Call me a hairy old cynic if you like (and all of those terms may well be true), but the imminent prospect of giving yet another distant and probably rather deaf politician a leg-up onto the Gravy Train does not exactly fill me with glee – however this is the opportunity which has been gifted to all of us of voting age by the rampant racketeers running the show from Number 10 down in Londinium, oh chums.
Yes, for those of you who haven’t noticed (and who could blame you, bearing in mind the late and rather skimpy information about candidates made available?) you may be interested to know that the Bat-Signal has finally gone up over Brummagem, heralding the election for the new Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands (aka Greater Brummagem) which takes place today (Thursday 15th November) at a polling station near you.
Once the election has concluded and the results announced, the PCCs, for short, will replace police authorities currently in charge of 41 police forces in England and Wales. They will have wide powers of oversight, being responsible for setting priorities for their police force, overseeing its budget and hiring the chief constable – but not, it is said, over the day-to-day operation of local policing. In other words, they’ll be busy wasting police time, an activity for which us ordinary Gothamites would be banged in the slammer or relieved of a whole heap of moolah.
But seriously folks, it is remotely possible that they will have some influence over the desperate cuts that are disturbing the peace in cop shops across the nation, so this is worth bearing in mind. On the other hand, depending on their political colour, they may be only too keen to preside over a criminal record of cuts, maybe even replacing our much-loved local rozzers with rusty Robocops like we’ve seen in so many libraries of late…
Those PCC’s in the most extensive police force areas – and Greater Brummagem is presumably one of these – will be paid salaries of more than £100,000 – and no prior police force experience is needed, which seems rather a novelty for such an apparently complex and influential job. But then, it also seems that neither MP’s nor government Ministers need to know anything about running a country either, so why not?
Will this whole shebang be worth more than a hill o’ beans in the end? Or will the Government continue to Kapow our local bobbies till all we have left of our excellent Walsall Police force is a Tardis, a part-time PCSO and a com-BAT-trained Chihuahua?
Well, as far as voting goes at least, the choice is yours in the end – this is a democracy, after all (allegedly). And just in case you don’t believe, as do some less charitable folk, that the whole business is just another cynical ploy to enable politicians to gain more power over both plod and plebs alike, it seems only right that we point you in the direction of some useful background info about the candidates for this exercise in ‘regional’ democracy (what do you mean, you wish we were back in Staffordshire?).
The candidates for the West Midlands Police PCC are (or were, in one case):
- Matt Bennett – Conservative
- Ray Egan – Independent (CANDIDATE HAS WITHDRAWN)
- Bill Etheridge – UKIP
- Cath Hannon – Independent
- Bob Jones – Labour
- Ayoub Khan – Liberal Democrat
- Mike Rumble – Independent
- Bishop Derek Webley – Independent
If you haven’t received a leaflet about the candidates through your door, you may find the following sites useful for background to help you make your choice more informed, should you wish to vote:
Whether you’re excited or not at the prospect of replacing a gaggle of overpaid, faceless bureaucrats with a single, slightly less faceless, overpaid bureaucrat (remember none of these PCC candidates are from Walsall, the nearest is a denizen of Wolverhampton) who may or may not have a political axe to grind, you may at least like the idea of more alleged accountability over police policy and funding, if not more accountability over the police themselves. On that basis, perhaps it may be worth voting after all.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way – and if only 10% turn out for the vote, that can hardly be a victory for democracy, or accountability,can it?
Personally, I think I may just spend the day digging guano out of the Bloxwich Bat-cave…
Dear Citizens of Greater Brummagem, your comments are most welcome (but keep ’em clean!).
Stuart Williams, Editor