Police commissioner candidates clash at public debate

By Laura Maltby Thursday 18 October 2012 Updated: 18/10 08:17

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Buy photos » Left to right - Police Commissioner candidates Ron Ball (Independent), Fraser Pithie (Conservative) and James Plaskitt (Labour). 42.012.0029.leam.nc1

CANDIDATES bidding to become Warwickshire's first ever Police Commissioner have locked horns in the first major public debate of the campaign.

Coming together at Leamington town hall on Tuesday afternoon (October 16) to discuss issues such as how to reduce crime and increase victim and witness support, the three candidates each set out their stall to be elected Warwickshire's first ever police commissioner next month.

James Plaskitt (Labour), Ron Ball (Independent), and Fraser Pithie (Conservative) are all vying to replace police authorities as the political overseer of law and order in Warwickshire with votes cast on November 15 and the successful candidate taking office on November 27.

Speaking about the role, Mr Plaskitt said: “I think the commissioner role is a community service and it's about empowering people, strengthening the views of the public and it needs someone who can help them to do this.”

If elected, he plans to recruit champions who would work alongside him.

He said: “All the towns will have champions to ensure they all have a voice. As commissioner, it would then be my job to ensure that their problems and issues are addressed.”

Mr Plaskitt explained he would fund the commisioner's office for less than it currently costs to run the police authority and would use the extra money to increase the number of police officers as well as challenging government funding for Warwickshire.

But Conservative candidate Fraser Pithie disagreed with Mr Plaskitt, arguing it was unnecessary to increase the number of police officers.

He said: “In 2006 there were 200 more officers and crime was 33 per cent higher than it is today so why do we need more officers?”

Mr Pithie said his role as chair of the Police Authority and as a volunteer special constable coupled with the experience he gained working as operations manager at Severn Trent Water made him an ideal candidate for the commissioner role.

He added: “How the power given to the commisioner is used is critical. Ultimately, it has to be used in a way that causes crime to be reduced and that is one of my main goals.”

Independent candidate Ron Ball told the Observer he believed whoever was elected to the commissioner post should be free of political affiliation.

He said he would approach the independently minded police authority members with a view to working with them in the first year and benefitting from their experience to help reduce crime levels in the area.

Unlike Mr Pithie and Mr Plaskitt, he argued funding decisions should not be taken entirely by one person and proposed a system giving groups the opportunity to vote.

Mr Ball added: “As a former pilot for BA, I needed to be able to make important decisions, handle responsibility and be a good team player. All of these things would make me a strong candidate for the commissioner role.”

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