GAINSBOROUGH goes to the polls today (Thursday) to elect the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire.
And on Tuesday night the final four PCC candidates were vying for YOUR votes at a hustings event.
The debate was held in the 200-seater auditorium at Trinity Arts Centre, and saw candidates sat side by side, answering questions from the public.
It was arranged by Gainsborough Town Council and chaired by non-party political business manager at Trent Valley Academy, John Cawdell.
Some pressing questions were asked of the four, who kept their cool, and explained why they wanted to be the next PCC.
The highly paid role will involve setting police priorities in the county, overseeing the force’s budget and hiring the chief constable.
One of the first questions came from Alistair Williams who asked how the successful PCC would make himself available and open tothe public, in a large and rural county.
Independent candidate Alan Hardwick replied: “I don’t see the role as office based. It is travelling as much as possible around the county, attending meetings and talking to the public.”
Fellow independent candidate David Bowles added: “I fundamentally believe that for policing in Lincolnshire to be more effective the police have to be much closer to the people they serve,” he said.
“It has got to be about listening to what concerns you, whether it is boy racers, rowdy noise in the park or drunken behaviour at kicking out time.”
Conservative candidate Richard Davies said he would expect to see strong leadership and ideas coming from community panel meetings. He also suggested organisations like neighbourhood watch could help the police and PCC know what is going on at street level.
And Labour’s Paul Gleeson agreed, saying community policing panels needed to improve and become more effective.
“Often the meetings are not well advertised and in my ward we don’t get the same PCSOs from one panel to another,” he said. “They need to be better organised and you should have a direct line to the PCC if you are not happy.”
Other topics discussed included tackling rural crime, road policing and bicycle nuisance, the proposed closure of Lincoln Prison, cutting red tape and bureaucracy, recruiting more special constables and putting more officers on the streets.
But all the candidates were quick to make clear the budget constraints the Force was under.
Paul Gleeson said: “There won’t be more money. But we have got to make savings in the way we process people, the way we process paper and use those savings.”
Alan Hardwick said he would fight to abolish a great deal of paperwork so that policing priorities could be decided by the people of Lincolnshire.
David Bowles talked about ‘ripping up’ government targets if they were not right for Lincolnshire, and streamlining the crown prosecution service and the court system.
While Richard Davies said the police needed to get a tighter grip on procurement of equipment and services to make sure resources were not going to waste.
• Find out more about the candidates at www.policecrimecommissioner.co.uk/Lincolnshire