Vote Tomorrow for your Police and Crime Commissioner
On Thursday this week (15 November) people across England and Wales will have the opportunity to elect Police and Crime Commissioners who will oversee the budgets and set the strategic priorities for their Police forces. Until now most forces have been overseen by Police Authorities comprising nominated local Councillors and other worthies. The average member of the public has no idea who the members of their police authority might be. Even local Councillors would struggle to name any member other than the nominee from their own Council area. In other words they were completely unaccountable.
Police and Crime Commissioners by contrast will be directly elected by the electorate in their police force area. The two major parties are standing candidates as are the Lib Dems and UKIP. However, the Green Party has decided to boycott the elections in some areas (e.g. Thames Valley) and stand them in others. There is also a good selection of Independent candidates.
Here in the Thames Valley the following candidates are standing for election:
Anthony Stansfeld – Conservative: Anthony was born in Newbury and West Berkshire has been his home all his life. He is currently an executive member of West Berks Council, and is on the Thames Valley Police Authority. He took over as Chairman of the Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales. He has, in conjunction with his Committee, set the exacting targets the Police have to achieve over the next year. He concentrated his efforts on reducing rural crime, and improving household burglary detection rates, especially in Slough and Reading, neither of which have been up to standard in the past. He is also Vice Chairman of the Audit, Governance and Risk Committee which sets the financial targets for the Police.
Anthony had a career in both the military and in industry. He enlisted in the Royal Green Jackets at 17 and saw active service in Borneo and Northern Ireland, reaching the rank of Brigadier. He learnt to fly helicopters at Middle Wallop and commanded various Army Air Corps Squadrons, including the Army helicopters in the Falkland Islands in the latter half of 1982. He spent 2 years as Chief of Staff Intelligence in the Far East. On leaving the Army he became Marketing Director and then for 6 years Managing Director of the aircraft company Pilatus Britten Norman, which had aircraft in over 100 countries. At the same time he commanded the Army reserve helicopters as a TA officer. He is currently Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry.
While in the Army he spent 4 months carrying out reconnaissance for the crossing of the Darien Gap in Panama and Columbia, and led the first stage of Operation Raleigh, taking young people through the jungles of Honduras and Belize. For 8 years he was a trustee of the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. He has an MSc and studied international terrorism and Global security at Master Degree level.
Tim Starkey – Labour: Tim Starkey grew up in Amersham, going to school the elite Dr Challoner’s Grammar School before studying at Oxford University and then teaching English in Paris and Poland. He qualified as a barrister in London and now lives in Chalfont St Giles with his young family. He is was selected in a postal ballot of Labour members. However, he has already raised questions about his commitment to the task when he failed to turn up to the launch of his own campaign. Some Labour members are reportedly unhappy that until recently Starkey was a Liberal Democrat. Indeed he stood as parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham as recently as the 2010 General Election. As part of his General Election campaign he attacked Gordon Brown’s Labour for “the failure of this government to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour”. He is now asking the electorate to trust him as Labour candidate who would be responsible for crime and anti-social behaviour in the Thames Valley!
Professor John Howson – Lib Dem: Prof John Howson is managing director of DataforEducation.info, an Oxford based research company and an authority on the labour market for teachers. He has lived in Oxfordshire for the more than 30 years. A former deputy head of education at Brookes University and government adviser on teacher supply matters, John taught in a Tottenham secondary school for seven years and worked in teacher training and development in Worcester and Durham as well as Oxford. In 2005 he was the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in Reading East.
Barry Cooper – UKIP: Barry graduated with a masters degree in history and currently works at his family-run luxury furniture business in London. He is a resident of Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters.
Patience Tayo Awe – Independent: Patience Tayo Awe is an independent candidate with a passion for volunteering and serving the community. An IT post-graduate, she has worked in various sectors and has also served as a charity trustee.
Geoff Howard – Independent: Geoff is a Slough-based businessman, magistrate, school governor and former borough councillor of 13 years. Former Head of Department in a secondary school. Businessman for 27 years. Magistrate for 20 years, Chairing Adult and Youth Courts in Berkshire.
I have been out delivering leaflets for Anthony Stansfeld and in the Reading East constituency we have delivered around 30,000 to ensure that as many people as possible know about the election and our candidate. People I have met have said that they have received nothing from any other candidate.
Some sceptical commentators have been talking about 15-20% turnout in these elections undermining the credibility of the victors. I suspect that the turnout will be higher than this and in areas like the Thames Valley significantly higher. However, it is an interesting argument since many Labour Councillors in Reading are elected on turnouts well under 30% and some below 20%! To date I have not heard anyone arguing that they do not have a democratic mandate.