Labour’s candidate to replace Shaun Wright backs idea of scrapping PCC posts

Dr Billings (right) listens as he is endorsed by David Blunkett MP

Dr Billings (right) listens as he is endorsed by David Blunkett MP

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Labour’s candidate to replace Shaun Wright as South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner has said he supports moves to abolish the controversial posts.

But Dr Alan Billings said that while the roles remain in existence, it is important a suitable person is in the job.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said this week Labour would scrap PCCs if it wins the General Election and Dr Billings said while he supports that idea, he is still convinced of the importance of the roles in the short-term.

“Having got them, you have to take them seriously and do a serious job until the point where they come to an end. You have to make sure the powers are used responsibly as well. It would be quite negligent for the Labour party to walk away even if it doesn’t support the idea,” he said.

“I see it as a two-year term. My view is we are going to get a Labour government and they will abolish it and then I go.”

Speaking at a press conference in Sheffield today, Dr Billings also said the Labour party has to ‘rebuild trust’ in the wake of the Rotherham scandal.

Mr Wright was elected as the party’s candidate for the PCC post in 2012 and previously was councillor for Labour-run Rotherham Council in charge of children’s services between 2005 and 2010.

The Jay report published last month found at least 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013 - with police and council leaders being aware of problems but failing to act effectively.

Dr Billings is the second candidate to announce he is standing for the by-election, following on from Ukip’s Jack Clarkson, a current Sheffield councillor and a former police inspector.

Dr Billings, 70, from Crookes, Sheffield, is a former parish priest and was deputy leader of Sheffield City Council in the 1980s. He was on the shortlist to be Labour’s candidate for the PCC post in 2012 but Mr Wright was chosen ahead of him.

He said he had been asked to stand again by the party following Mr Wright’s resignation and said he felt his past experience as a board member of the Youth Justice Board for England & Wales makes him a suitable candidate for the role.

“I’m hopefully seen in the Labour party as someone who is relatively independent and has an independent mind,” he said.

“We need to rebuild a lot of trust between the Labour party and the community and trust between the police and the community.”

He said dealing with the fallout from the Rotherham scandal would be a priority if he was elected.

“We have got to be quite clear we know the extent of these crimes, know who the victims are and they are given support. We have to discover who the perpetrators are,” he said.

“As far as officials are concerned, they have to be held to account.

“Events in Rotherham are going to occupy quite a bit of time. It is a big job restoring trust.”

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, MP for Hillsborough and Brightside, was also at the press conference to offer his support to Dr Billings.

Mr Blunkett urged Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters to ‘unite’ behind Dr Billings rather than turning to Ukip.

“I can’t think of a single candidate in the country that better fits the profile for doing this job over the next 18 months than Alan Billings,” he said.

“He will be reaching out across communities and the political divide.”

Mr Blunkett said: “I would like to appeal to Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Alan Billings is a choice their supporters can vote for.

“I appeal to the two majority parties to back Alan Billings.”

When asked if he was concerned about the prospect of Ukip winning the election, Mr Blunkett said: “I don’t think we should take anything for granted as the politics of grievance and disillusionment are very powerful in Britain at the moment.

“We need to give people hope of something better and Alan Billings can deliver.”

The by-election is to take place on October 30.

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