The letters page of the Cambrian News has been hosting a lively debate. Here is my latest contribution:
Your readers have asked me to clarify why I am standing in November’s election for Police & Crime Commissioner as a Labour candidate and I am happy to do so. I have made clear that I do not think it is a good idea to have one person in charge of policing. If elected, I intend to consult widely and build a consensus on the key issues. As Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority I worked with members of all parties and none and would do the same as Commissioner.
But when you stand for election, it is important to be honest about your politics and views on the key issues, which I have done on my website www.talmichael.net. The biggest issue facing policing is the 20% cuts imposed by the Tory/Lib Dem Government at the same time as their economic policies drive the country back into recession – leaving the police to pick up the pieces with fewer resources. Labour’s priority is bobbies on the beat not tax breaks for millionaires.
So far there are no Tories willing to stand in North Wales, despite this election being a flagship Tory policy. Richard Hibbs is putting himself forward as an independent. Does that mean he is “above politics”? I don’t think so. He says he will cut the police even more than the Tories. This is “political” – how could it not be? The Welsh Labour Government’s decision to fund an extra 500 Community Support Officers is also “political” but widely supported. Mr Hibbs is surprised that the Welsh Government have said that a Commissioner who failed to spend the money on CSOs would be asked to repay the money. Yes of course and quite right too.
Whoever is elected as Police & Crime Commissioner will be responsible for prioritising spending and I won’t shirk that responsibility – but I will ensure a dialogue with the public and professionals on how we best use the resources available to protect those most affected by crime.
The Tories say they want police officers to be “rat catchers not social workers”. Such rhetoric is over simplistic and fails to recognise the complexity of modern policing. I will be reinforcing police officers’ duty to uphold the law without fear or favour and urging them to do what is needed to reduce crime. And I will require the Chief Constable to consider carefully which functions are best done by civilian staff rather than police officers and to justify his decisions. This isn’t interference: it is ensuring accountability.
Mr Hibbs also misunderstands the nature of the Labour Party: a party founded by trade unions to stand up for ordinary working people and oppose the dominance of politics by the wealthy. Our funding comes from the thousands of individuals who have joined the Labour Party and affiliated trade unions. Mr Hibbs may be reliant on political donations with strings attached for his campaign, but I will be looking for support from public-spirited individuals who want the best for North Wales not a return on their cash. Very few people know about this election, so if you are willing to help, get in touch.