Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Round-up: PCC Elections not HP


A 66-year-old former helicopter commander who served in Borneo and the Falklands War has been elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police, describing it as an 'honour' and a 'privilege'.

The Public Interface: TVP Chief Constable Sara Thornton meets PCC Anthony Stansfeld

Read more about his 'eclectic' background here.

He highlighted the democratic nature of the position provides a direct mandate to get things done. "There is more of a public interface," he said.

Result
Turnout was 226,512 or 13.3% (1st preference; 12.9% 2nd preference). More details here and here.

First preferences: -
Patience Awe - Independent: 14,878
Barry Cooper - UKIP: 19,324
Geoff Howard - Independent: 31,716
John Howson - Liberal Democrat: 20,511
Anthony Stansfeld - Conservative Party: 76,011
Tim Starkey - Labour Party: 56,631

The successful Mr Stansfeld is currently a sitting Conservative Councillor for Kintbury ward on West Berkshire Council, and was a member of the 19-strong Thames Valley Police Authority which he will replace in the new role of Commissioner, stating "the most effective committee is a committee of one."

He commented on his election to the new £85,000/year post which oversees the £400m local policing budget and priorities for 8,000 beat officers and other staff:
"When the results came in I felt a mixture of relief and exhiliration, and also a certain amount of inevitable nervousness in taking on a job like this."
Mr Stansfeld also defended the decision to politicise the election by running under a party banner, "There is nothing less democratic than an Independent, as no-one knows what he stands for."

In total he gained 94,238 1st and 2nd preference votes from an electorate of 1.2m, coincidentally endorsing the supplementary voting system having previously rejected any electoral changes in the recent national referendum.

The balance of results aligned closely with recent local council results, suggesting the outcome was based less on the issues of crime and policing than it was a reflection of current opinion towards Westminster parties.

The Candidates and The Campaign
Right-winger Cllr Richard Willis gave his by-now expected preview of candidates, completely immune from all bias, of course!

Luckily, Earley LibDems are able to fill in a few of the missing gaps for their party candidate.

Elsewhere Whitley Labour party had a chance to listen to their candidate (who only recently joined the party after defecting). He talked about resisting cuts, and followed up with a perverse promise to remember to 'stay' independent.

In review John Redwood MP makes several snide and self-serving remarks about democracy, before condescending to platitudinous levels:
"It is now especially important that the new Commissioners work hard to offer great value for money, and to show how they can choose good Chief Constables, and influence police budgets and priorities in helpful ways."
And in a post exhaustive and exhausting in equal parts, former Labour councillor John Howarth gets his excuses in early by blaming coalition members for his party's failure to win, calling the process a 'step backwards'.

He states that Labour's critique of offering nothing more than a defence of the status quo was 'a woefully poor excuse' for democratic progressive party. With a complete lack of irony he argues the elections were 'unnecessary and inappropriate', adding that the massive PCC constituencies are too large to identify with, that a mid-November election was 'less than clever', and that his side apparently had insufficient opportunity to raise awareness of the issues.

In contrast Adrian Windisch gets sanctimonious and over-emotional in his frustrated told-you-so rant from the sidelines, despite or possibly because of his party's refusal to invest in this democratic exercise. You can't complain about democracy if you don't participate in it!

Meanwhile, via Facebook, former Police Officer Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera offered his condolences to his former colleagues and the public for the result, stating his expectation that Mr Stansfeld is unlikely to change from his usual practice of behaving like an 'absent landlord'.

He offers the warning:
"If he tries to influence the policing of Thames Valley with his outdated, and ill-conceived opinions, then he will make policing worse."

Finally, Alan Renwick, Reader in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading, throws his two cents into the mix.

He looks at the number of spoilt ballots, and considers three reasons for this: confusion over the electoral system; dissatisfaction with the candidates; and disapproval of the elections themselves.

However he concludes the case for deliberate spoiling of ballots is exaggerated, which may inspire lurid headlines of mass rejection of the process, but doesn't reflect the reality of low turnout and the actual level of political disengagement.

Contact Point
As if to prove these professional and academic points, the successful candidate set up and operates a personal website to keep members of the public in touch and up-to-date with news and issues.

Looking at the site, however, one might wonder at the new commissioner's commitment to fulfil this pledge: only one non-syndicated 'news' post (on 23rd July) and one modest 'article' (on 12th September) have been published so far.

Similarly his twitter handle @StansfeldPCC showed initial purpose, but has lain dormant since he thanked well-wishers after his election on 16th November, and can clearly be seen now as more of a public relations/campaigning tool for him than as any serious exercise in democratic engagement.

He can be reached by emailing info@anthonystansfeld.org.uk, but don't hold your breath.

PCC Priorities
John Redwood completes the round-up by providing a quick summary of Mr Stansfeld's aims and pledges:
  1. to reduce crime and drive up detection rates
  2. to ensure the police budget is targeted effectively
  3. to protect vulnerable people
  4. to ensure the police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely make sure communities are not blighted by anti-social behaviour
  5. to reduce the likelihood of gold theft from Asian families
In a friendly interview with the Maidenhead Advertiser the Conservative Councillor for Kintbury blamed national leadership for his weak mandate, arguing that government failed to promote the role and didn't effectively communicate that devolving responsibility does mean depoliticising the Police - maybe they're yet to be convinced.

With good cause... in a more neutral interview with Oxford Mail crime reporter, Ben Wilkinson, the tory politician refused to be held to his main commitment on cutting crime, saying this is dependent on outside factors such as the growing population and local licensing provisions.

Or perhaps he'd been swiftly reminded of efforts made by TVP under current Chief Constable Sara Thornton since winter 2009 on his watch. Crime is falling consistently by year-on-year by averages of around 13% (April report, July report; official stats) precisely due to a direct policy choice - made during Mr Stansfeld's term on TVPA - to shift resources from crime detection to crime prevention as the means to retain public confidence while dealing with tight budget constraints following the financial crash of 2008.

BBC Berkshire picks up on these public statements, and notes Mr Stansfeld's support for successive 2% and 2.5% rises in the Police precept of Council Tax in 2013 and 2014 to boost detection. This would effectively guarantee another year's pay freeze for TV Police officers while reversing cuts imposed by more senior members of his party, as he took a swipe at Maidenhead's Home Secretary, Theresa May MP... it looks like there may be trouble ahead!


Oranjepan asks:
According to Mr Stansfeld, what the public wants is "an honest, fair and efficient police" which is polite and uses common sense and judgement. Would it be too much to ask the same from him, or is he only interested in re-election to this cushy number by pretending to be all things to all people?

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More stories about Crime and Policing

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