Election of a Police Commisioner for West Yorkshire

On Monday 24th September 2012, Fabian was very pleased to be able to introduce Councillor Mark Burns-Williamson OBE from Wakefield to constituents at the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff centre in Moortown. Mark is the official Labour party candidate for the as yet little-publicised election of the Police Commissioner that will be held on the 15th November 2012.

Direct elections of Police Commissioners, who will replace the work of the existing representative Police Authorities, has been instituted by the coalition Conservative / Liberal Democrat government and it is a move that was not been supported by the Labour Party. However, there is now full engagement in the important process of elections. The new Police Commissioners will actively hold Chief Constables to account for the quality and effectiveness of policing but will not undertake day-to-day management of police staff or make operational decisions.

Mark Burns-Williamson introduced himself to constituents informing them that he had served as Chair of the existing West Yorkshire Police Authority since 2003 and he is also the chair of the National Association of Police Authorities in England and Wales. He also serves as an elected councillor for Glasshouses and Castleford Central and has represented local people on Wakefield Council for some fourteen years. In outlining the forthcoming election both Mark and Fabian expressed deep concerns about the November date with the risk of a low turnout at that time of year and the fact that the election would be by single transferrable vote. This process (rejected in the recent referendum for Westminster elections) means that if voters do not properly consider candidates individual merit and choose as second preference a person who is (say) just a personality, there is a real risk that such a candidate might get elected. When no candidate secures over 50% of the votes on the first count, second preferences votes are taken into account.

In outlining his candidature, Mark spoke of his anguish in having to come to terms with the 20% reduction in the police budget for the county that has been imposed by the government that equates to a cut of 2000 police officers and staff. He was also very concerned about the government drive to outsource police services to private organisations and feared that the spectre of G4S failure at the London Olympics would be repeated in local police areas. Mark stressed his commitment to maintaining close working relationships with all communities and organisations to retain and build trust in police services and to remain accountable to the public who are the service users.

Councillor Mark Burns-Williamson (2nd from left) and Fabian (red tie) meet constituents in Moortown

Questions from constituents perhaps understandably reflected the recent publication of the enquiry into the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in Sheffield when many Liverpool fans lost their lives in a crowd crush. In view of the questions surrounding the role of the present Chief Constable for West Yorkshire, Sir Norman Bettinson, who, at that time, assisted in the post-disaster investigation, Mark explained that he had invited the Independent Police Complaints Authority to advise on the matter and would await their report before commenting further.

Fabian and Mark assured constituents that postal voting is possible for this forthcoming election and urged everyone who could vote to do so when the election takes place.