Election 2016: The Other Election

(Title Image: Wales Online)

There are of course two nationwide elections taking place on May 5th. The focus will be on the Senedd, but we’ll also be going to the polls to elect/re-elect Wales’ four Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

The election uses supplementary vote. Voters mark a first and second preference. If a candidate has a majority after the first round of voting, they’re elected. If they don’t have a majority, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, and any second preference votes for those top two candidates are added to their totals. Whoever has the most votes afterwards wins.

Because of the electoral system, the PCC elections look set to offer some genuine excitement (when compared to the Assembly). Nevertheless, public interest is through the floor – though turnout will be higher than the ~15% in 2012, which will boost Labour’s chances more than anyone.

I’m going to focus on South Wales Police, but I come around to the rest of Wales briefly later on.

Alun Michael’s Record

You’ve got to be honest and say that the only noticeable impact Labour’s Alun Michael has made is hiking council tax precepts – it’s gone up at least 4-5% each and every year he’s been in office.

As for what he’s actually done, he’s overseen the construction of several new centralised custody suites/“super stations” (including in Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil) – which are an upgrade on the outdated cells at police stations, but have (or will) result in the police shifting their presence from town centres.

There’s an ongoing upgrade of South Wales Police headquarters in Bridgend and it’s likely the northern half of the site will be sold off for housing in the next five years. There’s been talk of a joint HQ with the police and fire service in the same building.

He’s also led a few public information campaigns on domestic violence, excessive drinking and online crime.

The most important measure will be crime rates. A according to UK Crime Stats, recorded crime rates in January 2016 (when compared to Alun taking office in November 2012) were :

  • Anti-social behaviour (-29%)
  • Burglary (-26%)
  • Robbery (-22%)
  • Vehicle crime (-31%)
  • Violent crime (+76%)
  • Drugs offences (-37%)
  • Criminal damage and arson (-15%)
  • Shoplifting (-9%)
  • Theft (-23%)
  • Weapons and public order offences (+46%)
  • Other crimes (-52%)
  • Total recorded crime : (-12%)

Alun’s also come under fire for cronyism. His former deputy commissioner, Sophie Howe, has gone on to become Wales’ first Future Generations Commissioner (with a £95,000 a year salary). Since then, Alun’s decided there was a need for more Labour members in his inner team. When you politicise the police, it was inevitable something like that would happen. You would’ve expected Labour to have taken advantage of it as they usually do, being the establishment party.

I doubt I’m the only person who thinks the election should’ve been moved to next year in Wales as it ties in more with local government.

It’s also hard to tell what impact PCCs have made other than occasionally making the headlines with some outburst or another – particularly in the case of Dyfed-Powys’ Tory PCC, Christopher Salmon, who you can argue is the only one of Wales’ first generation of PCCs who’s got anything approaching a public profile based on the job alone.

I’m all for elected mayors with executive control over numerous areas of policy – perhaps including policing – but the sooner PCCs are scrapped the better.

South Wales Police: Candidates & Manifestos

Tim Davies (Con) is a former Lord Mayor of Cardiff and former member of the old South Wales Police Authority.  His key aims are :

  • Champion community policing with a strong visible presence on the streets.
  • Put the needs of victims first.
  • Ensure South Wales Police provides and efficient and value for money service.
  • Advocates early intervention to cut re-offending.
  • Encourage restorative justice.

Mike Baker (Independent) came second in 2012 having pushed Alun Michael close. He’s a former police sergeant who retrained as a barrister when leaving the force. His programme includes (link) :

  • Halting police staff cuts in South Wales.
  • Ensuring the police are properly funded by fighting for change to the funding formula – which disadvantages South Wales.
  • Holding regular “surgeries” around the force area and having an “open door” policy with the public.
  • Having a crime prevention strategy that makes sure every single crime is recorded to reflect the true level of crime.
  • Ensuring the PCC position is non-political.

Alun Michael (Lab) is standing for re-election (site). He used to be a magistrate and is both a former Home Office minister and First Minister/Secretary of Wales. If he wins a second term he proposes:
  • Cutting crime in co-operation with other public agencies.
  • Protecting the most vulnerable.
  • Spending money wisely to protect local policing teams.
  • Meeting the needs of victims of crime.
  • Tackling online threats.

Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems have opted to stand after boycotting the 2012 elections due to their opposition to PCCs. The Lib Dems selected Cllr. Judith Woodman, who represents Pentwyn on Cardiff Council. Her (rather scant) proposals so far are:
  • Abolition of PCCs.
  • Stand up against the mistreatment of minorities by forcing the police to record stop and search statistics and address a shortfall in police officers from ethnic minorities.
  • Inject “liberalism”into policing (whatever that means).
  • Ensure pubs only serve alcohol in plastic cups.
  • Fund more PCSOs.

