Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner candidates make their pitch for your vote
The third Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election is being held in Lancashire on 6th May after being postponed 12 months ago because of the pandemic.
The PCC oversees how Lancashire Police spends its budget and helps to set the broad policing priorities for the force, based on engagement with the public and victims of crime. They also hold the police to account and are responsible for appointing and, if necessary, dismissing the chief constable.
The post has been held by Labour’s Clive Grunshaw since it was created in 2012. He secured 44 percent of the vote to the then Conservative candidate's 32 percent at the last election in 2016.
CLIVE GRUNSHAW (LABOUR)
***Lobbying for the full reinstatement of the Lancashire officer numbers cut during the 2010s.
***Continuing to invest in tackling the concerns of the public using recently-created ‘task forces’.
***Maintaining good value for money for residents.
Bidding for a third term as Lancashire’s PCC, Clive Grunshaw has one overarching message for the government - “We want our bobbies back”.
The county saw a reduction of 750 officers in the decade from 2010. Over the first two years of a three-year government plan to recruit 20,000 officers nationwide, Lancashire has been given an allocation of 300 frontline staff - but Mr. Grunshaw says that still leaves the county “shortchanged”.
“Everything comes down to having the resources to deliver the services, so getting our fair share of those resources is crucial.
“The government knows exactly where [in the country] the reductions in officer numbers have taken place, so when they’re putting forward the model for funding an increase, they could quite easily put them back where they have been reduced - but they have chosen not to do that.
“So the number one priority is fighting for a fair deal to get police officers back on our streets,” Mr. Grunshaw says.
He blames the financial and staffing challenges the force has faced partly on a funding model under which Lancashire gets just over 70 percent of its cash from government grant and the remainder from council tax - while other areas are less reliant on Whitehall for their funding and can generate more from raising council tax in any case.
However, Mr. Grunshaw says that residents can rest assured that the Lancashire force is making the best of the resources it has, after it was rated as “outstanding” for efficiency and effectiveness by independent inspectors.
He is also undertaking a review of neighbourhood policing designed to better connect communities and has been pleased with the impact of new ‘task forces’ of officers, deployed where they are going to “make the most difference”.
“The task force remit is to address the concerns of the community. They have been incredibly successful because they have had the freedom to act quickly - in 12 months, they have taken over £11m of drugs off the streets of Lancashire.
“Twelve months ago, we also brought in Lancashire Talking, where people sign up for messages from the police, but it's also a mechanism for identifying community concerns and we have signed up over 70,000 people in the first year," says Mr. Grunshaw, adding he will issue grants, using proceeds of crime cash, to fund projects suggested by the community.
ANDREW SNOWDEN (CONSERVATIVE)
***Establish a more constructive relationship with the government to secure benefits for the police and public in Lancashire.
***Ensure that every district area of the county has at least one police front desk where people can speak to officers directly.
***Focus on reducing reoffending involving crimes such as burglary.
As the Conservative challenger for the PCC role in the county, Andrew Snowden says it is vital that the holder of the job is willing to work “constructively” with the government to “recruit more police and get more funding into Lancashire”.
“Yes, it’s about reinvesting in frontline police [to get] more bobbies on the beat, but also working on other packages that have come out or are in development around issues such as serious and organised crime, county lines [drug dealing] and digital crime, which is becoming more of a threat.
“First and foremost, we need to work with the government to get the best for Lancashire, rather than continuously working against them,” says Mr. Snowden, who hosted the Home Secretary in the county during the final fortnight of his campaign.
He says that a better relationship with the government would also enable Lancashire to benefit from schemes in development at a national level that would allow him to focus on one of his other priorities - reducing reoffending.
“I want Lancashire to be a lead force [in] new trials and initiatives - for example, there is one around tagging burglars for the first 12 months after they come out of prison.
“Burglary is hard to investigate - if there is no CCTV and no fingerprints, your options, other than known criminals, are limited. Equally, [tagging means] people can also be cleared of being involved in any burglaries that happen.”
Mr. Snowden is pledging to ensure that every district area of Lancashire has a police reception desk open to the public and also to focus on rural crime which, he claims, has been a low priority for the last nine years.
