REBUILDING trust in South Yorkshire Police in the wake of recent scandals was identified as a key priority for all of the area’s Police and Crime Commissioner candidates.
Repairing the damaged reputation of the force following a report on the police’s role in the Hillsborough disaster, and child sex grooming cases in Rotherham, were pinpointed by the panel of men vying for the public vote on November 15.
The five candidates - English Democrat Dave Allen, UKIP’s Jonathan Arnott, Liberal Democrat Robert Teal, Conservative Nigel Bonson and Labour hopeful Shaun Wright - took part in a Question Time-style debate to show why they believe they should take over the role of holding to account the police force and the Chief Constable.
In his address, former police officer Nigel Bonson stressed the need for the role of commissioner to ensure police owned up to their mistakes.
He said: “There are major issues which have been bubbling in the background in South Yorkshire. Hillsborough and the recent scandal of sexual grooming of young girls in Rotherham. The police must be held to account. We need a partnership approach.”
Members of the audience who turned out to the event at Sheffield Hallam University’s Owen Building quizzed candidates on their backgrounds, and called for better community engagement.
They also asked how panel members would ensure government cuts have a minimal impact on the number of bobbies on the beat.
Mr Allen, from Doncaster, said: “Constables in my opinion should be out on the beat. It is much more effective when we focus on preventing crime, not solving it.”
UKIP’s Mr Arnott - who graduated from university in Sheffield with a Maths degree at the age of 19 - pledged to use his experience in finance to help manage policing budgets effectively, while Barnsley businessman Mr Teal chose to deliver a speech in which he promised to be a ‘listening commissioner’.
When challenged by an audience member over his party the Lib Dems’ failure to deliver on its pre-election tuition fees promise, he said: “I have not made promises I can’t keep.”
Labour candidate Shaun Wright said: “We are seeing the privatisation of chunks of policing services across the country. I am saying policing should be public and should be accountable to the public. With me you will not see large-scale outsourcing of services in South Yorkshire.
“Cuts are gambling with public safety and I will do everything I can to make the Chancellor re-think any plans which could do this.”
n Visit www.policecrimecommissioner.co.uk for more information on candidates.