Vicky Seddon, Coordinator of Sheffield for Democracy, gives this personal view of the hustings held on 5th November.
72 people turned out to hear all five candidates tell us why they are standing to be Commissioner, in a meeting jointly hosted by Sheffield First Partnership, “Sheffield for Democracy” and the Star Newspaper. All thought that an elected commissioner was not the right thing to have, or that the process had been badly handled, but they thought that, given there was going to be one, they were the right person to do it. Many of the comments we had received before the meeting also disagreed with the whole process, seeing it as imposed by central government, who hadn’t even bothered to put it to us in a referendum like the ill-fated proposal for elected mayors.
David Allen the English Democrat referred to the ancient office of Constable, who should be out on the beat preventing crime. He saw the two main tasks as altering the precept (i.e. financing police) and the ability to discipline or dismiss the Chief Constable.
Jonathan Arnott, the very energetic ex- General Secretary of UKIP, had much experience of working in community organisations, and working with young people, had a grandfather who was a policeman and a father who was a magistrate. Keeping the streets safe was his main priority. He wanted 24 hour police stations in Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham, as in Sheffield. He intended to appoint a known Lib Dem as his deputy.
Nigel Bronson, Conservative, had been a police officer for 30 years, and a total of 38 years in public service, so believed he was well qualified. This was a job selection process; he was not running a political campaign, and was not going to make promises that could not be kept. He had wide experience of “Safer Cites” programme including in high crime estates. If other agencies did their bit, the police could get back to tackling crime.
The Lib Dem Robert Teal’s pitch was that you could trust him. Policing by consent was crucial, as he had discovered in his role as magistrate. If trust was lost, people stopped reporting crime. However, he was not going to make pledges that could not be kept. He would offer clear leadership.
Shaun Wright , Labour, listed his experience; magistrate, ex shop steward, now councillor in Rotherham, Vice Chair of SY Police, Rotherham’s Children’s Trust. His vision was to make SY a safer place to live, learn and work. Priority was in protecting vulnerable groups: women (from domestic violence), children (from grooming and abuse), the elderly and drug users .
Wright’s record in Rotherham on the grooming issue was criticised by other candidates. Arnott challenged other candidates to say who they would appoint as deputy; none complied. All were asked whether they would support the call for an independent inquiry into collusion and dishonesty over police statements on Orgreave where 95 miners were charged with affray and all acquitted; all were in favour but said that SY police could not afford such an inquiry; funding needed to come from national purse.
Questions from the audience
Questions asked included whether this was a move towards Americanisation, and the extent to which the candidates would continue their allegiance to their political parties rather than exercise their own judgement. They all said they would not take instructions from their parties.
Candidates made a distinction between operational matters (responsibility of Chief Constable) and their role, with strategic perspective. Arnott insisted that more bobbies on the beat would general more confident and was what people want; Bronson and Wright said that one of the challenges was dealing with such popular demands in the face of research evidence e on the most effective use of resources.
Peter Bradley of Sheffield Cathedral, chaired the session very fairly and ensured a reasoned debate. On leaving, some people told me they were still unsure whether to vote for a candidate, or to abstain or spoil their paper because they disagreed so strongly with the process.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hustings
Peak Lecture Theatre,
Sheffield Hallam University (The Owen Building),
This is your chance to hear and put questions to the candidates.
- DAVID ALLEN – English Democrats
- JONATHAN ARNOTT – UKIP
- NIGEL BONSON – Conservative
- ROBERT TEAL – Liberal Democrats
- SHAUN WRIGHT- Labour
This is the only open invite event that we know of in Sheffield, and likely to be popular, so arrive in good time! Please let us know if you will be attending by signing-up for the event via the Unlock Democracy website: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/event/detail/publicmeeting/jt4
|Time:||Monday, November 5, 2012 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM GMT|