On May 5, people across Nottinghamshire will be asked to turn out and vote for the county’s next Police and Crime Commissioner - a role created by the former Coalition Government to make policing more accountable to local people.
But turnout was poor back in 2012 at around 17 per cent in Notts, and the roles have been criticised as ‘toothless’ as Government cuts have eaten into policing across the county.
Initially envisioned as an independent post to replace the old-style Police Authority, the job was immediately jumped on by the political machine, with many of the initial incumbents coming with party colours already attached.
The current Notts PCC Paddy Tipping, a former Labour MP, will be hoping for a second term in the job, but he faces competition from the Conservative’s Tony Harper, a former Derbyshire police officer, and UKiP’s Fran Loi - a former Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham East.
Quite late in the day, they were joined by independent candidate Tony Bates, and former Liberal Democrat parliamentary hopeful Jason Zadrozny - now also standing as an independent.
We spoke to each of them to find out why they want YOUR vote, and what they would hope to achieve if they are successful.
Paddy Tipping - Labour
“Terrorism has become a major issue for us and I am in talks with the Home Office to increase the number of armed response vehicles on patrol in light of the terror attacks in Brussels and Paris,” he said.
“The immediate problem is that we have to find another £12m in cuts from April 1. The budget reduction has also been the major issue since I was elected to the role, with Nottinghamshire Police facing unprecedented cuts.
“The majority of police funding comes in the form of Government grants, and we have had our budget cut by £54m, or 25 per cent over the past four years.
“But we have worked hard in Nottinghamshire to protect neighbourhood policing - we have reduced police numbers by around 100, although this is a lot less than in other counties.
“We have also lost PCSOs, but we still have more than any other East Midlands force, and double that of Derbyshire.
”I’m a great believer in making pledges, I made five pledges at the time of the last election and delivered on them even in the face of tremendous difficulties.
“But Nottinghamshire has falling crime and our police numbers in the front line are amongst the highest in the country.”
Tony Harper - Conservative
“We do need to draw a line under falling police numbers. What I would never want to be seen as is somebody who cuts back the police force because I have invested 36 years of my life into it,” he said.
He added that he would divert many administration tasks currently carried out by police officers to civilian staff, and save cash by reducing what the force is spending year-on-year on things like translation services.
Mr Harper also backed calls for a reduction in the number of PCSOs, claiming that the role does not offer value for money. Instead he wants to fill the gap with a massive recruitment drive into the Special Constabulary - relying on volunteers to fulfil a major community policing role.
“Currently in Nottinghamshire, Specials are seen as a bit of a nuisance by regular officers,” he said.
“These people are typically community-minded individuals who want to put something back, but they turn up for duty at the police station and nobody really knows what to do with them, so they end up doing filing or washing the pots.”
Fran Loi - UKiP
“The interest of law-abiding citizens of Nottinghamshire and the victims of crime must always take precedence over those of criminals,” he said.
“I am standing as UKIP’s candidate because I believe that our police force should be held to account by someone who is not part of the establishment and who will scrutinise the strategic partnerships between police and local authorities.
“During my career, I have specialised in project management of taking under-performing businesses, holding senior management to account and turning organisations around during financial difficulties.
“Nottinghamshire Police are in a poor financial position, which has led to cuts to the front line and stations closing.
“We’re not whipped like the other major parties so I’m free to represent the people of Nottinghamshire.”
He has pledged to have a zero tolerance to crime, and reverse cuts to front line services; repair the bridge of trust between the people of Nottinghamshire communities and police; and have more visible policing and deterrents to boost safety in Nottingham and the county’s town centres, especially for the night time economy.
Tony Bates - Independent
“I believe there is simply no place for politics in policing. I’ve seen shopping lists of crime priorities and people saying they’ll draw lines under things, but what we need is to change the way we work,” he said.
“In Nottinghamshire we’re way behind the curve in terms of technology and partnerships. I’m interested in using more technology and we have to look at integration, whether that’s with other blue light services or working with the private sector, I don’t know.
“But the public don’t see this, and its all about getting more front-line policing. I don’t want to see a riot van driving around. I’d rather park that van around the corner and get the officers on the street.
“I am the only candidate standing for the PCC who is not party political or has not stood for public office before. The role of the PCC is to hold the Chief Constable to account, to represent the views and concerns of local people, and to ensure that money is best spent to tackle the problems that Nottinghamshire faces. It doesn’t need a politician to do this.
“I am also the only candidate who opposes the merger of the city and county police divisions. Crime in Worksop and Mansfield is very different to that in the Meadows area of Nottingham, for example. One size doesn’t fit all – and the proposal to merge the two divisions has risks attached.
“As a business owner, I know what it takes to balance budgets. I recognise waste when I see it. If elected I would review the current PCC’s £70k a year salary and also question the need for a £90k a year chief executive. If I am elected, I would take half the salary and spread the remainder to benefit community policing.”
Jason Zadrozny - Independent
“People don’t feel that our police are on their side. I will change this, get rid of pen pushing and ensure our front-line officers, coupled with our fabulous PCSOs, get the full support they deserve away from political interference,” he said.
“More and more people are telling me that they want to see an end to politics at the top of policing. ”
He said his campaign will be about refocusing Nottinghamshire Police and will demand more front-line officers and ensure there are no more police station closures.
“Since I announced my intention to stand for election, I have been contacted by members of all political parties with kind words and encouragement. It is clear that this election will be a tight race between myself and Labour,” he said.
“Nottinghamshire Police have closed police stations, cut officer numbers and axed services right across our county and city.
“At the same time, they have increased spending on expensive spin doctors, increased pen-pushers and hiked up council tax. The job of a PCC is to decide police priorities. At the moment they seem determined to protect their dwindling authority at the expense of protecting the people of Nottinghamshire.”
Pictured: Fran Roi, Jason Zadrozny, Tony Harper, Paddy Tipping and Tony Bates.