Police commissioner candidates in election debate

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The candidates for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northamptonshire continued their battle on Wednesday night as they addressed an audience of county workers from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

The candidates took questions throughout the hustings at the Doddridge Centre, in St James, Northampton, and were each given chances to give timed responses.

The major talking point raised at the event was the issue of funding, with the Labour candidate Lee Barron calling for the other candidates to outline just how they will use their budget as the county will lose about £20m in funds by 2015 - due to calculations made using the funding formuala which decides how much money each force gets.

He said: “Whoever wins the vote of the PCC will have £20m less to spend by 2015 and the people of Northamptonshire need answers on what we will tackle in our budgets. I believe people need assurance in relation to that.

“I believe what people want to hear from the other candidates is more about their funding, not just ideas, but what they are actually going to do.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Varnsverry went on to respond to the question in a passionate speech. He said: “I think one of the first things I’ll do is to go knocking down doors at Westminster with the Chief Constable and see that we get our money back.

“We need to make sure that we do not have these level of cuts and the people need someone with the tenacity to go in there and knock the door down.”

John Norrie, the only independent candidate in the election, and a former police authority member and police consultant, said that the loss of the money was “grossly unfair “ to the people of Northamptonshire and also suggested he would try to get the money reinstated.

He added: “ I will look to join other PCCs on our side [who have also lost money due to formula calculations] and join forces to take down doors.

“ Hopefully by joining together we can be the winners.”

UKIP candidate Jim MacArthur agreed that the elected commissioner must fight to keep their budget, adding: “If we are forced to take these cuts and face a further two to three per cent loss from our precept, how are the front line forces going to cope?”

Adam Simmonds, the Conservative candidate, said he would also look at battling the issue of funding but added: “No-one I have heard have said how they are going to make this work.

“The police force have had some success in sharing certain services and this is something I would look at.”

Mr Barron added that, if elected, he will look to scrap the annual review which some external services, such as witness support groups, face in order to save funding and allow them to complete their jobs without fear of review.

PCCs will be responsible for setting priorities for their force, overseeing its budget and hiring the chief constable.

Elections will take place on November 15 and will replace the police authorities currently in charge of the 41 police forces across England and Wales.