ANDREW STEPHENSON (PENDLE CONSERVATIVE MP): Have a say in who Lancashire’s Police Commissioner will be

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I RECENTLY met Nick Herbert, Minister for Policing, to talk about plans to reform the police, open up public services and give more power to communities.

This Government’s reforms have already started to improve our police forces. Improved efficiency has already saved £34m. and savings are expected to rise to £70m. by the end of the financial year.

In addition, cutting back on bureaucracy is expected to save 3.3 million police hours per year. But the aim of our police reforms is not just to save money, it’s to equip the police to face the future and make them more effective at fighting crime, so we have launched ambitious plans to help the police work with the public and improve accountability.

Under the previous Government, the police were micro-managed. Whitehall even gave instructions on how the police should answer phone calls. Resources were wasted while police officers did paperwork instead of fighting crime.

This Government is now giving communities the power to hold the police to account. It has launched www.police.uk, making it easier for people to access information about crime locally. It is also bringing in elected police and crime commissioners.

On November 15th, commissioners for each of the 41 forces in England and Wales will be elected. Chief constables will answer to their local commissioner, who will answer directly to voters. For the first time, the public will have a say over policing priorities, instead of policing decisions being made behind closed doors.

Some people worry that electing police commissioners will politicise the police force. I understand these worries, but there are numerous safeguards in place to ensure the operational independence of the police will be protected.

Police forces will remain free to make arrests and pursue investigations without interference.

Elected police commissioners are the best people to keep the police independent because, unlike bureaucrats, they will answer directly to local voters and not to politicians who appointed them.

Similar reforms have been successful in the Netherlands. In a small community outside Rotterdam, the police are allocated 20 hours a week where local people decide what exactly the police do. This project has resulted in a massive reduction in crime.

We are also implementing services to further strengthen the links between the police and public. A new non-emergency 101 number is being introduced to make it easier to for people to contact the police and take pressure off the 999 emergency number.

In Pendle, we will be voting to elect a commissioner for Lancashire. Electing a local person as police commissioner will allow the police force to better tackle local problems, such as metal theft, gangs and vehicle crime.

The Lancashire police commissioner will have an important job to do, and I encourage candidates from Pendle to come forward.

I also hope everyone will get out and vote on November 15th. Electing commissioners will increase accountability, performance and give us a voice in the way our police force is managed.