In the second in our series of profiles of candidates for West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Richardson talks with Independent hopeful Bill Longmore.
Experience should be the most important criteria when it comes to selecting Shropshire’s PCC, according to the only Independent candidate taking part in the election.
Bill Longmore, 73, from Hanwood, in Shropshire, hopes his background as a police superintendent will help him to secure the public vote.
“The person who gets the job will need to get on with the police who are in charge. When I go around the region, talking to voters, they tell me that they think I will be biased because I’ve worked in the police before. That’s nonsense.
“There’s no more stringent manager than me and if I find waste, I’ll strip it out. The important thing for people to consider is this: you have to have a good relationship.
“I have a lot of experience and I can talk at their level. I understand their world, I know all about the issues that they face.
“The elections will lead to a lot of inexperienced PCCs taking up posts. But I hope that in the West Mercia that won’t happen. I don’t have any political affiliation and I have funded my campaign myself, spending thousands of pounds on getting my message across.”
Mr Longmore’s adult life can neatly be divided into three components. For 30 years, he served Staffordshire Police, retiring with the rank of Superintendent in 1986. Then he went into business, creating a multi-million pound company. Finally, in more recent times, he has devoted himself to public duty.
He is the chairman of the Hanwood Village Hall Management Committee in Shropshire and project manager for the village’s waterside park Community Spaces project. He was named winner of the BBC Midlands Sports Unsung Hero Award for 2011 in recognition of his work to develop sporting facilities in Hanwood during 12 years in the village, in particular with the women’s football team and the local bowls club.
During that service he became known for his work in improving and developing police public relations, especially with young people, by organising and starting sporting clubs.
Mr Longmore believes he is exceptional in a number of ways. He has spent many years building bridges between the public and the police. “When I was in the force, I spent a long time improving public relations.
“I was also interested in creating opportunities for young people, I was very much a leader in police activities with youth.”
Mr Longmore believes his business experience will also stand him in good stead. “One of the reasons I left the police was because I saw changes coming in that I thought were going to disadvantage officers. I saw the way things were changing.
“The Chief Constable asked me why I was leaving and I told him that the force was changing so that it was being run like a limited company. I don’t ever see the police as being an organisation that should be run on strictly commercial lines and I think the public would agree with me about that.”
Mr Longmore planned an easy retirement, after leaving the force. However, his managerial instincts kicked in and soon he found himself in business. He started a small sawmill and soon after started to manufacture sectional buildings. He identified areas in the market where he could prosper and give his clients good value for money. His company expanded and became a multi-million-pound concern.
“I had the business for about a decade and I kept in touch with local police and with local community groups.”
He moved to Shropshire about 13 years ago to retire, finding a home in Hanwood, but soon identified that there was a great deal of work to do in the community.
He got involved in local sports clubs, helped transform his village hall and became involved in other public works.
Mr Longmore added: “First of all, I look upon myself as being a leader. I’ve always had a lot of vision and innovation and I’m a motivator. I’ve organised events and run businesses and been in the police. The PCC is a role for somebody with the right profile and with a proven track record.
“People will see that I’m not only a talker, I’m also a do-er. For the last three months, we’ve been touring the region from top to bottom.
“I know the problems, I know the issues. There are a lot less police around and people feel that they are not as well protected as they would like to be. We have to accept that cuts have been made and things will be tight for several years. But we have to come up with a better system where community policing works in the right way. The police have to make the public feel confident, they have to come into contact with the public far more.
“In an emergency, the public need to know that the police will be there. The job of PCC will be really difficult, I think it’s been underestimated, but I can assure people that I’ll make sure I give it my all.”
Tomorrow we feature Conservative candidate Adrian Blackshaw