Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner elections: Theresa May visits Stoke-on-Trent in bid to raise voting turnout
HOME Secretary Theresa May has urged North Staffordshire residents to cast their ballots in today’s police commissioner elections, declaring: “If you care about policing – vote.”
The politician in charge of law and order across the UK made a whistlestop visit to Stoke-on-Trent yesterday ahead of polls to elect the first police and crime commissioners (PCCs).
A total of 148 polling stations across the county and city are open until 10pm as voters decide whether Labour’s Joy Garner or Conservative Matthew Ellis, will take charge of Staffordshire Police’s budget and priorities.
The Home Secretary defended the Government’s promotion of the election, including a controversial decision not to fund the customary mailshot for all candidates, and urged residents not to waste their opportunity.
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She said: “If you care about policing in your area, about in crime in your area and about law and order locally – vote.
“This election matters to you because it’s about how your area is going to be policed.
“PCCs will be very important individuals, responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account, deciding the budget and priorities, how much of your council tax is spent on policing – and they can hire and fire the chief constable.
“The Home Office has done a lot of work to raise awareness for these elections. We paid for advertising on TV, radio and elsewhere from October and it’s reckoned to have reached 85 per cent of people across the 41 force areas.
“All candidates are in the same position. There is a central website where every candidate has had an opportunity to put their manifestos.”
Mrs May also used the visit to defend the Government’s cuts to police force budgets, which will see Staffordshire Police made to save £34 million by 2015 and its officer numbers fall from a 2006 peak of 2,347 to 1,750.
She said: “Police forces are not alone in having to make cuts to their budgets because of the deficit left to us by the last Government. It was Labour who left us with the deficit and we’re having to cope with that.
“What we’ve seen from police forces up and down the country already is that they’ve been able to cut their budgets while protecting frontline service, and that crime has been falling.
“It’s not about how much money but how you use it and not about how many police you have but how you use those officers.” Mrs May joined Matthew Ellis on a visit to Restart in Cobridge, a Saltbox Christian Centre project which helps 200 ex-offenders a year to turn their lives around.
Chief executive Lloyd Cooke said: “I think she was very impressed.
“Labour’s Joy Garner has also visited us as part of her campaign and I think Matthew Ellis wanted to show the Home Secretary an effective voluntary sector project which is helping to rehouse and mentor ex-offenders and do a really good job of preventing re-offending.
“At a national level, prolific offenders have a 70 per cent chance of reoffending. Within our project it is less than 20 per cent.”
Mr Ellis added: “The work at Restart is showing that people, with the right support, can get back to a normal life.
“Any money spent on this saves tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds compared to when somebody goes back into a life of crime.
“It’s also great for lives. I’ve met people who have had their lives transformed who would otherwise have come out of the prison door, ended up sleeping on the streets and quite possibly back in the hands of people who put them into a life of crime in the first place.”