The Best Choice for Surrey on 15 November
By Robert Evans
With the Police and Crime Commissioner elections now just a few days away, I am spending more and more time out and about in Surrey. In recent weeks I have visited all the larger towns eg Woking, Staines and Redhill and many smaller villages from Elstead and Cranleigh to Ewell and Stanwell. I have met former pupils from my teaching days, cricket opponents, people I haven’t seen for many years and even one person who knew me and my late parents in Ashford where I was born!
People in Surrey do think these elections are important and nearly everyone shares the two key points from my agenda – no to privatisation and police station closures – the issues that distinguish me from my opponents.
Nearly everyone opposes the Coalition plans to privatise parts of our police force. We all saw what happened when G4S were hired to run security at the Olympics yet Theresa May, the Home Secretary, still says private companies can be contracted to run policing services.
Boris Johnson has gone further saying ‘patrolling by community support officers, developing cases, responding to incidents, victim and witness support, managing high-risk individuals or intelligence and engagement with the public, as well as managing forensics and the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources could all be up for grabs.’
To my mind, there is absolutely no proven benefit to the privatisation of policing. What there is, is a huge list of problems. What happens if the police become more accountable to shareholders and not the community? What happens if what the community wants is not seen as commercially attractive enough? What happens if the private company providing polices services goes bankrupt as we saw with the debacle of Southern Cross and our care homes ? The reality is, when a private company failed or got into difficulty the police (or military) would have to take over. And there are many more questions to be answered.
Privatisation would change Surrey policing for good. It’s no wonder Surrey’s Police force oppose these ideas and that their morale is very low as a consequence of this and changes to their conditions of service. A country with a demoralised police force is a dangerous place to be and I don’t want that for Surrey – my home county.
I’m afraid the other candidates don’t share my views. One was the Chairman of the Police Authority that piloted the privatisation scheme in Surrey and clearly doesn’t understand or won’t accept that ‘outsourcing or putting services out to tender’ is privatisation! His much trumpeted claim that there are 200 more beat officers rings a bit hollow as Surrey still has fewer officers than other counties of similar size – eg Hertfordshire.
Two other party candidates are supporters of the Coalition Government, – Conservative and LibDem. Whilst the latter claims he opposes much of the Government’s policy, as we have seen in just about every other area, the LibDems go along with David Cameron, ‘sacrificing their principles in exchange for twenty ministerial cars’.
Two of my fellow candidates in Surrey are former police officers. Far from being a good qualification for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, I believe it actually to be almost incompatible. We do not want to have a PCC in conflict with the Chief Constable. The Chief is in charge of all operational matters and it really concerns me that someone who has been either a PC or a Borough Commander elsewhere might quickly be in a confrontation situation with Surrey Police.
In addition I am the only candidate who has said that I will re-instate the budget of the Domestic Abuse Service. I have been saddened to learn of the high rate of abuse in Surrey – a crime which affects rich and poor alike but which the current Police Authority hasn’t made a priority. I’m also a keen supporter of animal welfare and will stamp down on all crimes against wildlife, from hunting to dangerous dogs.
I don’t claim to be perfect. There is much for me to learn about the role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey. But if you elect me on November 15th you’ll get someone who is totally committed. I have very sound experience of negotiating, I get on well with people and I’ll make sure it isn’t just the loudest voices that get heard in this county.