Plaid Cymru have adopted a national PCC manifesto (pdf). Their candidate in South Wales is Cllr. Linet Purcell, a secondary school teacher who represents Pontardawe on Neath Port Talbot Council. Their policies include:
  • Devolution of criminal justice and the abolition of PCCs.
  • Support partner organisations to work with those most vulnerable to crime, like the elderly, minority groups and those suffering mental health problems.
  • Deciding how best to use powers over speed limits to promote road safety, and promote/maintain driver rehabilitation schemes.
  • Ensure Welsh police forces are equipped to deal with new crimes like cyber-crime and cyber-stalking.
  • Putting a hold on the outsourcing of police services and ensuring Welsh companies have a chance to bid for procurement.

It’s probably a straight fight between Alun Michael and Mike Baker again, so second preferences will be crucial. Considering Alun Michael isn’t particularly popular outside Labour circles, you would expect Plaid and Lib Dem second preferences to either go to each other or Mike Baker. Expect it to be another closely-fought election.

The candidates for the other police force areas are :

Dyfed-Powys Police

  • Christopher Salmon (Con) – Elected PCC for Dyfed-Powys in 2012; former Army officer
  • William Davies (Ind)- Former Senior Science Officer in both public and private sectors.
  • Cllr. Kevin Madge (Lab) – Former leader of Carmarthenshire Council, including throughout the “daft arrest” saga and unlawful payment scandal.
  • Richard Church (Lib Dem) – Former local councillor and member of police authority in Northamptonshire.
  • Dafydd Llywelyn (Plaid) – Former criminal intelligence analyst; lecturer in criminology at Aberystwyth University.
  • Des Parkinson (UKIP) – Former Chief Superintendent of Dyfed-Powys Police.

There’s an exceptional account of the story behind race in Dyfed Powys from Y Cneifiwr.

As said earlier, Chris Salmon is probably the most high-profile of Wales’ four PCCs, verging on outspoken. The race here appears to be a lot more open now that Plaid and the Lib Dems are standing, while UKIP’s candidate will also have more professional credibility than their other ones.

Because of Chris Salmon’s higher profile you’ve got to say he’s the favourite, but he’ll face genuinely strong challengers from both Labour and Plaid Cymru (more from Cllr. Alun Williams on the latter), with this traditionally being a very strong Lib Dem area too. It’ll be much more of a contest than 2012.

Gwent Police

  • Louise Brown (Con) – Police trainer; local councillor in Cheshire and member of Cheshire Police & Crime Panel.
  • Jeff Cuthbert (Lab) – Former AM for Caerphilly (1999-2016); former Deputy Minister for Skills and Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty.
  • Darren Jones (Plaid) – Former councillor for Caerphilly; Communities First manager.

Probably the simplest one to predict. With no Independent candidate Jeff Cuthbert should win – probably without need for second preference votes – and has experience (of sorts) on issues surrounding community safety. You would assume any second preference votes would go to him from Plaid.

North Wales Police

  • Cllr. Matt Wright (Con) – Represents Brynford on Flintshire Council. Technology consultant; stood in previous Assembly and Westminster elections.
  • Julian Sandham (Ind) – Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for North Wales (2012-2016). Former North Wales Police officer.
  • David Taylor (Lab) – Former special adviser to both Peter Hain and Leighton Andrews (as well as former pro-Labour online troll); cyber-security professional.
  • Cllr. Arfon Jones (Plaid) – Former uniformed police officer and detective inspector for North Wales Police. Currently represents Gwersyllt ward on Wrexham Council. Co-author of Plaid Wrecsam blog.
  • Simon Wall (UKIP) – Training consultant; 2015 candidate for UKIP in Arfon, finishing fourth. Also standing for the Ynys Môn Assembly seat.

Anyone who’s been on the Welsh blogosphere for a while – particularly those who were around during its “heyday” circa 2006-2009 – will know who David Taylor is or at the very least remember his groundbreaking Aneurin Glyndwr site: the “Obama moment of Welsh politics”.

It seems he’s done a lot of growing up since then and has put forward proposals on cyber-crime that are cutting edge and worth listening to regardless of whether he gets elected or not. He also wants to do more to tackle drug trafficking along the A55 corridor and ensure rural and Welsh-speaking areas get adequate representation.

On paper, Cllr. Arfon Jones is a perfect candidate with both policing and local government experience – I outlined Plaid Cymru’s national PCC manifesto earlier – and he does stand a genuinely good chance here.

This election could go any way, with the Conservatives, Labour and Plaid Cymru all having sizable numbers of voters. The Independent candidate has some experience at the role, with UKIP probably set to do well too. It’s very difficult to call.