Five-way contest in Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner election
- Credit: Archant
Voters in Bedfordshire will go to the polls next Thursday to elect a police and crime commissioner for the next four-year term.
It will be a five-way contest, with Kathryn Holloway (Conservative), Linda Jack (Lib Dem), Duncan Strachan (UKIP) and Toni Bugle (English Democrats) challenging the incumbent Olly Martins (Labour).
In the election statements Mr Martins, Mr Strachan and Ms Jack all said the Beds force needed more funding from Westminster.
Mr Martins said: “Bedfordshire Police has a similar number of police officers to rural Dorset, yet they have to deal with a burglary level and a terror threat like the West Midlands, together with gun crime and serious organised crime like Merseyside. Both of these forces are better funded and have many more police.
“This scandalous situation occurs because our police are funded by government as though we are a rural constabulary, ignoring the urban challenges faced by our ‘thin blue line’. Incredibly, government funding cuts mean police strength here has gone down rather than up since 2010.
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“The chief constable says we need at least 300 extra officers to police Bedfordshire adequately – PCs that would enable the force to have proper community policing in each part of the county. This is not possible with the existing incredibly low level of police.
“That’s why my top priority is fighting for fairer government police funding.”
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Mr Strachan said: “By listening to Bedfordshire people I will help the police deliver the best possible service for everyone in Bedfordshire and deliver high quality policing for every community in town and village alike.
“This will have to be within the budget that has already been set for the current year.
“Bedfordshire police is clearly underfunded. Central government has a duty to fund policing properly, and I expect to justify greater financial support from the government as a result of my spending review, to be included in my first police budget.”
Ms Jack said: “Bedfordshire is facing a series of government attacks on our public services, exacerbating the historic underfunding of Bedfordshire police.
“We need a police and crime commissioner who will speak up for Bedfordshire, fight for proper funding and work to ensure that our police are given the resources and support to do their jobs.
“I have a track record of representing others and a reputation for fighting on their behalf – I will be that strong voice Bedfordshire needs.”
The Conservative candidate Mrs Holloway, by contrast, made no reference in her statement to under-funding.
She said: “I spent 20 years as a news reporter and presenter for services like ITN, TV-am and Sky, getting to the truth of the matter and holding the authorities to account on behalf of the public – which I believe are essential skills as a police and crime commissioner.
“I will explain police action to the public and could never preside over a cover-up.
“I will introduce practical, common-sense solutions to work with our budget of £100 million and to use our officers to best effect.
“I will work with partners like the NHS, Fire Service and councils to share facilities where possible and support one another so the police do take on the responsibilities of others. I do not need an expensive deputy or PR agency.
“I will make sure that you get a fair share of policing whether you live in the town or country and whichever community you belong to as a Commissioner for all.”
The English Democrats’ representative Ms Bugle, founder of the pressure group Mothers Against Radical Islam And Sharia (MARIAS), has pledged to ban burkas and niqabs – Islamic veils covering the face – on the grounds that those wearing them cannot be identified on CCTV.
Like her Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP rivals, she said in her statement that Beds police is underfunded. She intends to work with private businesses to raise more money, and put ‘every single possible penny’ into frontline policing.
She said: “I will ensure fair policing with no favouritism to any community. I am not satisfied that this is the case at present, with politically correct non-crimes investigated and resources wasted.
“I am particularly concerned about the rise of extremism and the threat of terrorism. Tough action must be taken against the perpetrators.
“I am passionate about ending the activities of child grooming gangs. There must be zero tolerance with vulnerable youngsters encouraged to come forward in safety.”
More information on all the candidates is available at choosemypcc.org.uk/area/bedfordshire.