Police Commissioner candidates in firing line

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The build-up to Lancashire’s first ever Police and Crime Commissioner elections has been a “complete shambles” which has left the public with far too little information, two of the candidates have said.

The public will take to the polls on Thursday to vote for the county’s first ever commissioner – the £85,000 a year post with responsibility for setting the police budget and with ultimate power to dismiss a chief constable.

Photo Ian Robinson Lancashire Police Commissioner candiate debate at the Lancashire Evening Post Afzal Anwar

Photo Ian Robinson Lancashire Police Commissioner candiate debate at the Lancashire Evening Post Afzal Anwar

But in a debate hosted by the Lancashire Evening Post, Labour candidate Clive Grunshaw and Liberal Democrat candidate Afzal Anwar both said the election should have been delayed until next year.

And candidates criticised a lack of freepost to get election materials to the public, which they claimed had left people less informed than they should be about the new post.

“I think the election has been a complete shambles,” added Mr Grunshaw.

“If we were going to hold the election back, it should have been held back 12 months, it should have been next May then it would have coincided with the county council elections, it would have been easier to get information out to people..

“Given (the position) covers an area of 16 Parliamentary constituencies and an electorate of 1.6m it has been almost impossible to get adequate information out to people. I think the Government has failed on this.”

Mr Anwar added: “I do to an extent agree with Clive that the election in its entirety has been a shambles.

“For any of the candidates, it has been very difficult to get their message out to the public and, in particular, for the public to make the decision as to who is right for the job.

“I have been getting similar phone calls and emails over the last couple of weeks from hundreds of people. I have been responding to them and trying to do my utmost the get that message out.”

But Conservative candidate Tim Ashton disagreed and claimed, while the campaign had been “tough”, there were plenty of ways of getting information out to people.

More than 20 representatives from business and community groups as well as victims of crime were at the Evening Post offices to grill the candidates on a variety of topics ahead of today’s poll.

They asked about the scourge of knife crime, glassing incidents, drunken violence, police cuts and the importance of PCSOs.

And each of the candidates was allowed to say why they were right for the job.

Tim Ashton pointed to his long track record in local government, particularly as a member of Lancashire County Council.

Mr Grunshaw said he had been on the Police Authority for several years, including four years as chairman of the resources committee.

“It has been a difficult four years in that the cuts have come in and we have had to identify £42m of cuts,” he added. “We have identified £39m, so we have still got a way to go. As you are going along it becomes increasingly difficult to find more and more savings.”

And Mr Anwar said: “I have been a barrister for the last 10 years, working with the criminal justice system. I started off working with the Crime Prosecution Service and went on to the defence side. That is what I do on a daily basis in courts – at time I have attended voluntarily in police stations, working with probation, working with victim support, working with prisons.”