Cllr Marc Jones is the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Lincolnshire and the Executive Member for Finance and Property on Lincolnshire County Council.
Having recently been selected to be the Conservative candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Elections in Lincolnshire next May, I’m now walking that well-trodden path of preparation for an election.
The routine challenges of fundraising, team building, policy formation and public engagement (did I mention fundraising? All donations very welcome) are all there, but the scale of the task is something else. Running a coherent campaign across seven Parliamentary constituencies, with a few months to go, is a staggering prospect. It was a challenge for some campaigns in 2012 and something which must be overcome this time around.
Lincolnshire’s current PCC is an independent who to be fair is a nice guy. Back in the day he was on local television and his pitch to the public last time out was “remember me, I was on the telly?”. Enough did and he won on the second ballot. His first, and some would say only, impact was to suspend the Chief Constable within weeks of taking office. This lead to a whopping taxpayer bill of £350,000, a humiliating court appearance, and a somewhat challenging relationship with the man he was meant to be working alongside for the next four years!
People have been short-changed thus far by an underperforming incumbent.
Indeed, many have commented that the PCC is in fact just a deputy to his own Chief Executive whom he pays, alarmingly, almost three times his wage. We have seen nothing of the transformations some of our PCCs have achieved such as Katy Bourne in Sussex and Christopher Salmon in Dyfed-Powys to name but two of our outstanding intake from 2012.
Despite falling crime figures, which clearly are welcome, some appalling issues remain to be tackled in our county. We have had over 10,000 reports of domestic violence in Lincolnshire so far this year with sexual assault and rape almost doubling since the PCC took office.
Rural crimes such as hare coursing are being handled so badly – after the removal of a specialist officer for the area – that the PCC recently said it had been “open season for hare coursers”. Bear in mind that these criminals are often armed, very violent and commit other crimes when in the area so 1,500 incidents and rising, with a handful of arrests, is very bad news for our countryside communities.
My full plan is still coming together, but I am already clear in my desire to deliver Parish Constables through effective recruitment of local Specials. This is an excellent idea, working very well in Northamptonshire. I want to see a crackdown on crimes in rural areas and an overhaul of the way violent and sexual crimes are approached. We need a transformation of how support to victims and witnesses is given, as the criminal justice system can be a harrowing experience.
I will stand on a clear set of objectives: costed, realistic, and deliverable but no less ambitious for it. Without doubt though, the largest challenge will be to get the message across England’s third largest county that the “man off the telly” clearly isn’t the “man for the job”. For that, it’s back to wearing out shoe leather, something sadly few police officers have time to do these days.