During the last few weeks I have spoken with a lot of people who have expressed serious misgivings about having PCC’s, about the way we are voting for PCC’s and also about the lack of independent candidates.
I am taking this opportunity to address some of the key questions people have posed to me head on.
Why do we need PCC’s?
We don’t. The PCC is a continuation of Labour’s drive to take local government down the executive model of democratic control. This model has proven to leave a massive democratic deficit because the incumbent has the power to change and manipulate the system whilst the opposition who should be scrutinising and tempering the powers of the incumbent are reduced to shouting lamely from the sidelines.
It means that a hell of a lot of power is vested in the hands of just one person, and to be honest whilst we don’t want the police to be politicised, at the same time there is absolutely no vetting process by which to measure the suitability or even sanity of any independent candidate.
There is also no process for controlling the actions of the Commissioner beyond a vote every four years. A lot of damage can be done by one individual in four years. It would have been far better to have either a directly elected police authority, or alternatively have the elected councillors sit as an electoral college to appoint members of the authority.
All that being said, we are lumbered with this system, and therefore it is the system we must engage with.
Why are the parties bringing politics into policing?
The fences are too high for any individual independent candidate to jump them. Let me explain:
- You need a deposit of £ 5000 to stand;
- You need to deliver any literature yourself (there is no freepost);
- You need to design and typeset any literature yourself;
- You need to pay for any literature yourself;
- You have 2.5 million electors to contact; and
- You have four weeks in which to contact them.
An operation on that scale is virtually impossible for the political parties to achieve, let alone any independent individual.
Why did the Liberal Democrats nominate a candidate?
Whilst the Liberal Democrats believe that the police commissioner should not be a party politician, it very quickly became clear that independent candidates were not emerging for this contest.
We arranged a fallback position of asking former Police Inspector Matt Gallagher if he would be prepared to stand with Liberal Democrat sponsorship. It was two days before the close of nominations that the independent candidate finally emerged, and by that time the sponsorship arrangements and the nomination for Matt were in.
What difference will Matt make as police commissioner?
In his long career in the police Matt has rooted out corruption, managed operational budgets and worked on the front line. He knows what policing is about and how to get the most out of the money we spend on policing.
His blog site at http://matt4pcc.org sets out the full case for supporting him. I hope that the people of Greater Manchester will get behind him so that we can get a police commissioner who understands policing and how best to make it work for us, the citizens.