Your chance to decide who takes charge of police force’s finances

While the focus has been on local council elections there is one other major vote taking place this week.

The public will be asked to choose the police and crime commissioner for West Mercia – the third time people will select someone for the role, which was created in 2012.

The public conciousness over the importance of the position has grown in recent years – particularly with some of the high profile decisions taken involving West Mercia.

The commissioners can take major decisions regarding police funding and are also responsible for deciding how much tax the public pay towards the police.

There are four candidates vying for the position with Conservative John Campion standing for re-election to the post he has held since May 2016 – when he beat the county’s first ever crime commissioner, independent, Bill Longmore.

Mr Campion’s term has included some big decisions, with the Conservative ending West Mercia Police's alliance with neighbouring Warwickshire Police, arguing his force was subsidising the smaller partner – at the cost of local tax payers.

The acrimonious ‘divorce’ ended up with a multi-million pound settlement – costing £10.5 million.

Fire service

Mr Campion said the decision was a “good deal” and brought an end to an ‘inefficient and unfair policing alliance’.

The other major issue over the past five years has been Mr Campion’s bid to take over the running of the fire service in the county. The move has dragged on while it was opposed in the courts before the government put it on indefinite hold last year due to the pandemic.

Setting out his position on a potential second term Mr Campion has pointed to the 400 extra officers recruited to the force during his tenure.

Mr Campion has also highlighted an overall fall in crime in the area, and said that his intention will be to ensure criminals ‘fear being caught’, and are “held accountable for their actions and the proceeds of their crimes confiscated”.

The only local candidate contesting the election is Telford’s Kuldip Sahota, standing for Labour.

Councillor Sahota, a former leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, has pointed to his record while in charge of the authority which he said has helped shape the fortunes of the town.

Councillor Sahota said he was also offering a guarantee he would not seek to take over the control of the fire service.

The Liberal Democrat candidate for the role is Margaret Rowley, a councillor on Wychavon District Council for 25 years and until recently a senior manager in the NHS.

She has pointed to her experience in the public sector as evidence of her suitability for the role, and has also spoken of her wish to address the fear of crime – and the issue of rural crime.

Reform candidate Peter Jewell is a man with a wealth of business experience who has said he sees the role as non political – despite his party allegiance.

He said his experience as a magistrate, tribunal judge, and an assortment of other roles give him the blend of skills needed for the position.

The result is expected on May 10.

Meet the candidates:

John Campion - Conservative

Conservative candidate John Campion

“Having backed West Mercia Police with 400 additional officers in recent years, now is the time to ensure that investment translates to further reductions in crime and an increase in public confidence in the police.

“Whilst Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin is largely a low crime area where crime has fallen even further recently, crime can never just be accepted as inevitable. Criminals should fear being caught, be held accountable for their actions and the proceeds of their crimes confiscated.

“Reports of crime should be taken seriously, proportionate investigations undertaken with victims kept updated. Too often this is not happening in line with expectations of the public. Whilst I have made progress as Commissioner to focus our police on fighting crime and holding them to account, now is the time to make good that investment to maximise, with crime continuing to fall, a better service to victims of crime and to increase public confidence in policing.

“I have made progress in making good my promise as Commissioner to ensure that the community is at the heart of policing, ensuring your priorities are listened to and acted upon. There will always be more to do.

“With your support on May 6 at the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner elections, I can continue to back our police with the resources they need to keep us safe, hold them to account to ensure crime continues to fall and ensure the public remain at the heart of policing in West Mercia.”

Kuldip Sahota - Labour

Labour candidate Kuldip Sahota

“I am an experienced politician. I have served on the West Mercia Police Authority and was chair of the Telford and Wrekin Policing Board before becoming the leader of the Telford & Wrekin Council.

“I was involved in community services in Telford before becoming a councillor. I helped to secure a funding of £210k from European Urban Grant for Telford Cultural and Leisure Centre and then helped to raised £100k from the local community to complete the project.

“In 2009 I was asked to be on the board of governors of the University of Wolverhampton. I served my full nine years term as an independent governor and was chair of the audit committee.

“On my watch as a leader of the Telford & Wrekin Council from 2011 to 2016, I helped to stop the closure of Donnington MOD site in Telford, thus saving hundreds of jobs and creating hundreds more. Every secondary school in Telford and Wrekin was rebuilt or refurbished. I introduced a policy to build houses on the council-owned brownfield sites and built a solar farm on council-owned land to bring in extra revenue.

“My pledges are to have police focusing on safer streets and tackling violence. I want to ensure police are on the beat rather than behind desks. And I want to fight the causes of crime by ensuring provision of preventative services. There should be tougher sentences for rape and domestic violence and a new law to ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. I will not take over the running of fire authorities.”

Margaret Rowley - Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat candidate Margaret Rowley

“I have lived in Worcestershire for 30 years and until recently worked as a senior manager in the NHS. I have been a councillor on Wychavon District Council for 25 years and leader of the opposition since 1999.

“Through my employment and as a local councillor I have built up a wealth of experience of service management in the public sector.

“Local people, and particularly the elderly, feel vulnerable because they so rarely see any sign of the police in their area. A recent survey we conducted on Facebook showed that 33 per cent felt less safe in their community than they did a year ago.

“It also showed that 44 per cent had witnessed crimes or anti-social behaviour in the last three months.

“As a largely rural area, West Mercia Police have to deal with a wide variety of crimes. The force area covers 2,868 square miles making it the fourth largest police area in England and Wales. Rural crimes such as poaching, livestock rustling, theft of diesel and expensive farm machinery are a real problem.

“Although non-violent crime levels have fallen during the pandemic, other demands on the police are growing, include those created by trying to impose the chaotic and constantly changing restrictions due to Covid.

“As a Liberal Democrat I believe that preventing crime and ensuring that people feel safe is crucial.

“I aim to ensure that the police have the right resources to provide high quality community policing.”

Peter Jewell - Reform

Reform candidate Peter Jewell

“West Mercia Police is one of the biggest areas and one of the smallest budgets at £250 million, your Police and Crime Commissioner has to have the experience of handling that size of budget, so I would ask you to look carefully at the CVs of all candidates.

“Whilst I am standing as a Reform Party candidate as I believe in their views I have made it clear to the leader that I am firmly of the belief that this is a non-political role and he agrees.

“Why do I qualify? My company before it was sold had management consulting company offices in six countries and operated in 15 other countries. Our clients were major PLCs and Fortune 500 companies. I am presently a director and in most cases the owner of a number of businesses including a legal practice.

“I was a magistrate for 18 years, a part time tribunal judge for 20 years. I was on the National Board of the Magistrates and chairman of the Valuation Tribunal Members for England. I spent 14 years on the board of Worcestershire County Cricket Club and a member of the English Cricket Board disciplinary committee for six years.

“This role needs experience, not a past councillor or someone trying to climb the greasy political pole.

“The role is not being a policeman, it is overseeing the management and finances and being the face to the public for whom we serve. I turn to the precept cost. There was a promise five years ago of no increases, well there has and is a deficit.

“Let me help you to have an efficient cost effective force.”

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