“People in rural communities say they are more isolated and there is less chance of a police officer just happening to be nearby if a serious crime is committed - they feel very vulnerable.”
Mr. Snowden says that he would also maximise the powers of police and community support officers (PCSOs), whose capabilities vary slightly in different parts of the country.
“The key thing with a PCSO is to make sure they are taken seriously...because they are an efficient way of deterring a lot of petty crime and antisocial behaviour if they have the right powers.”
NEIL DARBY (LIBERAL DEMOCRATS)
***Promote closer working between police and community groups.
***Build trust between the police and the various communities across the county.
***Ensure that the PCC engages with the public to understand their concerns.
The Liberal Democrats ultimately want to see the PCC role abolished - but their candidate for the position in Lancashire claims that there are ways of ensuring the system as it stands makes a bigger difference to the lives of residents in the county.
Neil Darby wants to see a “much closer working relationship” between the police and the communities they serve.
“Whether it’s community groups, councils, schools, social services or mental health services, we have got all of these resources around the area - and many of them are just as stretched in terms of funds as the police are.
“Community policing has been rolled back - we have seen almost the centralisation of the police, and not just in Lancashire. I don’t think that works and we really want to go back to community policing, which I know is effective - because I’ve seen it in my local area which was turned around by the work police did with the community.”
Mr. Darby condemns the “tragedy” of local Police and Communities Together (PACT) groups being allowed to “whither on the vine”.
He also says that it is vital to build trust between residents and the police - especially over issues such as stop and search, which he says he would review locally if he gets the PCC job.
“Everyone needs to be able to feel they can trust the police. One of my Lib Dem colleagues made a freedom of information request about suspicionless stop and search in Lancashire - and it showed it was disproportionately affecting minority communities.
“When we have seen funding taken away from the police, they are relying more than ever on our support in the community to report where there are problems. If the communities don’t have trust in the police and don't know their local officer, the odds of people reporting problems go down.
“And if they are not reported, the problem gets worse and ends up taking up so much more police time and resources than it would have done if you had that link in the first place and had caught things early.”
Mr. Darby says that there is also a need to ensure that the public is better informed about the PCC and the purpose of the role.
“The PCC needs to be properly engaging, people need to know what they do.”
JAMES BARKER (REFORM UK)
***Create a community and business forum to engage with people in all parts of Lancashire and raise awareness of the PCC role.
***Tackle juvenile crime by working in communities to promote opportunities for young people.
***Create a fund to support project ideas generated by communities.
Running for a second time to be Lancashire’s PCC, James Barker says that he wants to develop a forum of the county’s “most successful business and community leaders” to work across the region and help harness the power of the commissioner role by backing schemes to improve local areas.
“Chaired by the PCC, it will visit and interact with one major town or area per month - it will be open to the public and live on a new social media link.
“Its purpose [would be] to involve and motivate the toughest areas’ populations, involve them with new ideas and see the PCC in action. Unfortunately, for various reasons, too few people know that the PCC exists.”
Mr. Barker says that he would transfer 40 percent of the existing expenses budget of the PCC into the new forum and use it to fund small community projects, based on ideas sought from residents.
“The most deserving cases would be independently chosen by the leadership forum which will be [drawn from] business people and community leaders in Lancashire who have come from the tough side of the street, but who have made a success of themselves and have ideas to put across to those communities.
“The whole idea is to show the public that we want to implement [their] local knowledge practically and also increase the visibility of the PCC.
“It could be anything from small soft play playgrounds on some of the council estates that don't have any facilities like that to a boxing ring in a community centre or facilities for diabled kids in underprivileged areas. It's whatever each individual community thinks, on a very small basis, is going to be of most benefit to them.”
Mr. Barker also wants to tackle juvenile crime by sending a mobile hub to “the most challenged areas, [providing] interactive information on sports, apprenticeships, health, education and the armed forces”.
“It will increase awareness of opportunity [and discourage] delinquency and drug abuse. It will be high profile and increase the public's awareness of the PCC and build good relations.
“The PCC should be the conduit that brings together the police, emergency services and the county and communicates the needs and wants of [residents], especially in the most deprived areas.”