Plans for an elected head of policing in Sussex are ‘a waste of money’ said a member of Horsham District Council last week.
Peter Burgess, who represents Holbrook West, made the controversial remarks as his party’s candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner role prepared to visit Horsham last Saturday.
Katy Bourne, a Mid Sussex district councillor, staged a town centre walkabout between 10am and midday with local MP Francis Maude.
She was asking the public for their views, but may not have wished to hear from fellow Conservative Mr Burgess.
He told the council: “Here we have a police authority, lots of them, having to have a new commissioner - at £85,000 plus expenses for three days a week - forced on themselves.
“It’s a total waste of money and should have been stopped a long time ago.”
David Holmes leader of the Horsham Liberal Democrat group said: “I can see the initial thought was to make the police more accountable. The outcome is something that we might regret.”
The Coalition Government has legislated to replace all the 41 Police Authorities in the UK in November with a Police and Crime Commissioner and advisory panel comprising of interested parties, such as the police, district and county councillors.
Each panel has an annual budget of about £50,000 to pay for all its meetings, including reimburse councillors and members for their time away from official business.
The Government’s aim is to improve the democratic accountability, but locally, this means a significant shift in power from 17 members of a Police Authority to one person representing the whole of Sussex.
On Wednesday the council approved Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) as its representative on the PCC advisory panel, but councillors used the opportunity to voice their concerns.
Dr Holmes urged Mr Donnelly to keep Horsham a priority. He said: “Out of the new regime there’s the possibility that policing could be pulled away. We want to keep the area as it is now.”
Deputy leader Roger Arthur said: “We have over the last year or so been contacted by cndidate saying ‘can we rely on your support. We said ‘can we rely on your support’.
“We have got anti-social behaviour well under control. If we take the lid off it will take a lot more money to put right. Candidates have said that won’t happen, but we will have to see.”
Mr Donnelly told members: “Nothing should change for the first year. If someone’s going to be creative I can only see a mess. The panel is full of some very good people in West and East Sussex. This is a brand new area for all of us, but Dr Holmes is totally right, we don’t want to undo the great work that has been done.”
Nick Herbert former policing minister and Arundel and South Downs MP said: “For the first time the public will have a real say over policing priorities, and that’s why this is a huge step forward. Far from wasting money, the elected PCC for Sussex will be accountable to local people and will undoubtedly want to ensure that money is spent wisely. Police authorities will be abolished, so the reforms will cost no more since the elections are not funded from the police budget.
“The newly elected PCC will swear an oath of impartiality which says they will represent their whole community, so the idea that Horsham will lose out is just a red herring. Horsham residents will have a voice when they had none before. Parliament has spoken on this issue. It’s time to focus on the election on November 15 and what the new PCC can do to keep local people safe.”