LINCOLNSHIRE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER HUSTINGS EVENT IN LONG SUTTON
The cost of policing Lincolnshire, crime in South Holland and their own qualifications to be the county’s next Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). These were some of the questions posed to three of the four candidates, county councillors Victoria Ayling (UKIP), Marc Jones (Conservative) and former East Lindsey district councillor Daniel Simpson (Lincolnshire Independents), at a pre-election hustings event in Long Sutton on Wednesday.
Almost 70 people were inside Long Sutton’s Royal British Legion Club to hear what Coun Ayling, Coun Jones and Mr Simpson would do to fight crime, maintain policing numbers at just under 1,250 staff and protect the people of Lincolnshire.
The event was organised by South Holland District Council members for Long Sutton, Coun Laura Eldridge and Coun Jack Tyrrell, in response to residents’ concerns about the growing number of burglaries, thefts and reports of hare coursing in the area.
Coun Jones said: “The PCC’s job is somewhat misunderstood but it’s about understanding and administering the policing budget and helping the Chief Constable to set policing priorities for Lincolnshire.
“What we need is somebody who has experience of managing large budgets, thinking strategically and working with both local and central government to secure funding.”
But Coun Ayling warned her audience that keeping the number of police and PCSOs in the county as they are now would be a struggle, claiming that promises of a “fairer funding settlement from the Government has been kicked into the long grass”.
“It costs £170,000 more per annum to run the police than the PCC office so I’d have a dig around to see where that funding goes.
“As the UKIP candidate, I can give you all the advantages of being independent and ensuring that the Chief Constable is providing the best policing that’s possible for you.”
Meanwhile, Mr Simpson justified his last-minute entry into the race to become the county’s PCC by claiming that he took time to decide whether his skills and experience made him suitable for the job.
“It was a very measured decision and I had the support of the Lincolnshire Independents to make what was a major decision,” Mr Simpson said.
“You do need some help to get the message out there and the very fact that I’ve come to Long Sutton should be a measure of my firm belief that the public should have their say on my message that I’m here to the job (of Lincolnshire PCC).
In response to a question from Keith Hargreaves of Sutton Bridge about what each of the candidates would do to take on board the issues affecting peopl in South Holland, Coun Jones pledged to set up a “community commission” made of people from across Lincolnshire.
Coun Jones, currently Lincolnshire County Council executive member for finance and property, said: “The community commission would be made up of a cross-section of people from across Lincolnshire to make sure they are at the heart of what’s happening with policing in the county.
“This would then be fed back to Neighbourhood Watch and Community Association groups in the county.”
Meanwhile Coun Ayling, county councillor for Spilsby Fen, claimed her background as a barrister and former East Lindsey district councillor meant she could understand the issues facing South Holland voters.
But she added: “People would see me at parish council meeting and I’d get out to meet the people and see to it that neighbourhoods are engaged and feel part of policing in Lincolnshire.”
Mr Simpson vowed to make rural issues a priority should he be elected PCC and added: “I want to stand because I feel the issues and concerns here aren’t beind addressed.
“It needs someone to get in there and improve the current poor relationship between the public and the police.”
Meanwhile, Long Sutton district councillors Laura Eldridge and Jack Tyrrell were both relieved and pleased with the success of Wednesday night’s Lincolnshire PCC hustings debate in the town.
But Couns Eldridge and Tyrrell did feel that potential voters in the Suttons had missed out on an important opportunity to find out how the next person to have oversight of policing in the county would meet concerns particular to the area and South Holland.
Coun Eldridge said: “Although I was pleased with the turnout, I was somewhat disappointed that we didn’t have the room packed out.
“Jack and I have personally delivered about 2,000 of our newsletters to householders within the ward, along with your publicity within the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian.
“With policing of the Suttons area being such a big issue of concern at the moment due to the spate of burglaries, thefts and ongoing speeding problems, I had hoped many more local residents would have been there.”
Coun Tyrrell said: “We have done all we can for now to help make Long Sutton a safe place to live by getting three of the candidates to be Lincolnshire PCC to come to the Royal British Legion so people could meet them and tell them what they have been telling us.”
• OPINION by Winston Brown
Lincolnshire PCC candidates Victoria Ayling, Marc Jones and Daniel Simpson should be commended for coming from Stickford, Lincoln and Louth respectively to meet the people of the Suttons on Wednesday.
Putting yourself up for a post that earned outgoing Commissioner Alan Hardwick some scathing criticism after suspending Chief Constable Neil Rhodes in February 2013 is not an office many would consider running for.
But the candidates willingly gave their time to answer questions from people fed up of speeding vehicles, hare coursing gangs and burglaries spoiling their way of life.
Of course, Wednesday would not have been possible without the organisational efforts of district councillors Laura Eldridge and Jack Tyrrell.
The only question is why did Labour PCC candidate Lucinda Preston fail to see it as her duty to attend on Wednesday?