Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tory Police plan is reckless


It looks like the grassroots of the Conservative Party in Kent disagree with their erstwhile policy wonks in Medway and have expressed major concern about the forthcoming move to introduce elected Police commissioners.

In what will be seen as a direct snub to a number of extreme right-wing MPs the grassroots rebellion threatens to pit Conservative against Conservative.

The Kent Messenger Group is also likely to sit on the fence as it becomes increasingly clear this plan has zero support from the community.

Not one letter to the press, not one major campaign, not one well-known sponser outside of the political Oxbridge elite. The elite are simply out of touch with reality on the ground.

People in Medway are looking for the Police to combat crime not canvass for votes.

The Tory plan will see candidates (potentially aligned to the Police) spending thousands on election campaigns whilst residents begin to see the ill-effects of criminal cuts to Police which will impact the whole of Medway.

Millions wasted on elections as Police officers, PCSOs and support staff are axed.

There are concerns that an elected 'sheriff' will skew Police priorities away from urban low-voting areas into rural high-voting areas, which though politically popular, would lead to increasing crime rates. Going back in history we can see that Medway suffered from a lack of focus when it was part of KCC. The risk is a Kent-wide Commissioner will distort priorities away from Medway.

Medway Labour put a motion before Medway Council in 2010 to reject the proposal but local Conservatives opposed the Labour motion. Despite the fact we can see the ill-effects of partisan interference with the Police over the by-election in River ward in 2010 which saw a spat erupt between incumbent Conservatives who suggested the Police were bias.

Kent County Council Conservative leader Paul Carter agreed to write a letter to David Cameron warning him of the dangers of politicising the police, with Lib Dem group leader Trudy Dean due to add her signature.

The development has also been welcomed by the chairwoman of Kent Police Authority, Ann Barnes, who has been an outspoken critic of the plans to give one directly-elected individual the power currently held by 17 authority members.

Cllr Dean raised the issue at County Hall last week following allegations a handful of Met Police officers had been paid for supplying information to journalists at the News of the World. The force has also come under fire for botching a previous investigation into phone-hacking at the paper.

Cllr Dean said:

“This whole sorry tale proves that you need a complete separation between the police and elected government. You always need a separation between those who make the decisions and those who put them into operation.

“By introducing elected police commissioners you will merge those two roles and make these types of incidents far more likely to occur in future.

“It’s been an idea that’s been around for some time under both Labour and the Conservatives, and I think superficially it has an attraction of allowing local people to vote for police representatives. But the more you think about how that would work in practice, the more you realise the pitfalls that exist.

“As time has gone on, the voices of people against the proposals have grown louder and louder, and this whole scandal is an outstanding example of how things can go terribly wrong.”

Kent Police Authority currently consists of 17 non-elected board members, including a mix of independents and different party members from Kent County Council and Medway Council.

It is time for Tories to drop this pie-in-the-sky idea and get on with supporting our Police in fighting crime on the ground.

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