Mark Weston is the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset

We need to protect the front line: officers on the beat, working from local police stations. The police are here to keep communities safe and it is the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to make sure they have the resources to do that.

Since 2012 police numbers in Avon and Somerset have fallen, but the human resources team has more than doubled. Police stations have closed, yet the public relations team has grown by a quarter.  Spending on agency workers more than doubled in one year and the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner now costs £100,000 more than the Police Authority it replaced. The financial climate meant tough decisions had to be made but unfortunately for people in Avon and Somerset they were the wrong ones.

Throughout the campaign I have had people from all communities tell me they rarely see the police patrolling their neighbourhood. Neighbourhood Watch Groups are being left to wither away and Speed Watch volunteers are crying out for support.  This is wrong. A police presence is vital to communities feeling safe. While back office staff have a role to play it is the officers on the front line who do the job of keeping us safe and it is those I want to protect. 

That is why, if elected in May, I will once again put the community’s priorities at the heart of policing. I’m already campaigning to save our police stations and custody suites in Yeovil, Minehead and Burnham-on-Sea.

If elected as PCC I will ensure that the police are held to local policing priorities. The Force area is too large to adopt a ‘one size fits all approach’. That means community policing with a strong, visible presence on our streets to cut crime, reduce re-offending and reassure the public. Additionally, I will prioritise tackling rural crime. It is a serious problem for many of our communities and we must tackle the perception that this is an afterthought.

I will also work with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts to speed up the justice process to get criminals off our streets and before the courts. This will cut re-offending and make us all safer.  In addition I will make better use of new victim support methods, such as restorative justice, to provide a victim-led system that supports the victim whilst at the same time reducing re-offending.

The incumbent PCC’s slogan ‘keep politics out of policing’ is a cynical attempt to distract voters from her failures. Police and Crime Commissioners are the democratic link between the police and the public. They are visible, public figures, with a popular mandate to take executive decisions to improve policing in their area. This is a political role with an elected mandate and the responsibility for setting local taxes. In the past, force priorities were set in London and the budget was set by the local non-elected Police Authority. The role of the PCC ensures people’s policing priorities are listened to, and gives power to the people to hold their PCC to account at the ballot box.

And so it should be. That’s why it is so important everyone gets out and votes on May 5th for this important role. That’s why I am standing as a Conservative candidate.

The choice is clear: vote for a candidate who cuts police numbers while fattening back office departments. Or vote for me – a Conservative PCC – who will work with the Government to deliver lower crime and safer communities, while providing an effective use of resources.