Police and Crime commissioner candidates grilled at Finchampstead hustingsBy Jon Nurse
November 09, 2012
Sceptical villagers questioned the need for Police and Crime Commissioners in a lively hustings in Finchampstead.
Voters will take to the polls next Thursday to elect a commissioner for the Thames Valley.
The region’s six candidates were grilled at Finchampstead Memorial Hall last Wednesday.
Event chair Professor Adrian Hobbs CBE said: “The candidates unanimously said to me after it was the best-attended hustings they had been to with the best audience.
“It was a good chance for people to find out what the candidates are like, but I’d say the overwhelming majority of people asked why we were having it [the election].
“If we had a vote there and then I expect a high proportion would have said no.”
Patience Tayo Awe (independent), Barry Cooper (UKIP), Geoff Howard (independent), John Howson (Liberal Democrat), Anthony Stansfeld (Conservative) and Tim Starkey (Labour) are in the running for the Thames Valley PCC.
The PCC role was introduced by the Government to replace existing Police Authorities and it will be responsible for scrutinising – even hiring and firing – the Chief Constable as well as setting force priorities and more.
Prof Hobbs said the audience expressed their dislike at politicising the role of running the police.
Celia May, 59, of Church Lane, Finchampstead, said: “Most people are pretty ignorant about what they are going to vote on.
“As a democratic process it doesn’t seem clever to ask people to vote on a matter they know very little about.
“I thought the candidates were very informative.”
An audience of 70 people filled the hall and candidates had 10 minutes to deliver their points before an open question time.
Labour activist Matthew Dent said: “I’ve been concerned the elections would have a negligible turnout so it was encouraging to see so many people with engaging questions.
“I think it was so well attended because of good work by the Finchampstead Society.
“A low turnout [for the election] could hand it to a candidate who isn’t best for the role.”
Prof Hobbs was impressed with the questions tackled in the hustings, where all the candidates, with the exception of Mr Cooper, stated their opposition to arming the police.
“One issue was people wanted to see was co-operation between the police forces as Finchampstead is located on the boundary of three forces.
“The nearest police station in Hampshire is Yateley, which is probably closer than Wokingham.”
On November 15 76 polling stations will be open across the borough from 7am to 10pm.
More than 19,000 residents have requested a postal vote, which must be returned to Wokingham Borough Council by 10pm on the day of the election otherwise they will not be counted.