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Parties undecided over police vote

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There is confusion over how the three main political parties will select candidates for the police commissioner elections and whether they will back non-party hopefuls.

Councillors and a police authority chair told LGC there was a lack of information as to how candidates would be chosen by the parties or if they would be put up in every police force area.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, shadow policing minister Vernon Coaker said their default position would be to field candidates, but that no decision had been taken. “If the Tories don’t, we need to consider that carefully,” he said.

A Conservative spokesman could not provide LGC with any information about their plans but they are thought to be considering not fielding a candidate where there is a suitable independent.

There have also been rumours that the party could assist independent candidates with the considerable cost of an election campaign over such a large geographical area.

Stephen Bett (Con), chair of Norfolk Police Authority and intending to stand as the county’s police commissioner, told LGC there had been no information from Conservative central office.

“I have inquired what we are doing in this county and region and I’ve come up with a blank. There seems to be tremendous confusion,” he said.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said the party was still considering its options but was keen to  encourage a broad range of candidates to come forward.

Around half of all police authorities are currently chaired by an independent lay member, but it is unlikely that 22 independent candidates will have the resources to make commissioner in police areas covering several parliamentary constituencies.

Cllr Bett said: “If you have not got the party machinery behind you I don’t know how you would get known.”

Peter Thompson, lay chair of Durham Police Authority, has considered standing but said there was “not a cat in hell’s chance” of success as an non-political candidate despite the valuable and majority role apolitical members played in the police authority.

“We are valuable and we should be given the opportunity [to stand],” he said.

But he dismissed the workability of parties sponsoring independent candidates. “I cannot see how that would work. Once you have got sponsorship then that aligns you with the party,” he said.

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