On Thursday, November 15, Merseyside will elect its first Police and Crime Commissioner.
It is a strange time of year for an election as we normally hold elections at the start of May. But the government for some strange reason has decided to go for mid November when people are less likely to vote.
I hope that as many people as possible will vote in the election as whoever is elected will be responsible for a multi-million pound policing budget and it is vital that we have the best person for the job.
People have told me they don’t agree with having an elected Police and Crime Commissioner.
We have a police authority, ably chaired by Bill Weightman. Bill and his colleagues have done a good job of managing the policing budget and holding the chief constable to account. So why the change? After all the police themselves did not want the change and neither did the public. This is especially relevant as holding the elections and changing the system will waste millions of pounds that could have been spent on front line police.
Across Merseyside, the government is cutting the police grant by 20% and this will mean 600 fewer front line police, so spending time and money on re-organising the system makes no sense.
You might be forgiven for asking why take part in the elections and why vote if so many are against having the new commissioners?
But that would be very dangerous. Across the country there are all sorts of fringe candidates who have very dangerous ideas which would damage the safety of our communities. The prospect of one of those fringe candidates being elected is of course why the whole idea of electing commissioners was so crack pot and why the government yet again has so much to answer for.
Yet again the government has devised policies which were dreamt up on the back of a fag packet. But the prospect of having a crack pot commissioner is why it is so important we all vote and make sure we have someone who knows what they are doing as commissioner to work with the chief constable.
By and large Merseyside Police do a good job serving 1.5 million people. The chief constable will continue to run the police but the commissioner will set the budget and will need to make sure that there are services to reduce crime as well as respond to crime.
It is vital we have someone as commissioner who can work with local councils who have a key role in our community supporting the police, in working with young people, in child protection and in the rangers service here in Sefton.
It is also vital that the NHS and the councils are involved in delivering good mental health services to help prevent crime. 70% of those in prison have mental health problems so health and local government services have a vital role to play.
The Police and Crime Commissioner will need to work with councillors and with MPs to ensure that local and national government is responding to the needs of the people of Merseyside. Having someone who has good relationships with elected members across Merseyside will be important.
In this country when we elect people we usually elected someone who represents a political party. This election is no different in that regard and those who say this should not be a political post are missing the point. That of course is why the major parties all have candidates.
In my view, the government were wrong to spend the money on setting up the new role of commissioner. But as there is going to be an election, we need to have the best person we can for the job.
I hope you vote on Thursday, November 15.
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