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We ask North Devon's parliamentary candidates what they think about police and crime commissioners

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

  • LIB DEM: Nick Harvey.

  • UKIP: Steve Crowther.

  • TORY: Peter Heaton-Jones

  • LABOUR: Mark Cann.

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Each week the Journal asks North Devon's parliamentary candidates for the 2015 general election where they stand on some of the area's big issues. This week we ask: "How successful do you feel Independent Police and Crime Commissioners have been?"

Nick Harvey – Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon

Commissioners were an absurd idea from the start – a daft Conservative wheeze we had to support through gritted teeth as the price for getting some of our policies implemented.

Commissioners who have appeared on national TV in moments of crisis (thankfully not our own) have largely been hopelessly inept and made things worse not better.

The police deserve better – they are doing a great job with severely diminished resources, even managing to bring crime levels down. But it is futile to pretend that the front line is unaffected, and if further significant cuts are made they will go "into the bone" – any "fat" having long since gone.

Police should be accountable to local communities, planning what they do alongside other local services; this can't be achieved by one panjandrum for Devon and Cornwall.

Mark Cann – Labour party

The Government's decision to introduce Police and Crime Commissioners and spending £100 million of taxpayers' money on the elections while at the same time cutting 15,000 police officers was ill advised.

Theresa May pledged that commissioners would be "somebody you've heard of" after criticising invisible police authorities. But it turns out that one in three people don't know who their police and crime commissioner is.

I still have concerns about the control commissioners have over chief constables and local policing and I worry over the lack of sufficient checks and balances needed to hold commissioners to account.

Here in Devon and Cornwall there are concerns that the costs of the commissioner are rising and the number of staff is greater than in the police authority it replaced. Meanwhile the number of police officers continues to be cut.

We need a sensible debate on how best we ensure democratic accountability of a police service rooted in the community they serve. I remain to be convinced that commissioners are the means to achieve this.

Steve Crowther – UKIP

It's perhaps a little early to tell, but I was never a fan of the idea.

UKIP has a belief in bringing democracy closer to the people, but through elected county boards rather than individuals. The idea of creating these "superjobs" for political strongmen doesn't appeal, unless you're a career politician, in which case I daresay it looks quite enticing.

The public gave its opinion on this with the first elections in 2012, with a turnout of 15%.

There have been some positive effects, in shaking up the chief constables, but also a lot of consultants have been hired and given the option to appoint a highly-paid deputy – it's surprising how many of them took it.

It just seems to me odd that a single politician should be put in charge of policing.

I think the direction of travel for this idea was indicated by that poor 17-year-old girl who suddenly found herself a youth police and crime commissioner and a week later was under investigation by her own police for some dopey remarks she made on Facebook when she was 14.

Peter Heaton-Jones – Conservative Party

It's clearly right that we reformed the old system, which consisted of an unelected and largely anonymous police authority. By contrast, commissioners are directly elected to make the police more accountable to the public, which is a welcome step forward.

At the same time we must keep an eye on the costs of the new system to ensure it represents value for money.

My priority is police officers in North Devon should be given the powers and resources they need to do their jobs. We should cut the paperwork which keeps them at their desks, and have a robust criminal justice system to support them.

The Government is making progress and, thanks to the hard work of the police, crime figures are down across North Devon.

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