Jonathon Seed is the Conservative candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate for Wiltshire & Swindon.
All police forces in England and Wales have their local policing policies and budgets overseen by a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elected by local people. The law states that the PCC is responsible for the totality of policing in their Force area. It is a political role for an experienced local politician, who has strategic vision and experience of leading strong teams and managing multi million pound budgets. It’s not for the faint hearted and, if elected, I intend to deliver precisely what the people of Wiltshire and Swindon are telling me that they want to see from their police.
My aim is to deliver visible, effective, and robust policing in Wiltshire and Swindon. I want to make this area a place where criminals fear being caught because of the reputation our police officers and staff have at fighting crime.
Policing in Wiltshire is not failing, indeed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) rate it as “good”, and statistically Wiltshire is a safe place to live. So what is the problem? Quite simply it stems from residents constantly telling me that they do not feel safe and that they rarely see a police officer. Elected and voluntary local community leaders are telling me that the local liaison with their local police has failed and that local people are not being listened to by their police force. This is not a problem of failed policing, it is a problem of poor communication and a lack of police visibility, both of which I will address as priorities if elected.
According to HMICFRS, Wiltshire Police is well managed. In my view what is missing is a committed, confident, and robust strategy to achieve what the electorate want, which is exactly why we have elected PCCs. I have listened to residents, partners, and other interested parties, and I am determined to deliver much greater police visibility. This will be over and above the additional officers being funded by central government, through a combination of increasing police numbers and dedicating officers to community policing.
I have also listened to residents’ concerns about police response to crimes such as domestic burglary. Currently the view is that there is little or no follow up by local police to burglary and the clear up rate is less than 7%. In my opinion this is utterly unacceptable and I intend to ensure that all residents who have their home invaded by criminals are not just issued with a crime reference number. They deserve at the very least to have a follow up telephone call and in most circumstances a follow up visit. This is a priority and I will expect the Chief Constable to implement changes within weeks of me being elected. As a PCC I want to give residents confidence and bring back pride in our local police force.
Residents in Wiltshire and Swindon are policed by one of the lowest funded forces in the country. Per head of population we are grossly underfunded, despite Wiltshire now being one of the end delivery centres for county lines drug dealers, as well as having above average knife crime issues for its county profile. As PCC, I will prioritise improving the funding of our police force to give the Chief Constable the tools to deal with these scourges on our society. I am already working with MPs and lobbying Ministers to try to level up the funding per head of population. It takes a Conservative PCC to gain trust and to achieve the political access to Government Ministers.
However, being a PCC is not just about policing; it is also about our justice system and especially victims. I want victims to feel reassured that the criminals who came into their lives are being dealt with appropriately and that they can resume their lives in safety. Wiltshire Police has made a great start with the introduction of Restorative Justice, which brings those harmed by crime and the offender responsible together to try and repair the harm and move forward.
Clearly this will not work in all cases but it is particularly important with first time young offenders to give them a chance of being steered away from a life of crime, which a conviction or caution may precipitate. I believe that some people who are given a second chance can take that chance and turn away from crime – leaving the police to concentrate on prolific offenders and hardened criminals.
So there is a great deal to be done as a PCC. Conservative PCCs are currently responsible for the majority of the best performing forces and I intend to be part of that inspirational leadership trend. It is a wide reaching role with great scope for improving the lives of our citizens. I am now fighting an extensive campaign to win the election in May and look forward to ensuring that Wiltshire and Swindon are places where residents take pride in the visible, effective, and robust policing provided by officers and staff, and above all FEEL safe.