his party were in the ‘very early stages’ of debating who to nominate as a candidate for the role.

Coun Driver has been linked to the high profile job but declined to comment on whether he would be going for the estimated £85,000-a-year post.

He said: “The Conservative party has only just commenced the process of deciding who to nominate. Discussions are ongoing and I haven’t been involved in that process.”

Coun Driver added he hadn’t been to a police authority meeting ‘for a very long time’.

The changeover to the new system is scheduled for November after being put back by the Government. It is expected to cost £1.4million.

It means one individual will oversee the entire force and critics of the idea say it could ‘politicise’ the police.

County Councillor Tim Ashton, who currently has responsibility for the region’s highways, and Chorley County Councillor Sam Chapman, who has experience as a serving police officer, are also strong candidates rumoured to be interested. Both are Conservatives.

Coun Chapman said: “I haven’t applied, but it is something I’m seriously considering. The first people to do this important job have to believe in it.”

Chairman of Lancashire Police Authority Malcolm Doherty said his party, Labour, had also just started a ‘self-nomination’ process which would culminate in a shortlist and a vote in May 2012.

Coun Doherty, who will stand down as chairman in May, said: “Even though most authority members disagree with the commissioner system, now it is a fact we’ve got a responsibility to the public to make sure the new system gets a proper start.

“My party has now started and here are rumours emerging about who might be interested.”

Lancashire Police Authority chief executive Miranda Carruthers-Watt has previously expressed concerns over whether the new commissioner could handle the workload currently spread among 17 independent and party members, who have worked closely to keep Lancashire on track to save £43million by 2015.