Police Commissioner for West Yorkshire election - who will you choose?

Pictured L/R: Geraldine Carter, Mark-Burns-Williamson and Andrew Marchington
Pictured L/R: Geraldine Carter, Mark-Burns-Williamson and Andrew Marchington

PEOPLE will get to choose who takes on a new role governing the police force in November.

An elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) will replace West Yorkshire Police Authority and become the public face of West Yorkshire Police, with the power to govern how the force tackles crime.

And whoever wins the election will have a similar level of influence over local policing to that which Mayor of London Boris Johnson currently has over his city’s police force. But they will have to answer to the public and be held to account if the force is not seen to be successful.

The elected commissioner will have the power to hire and fire the chief constable, set the force’s annual budget and produce a police and crime plan for the whole of West Yorkshire.

They will consult regularly with the public and would be expected to improve the way the police, prosecution and courts work together, as well as setting the police precept for of council tax.

But chief constables will still be responsible for day-to-day operational matters.

A police and crime panel, made up of councillors from each West Yorkshire council and two co-opted members of the public, will scrutinise the work of the commissioner and hold them to account on behalf of the public.

The government has argued the new system will make policing more accountable to the public.

But with many candidates for the role standing on behalf of political parties, there have been concerns that police forces would become too politicised.

Coun Peter Box, who will be the chairman of the crime panel, said it was important not to let politics compromise people’s safety.

He said: “We don’t know exactly how this system will work until it is in operation.

“What people don’t want is politicians and the police commissioner bickering about whether or not there should be a commissioner, because that argument has now gone.

“There needs to be a strong relationship between the panel, the commissioner and the chief constable so that we get the best deal in terms of crime prevention in Wakefield and West Yorkshire.”

Commissioners will be elected every four years and the elected PCC for West Yorkshire will get an annual salary of £100,00.

Candidates must pay a £5,000 deposit and have 100 registered voters’ signatures to confirm their nomination. The fee, which is ten times higher than that needed by MP candidates, has been criticised by many independent candidates who do not have a party to fund them. But the Home Office said it represented the large size of the area the commissioner would cover.

People still have until October 19 to apply as an election candidate, and can find out more about the role at a briefing for potential candidates at Wakefield Town Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

An election will be held on Thursday, November 15, and the new commissioner will replace the West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA) with staff at the authority transferring to the office of the PCC.

The voting system will be a single transferable vote rather than first past the post, meaning voters rank their choices in order of preference.

Wakefield Council’s chief executive Joanne Roney, returning officer for the elections, urged people to make sure they are registered to vote by October 31.

She said: “This is important because it’s a fundamental change to the governance of the police and people won’t be used to voting at this time of year.

“It’s a different voting system and people need to familiarise themselves with the candidates’ statements, which they will find from next month on the Home Office website.”

For more details contact the electoral services office on 01924 305023. Any potential candidates interested in attending Wednesday’s briefing need to call 01924 305020 to register their interest.

The Candidates

Geraldine Carter - Conservative

l Served on West Yorkshire Police Authority from 2004 to 2008, as chairwoman of human resources committee, special committee and the Calderdale community forum;

l Board member of the West Yorkshire Probation Service from 2001 to 2005, specialising in hostels & prisons;

l Calderdale Council councillor for Ryburn ward.

Mrs Carter said: “We have the best police force in the world and this is about working with them.

“There’s a great lack of confidence from the public in the police and I want to see if I can do my bit to change that.

“I want to see the force able to work even more to cut crime, and look at making sure there is more visible policing.

“We need to get rid of legislation that makes sure paperwork has to get filled in time and time again, to enable the officers to do what they are good at – actively tackling crime.

“West Yorkshire is a large area and has such diverse communities so it’s important that we listen to what people are saying.

“I know West Yorkshire well and intend to come out to all parts and meet people. I’ve lived in the area all my life, I do a lot of work in the community and feel I have the ability to make a 
difference.”

Mark Burns-Williamson - Labour

l Chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA) since 2003;

l Elected as chairman of the Association of Police Authorities last year;

l Wakefield Council councillor for Castleford Central ward.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I don’t know of a time when the relationship between the police and government has been so bad.

“I’ll be standing up against the level of cuts to West Yorkshire’s force. I’ve said all along that 20 per cent is too far too soon.

“I will also look to work with other authorities in the region rather than outsourcing services to private security companies which the government seems to be pushing more and more.

“And I’ll be doing everything I can do protect neighbourhood policing, led by inspectors, which is the bedrock of policing here.

“I want to make sure I’m someone who speaks on behalf of victims and recognises the impact that crime has on individuals so that this is reflected in the priorities of the force.

“I believe I’ve got a strong track record of leadership and would use this for the benefit of West Yorkshire.”

Andrew Marchington - Lib Dem

l Chairman of the community safety partnership in Kirklees from 2005 to 2006, and 2009 to 2012;

l Chairman of the violent crime task group at Kirklees from 2006 to 2012.

l Former chairman of the Local Policing Committee at the WYPA.

l Kirklees Council councillor for Golcar ward.

Mr Carter said: “We need to make sure that communities are involved in decisions made by the commissioner as much as possible.

“Red tape should be cut to protect frontline services and get officers out onto the street.

“I also want to focus on tackling violence crime, in particular domestic violence which affects thousands in West Yorkshire.

“And I want to see restorative justice which would give victims the power to challenge those who commit crime. This not only gets victims’ questions answered and makes them feel part of the process, but also reduces the rate of reoffending.

“There are good things going on in West Yorkshire between prisons and the police but we need to see more of it.”