The line-up of candidates battling for the £85,000-a-year role of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has been formally announced.
More than one million registered electors in the county will be able to vote for Tony Armstrong (UKIP), Katy Bourne (Con), Ian Chisnall (Ind), Godfrey Daniel (Lab) or David Rogers (Lib Dem) at elections on Thursday November 15.
The Sussex PCC will replace the Sussex Police Authority and the individual will be responsible for overseeing the force’s chief constable and holding the police to account.
This week a campaign has been launched by the Electoral Commission in a bid to raise awareness of the PCC elections.
It follows national concern that poll turnout will be poor and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s plea for people to boycott the vote next month.
A lack of interest and understanding of the elections and position has been expressed locally as well, with Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West and Horsham Town) lambasting them in this paper as a ‘complete waste of money’.
And less than 30 people attended a PCC public meeting - open to the entire county - held in Ashington on Friday October 12.
Those who did turn out threw a barrage of questions at three of the candidates in a job interview-styled assessment.
At the meeting was Roger Arthur (Con), deputy leader of Horsham District Council, who told the County Times this week that the members of the local authority will hold candidates’ ‘feet to the fire’ and do their utmost to ensure whoever is elected does not push police resources away from Horsham.
Concerns have been expressed by senior members of the council that because the Horsham district is hailed as one of the safest places to live in the country, the PCC may shift focus on more crime ridden areas such as Brighton and Hove (WSCT 31-05-12).
Mr Arthur warned that such a move could ‘cripple’ the district’s ability to deal with crime, such as anti-social behaviour, with as much succes as it does today.
Throughout the debate candidates thrashed over each others’ proposed policies and visions for the future of Sussex policing.
Godfrey Daniel even criticised the coalition’s decision to hold the elections, stating: “I would have rather seen the money spent on policing.’’
He also admitted that he would not be standing if his party had not subsidised the £5,000 deposit - a financial must for all candidates which has inevitably made the race more politically dominated.
The meeting unravelled a host of different backgrounds and skill sets Sussex PCC candidates bring to the table.
Katy Bourne, who made a visit to Horsham on her campaign trail recently, boasts strong business experience after building her own leisure company which was successfully sold to her main competitor.
The Conservative Party candidate says it is these skills which she will utilise when overseeing the county’s policing budget.
Meanwhile Labour’s Mr Daniel says his strengths lie in his policing background.
The candidate has worked as a lead member for Independent Custody Visitors and Independent CCTV monitoring.
At the Ashington meeting he said: “I’m realistic, I’m not going to say ‘I can do this’ and ‘I can do that’.”
Ian Chisnall holds an independent party status and aims to encourage more policing involvement with members of the public. He told the County Times: “The level of crime in Sussex is already very low and to see further reductions will depend on people across Sussex understanding the concept which is believed to have been first expressed by Robert Peel: ‘The people are the police and the police are the people’.” Tony Armstrong, who did not attend the meeting, served for 30 years in the constabulary in London and the South East and says that his priority for the position will be to ensure value for money without threatening front line services. He claims inside knowledge of working within a force gives him the edge that will be able him ‘to make the most difference to the county’.
A councillor for more than 35 years and a former chair of the Sussex Police Authority, the Liberal Democrats’ David Rogers says he wants to give the Conservative candidate a ‘real fight’.
David also did not attend the Ashington meeting, but his website reads: “I want to make sure that there is more than one voice in this contest. The Tories expect this to be a walkover, but I am determined to give them a real fight.”