Tories pursue top talent for elected police positions

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THREE Tory MPs have been commissioned to help find candidates to become the region’s first elected police chiefs.

They have been asked by the party leadership to help identify contenders to stand for the party ahead of next November’s elections as Ministers hunt for high-calibre candidates.

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins has been asked to help find people to stand in West Yorkshire – where the successful candidate could earn £100,000 – and South Yorkshire, where the Tories do not have a single MP, which could carry an £85,000 salary.

In North Yorkshire, where the job could carry a £65,000 salary, Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith is taking on the role, while former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis has been given the task for the Humberside force area, where the post could be paid £75,000.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert recently called for “big figures” to come forward for the controversial new commissioner roles, which will carry powers to hire and fire chief constables and set police budgets.

The MPs will help identify suitable people, possibly from outside traditional party circles, to the regional party which is in charge of selecting contenders. Candidates could be chosen at open primaries in some areas, where any member of the public would be able to turn up to hear potential candidates speak and then have a say on who is the best person to stand for election.

Mr Smith has called for a “new, fresh and robust” individual in North Yorkshire to hold the force to account after Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell departs next year and urged anyone interested to come forward.

“I am really keen we, as a party, proactively head hunt and attract candidates who may at the moment not have thought of standing,” he said. “We want people who’ve got excellent leadership experience, from a range of backgrounds and experience and not just policing in order that the North Yorkshire force can be held account on behalf of North Yorkshire residents.”

Labour and many Liberal Democrats opposed the idea of commissioners fearing they would overtly politicise policing, but Ministers insist they will increase accountability. To counter criticism, Ministers are desperate to find quality candidates and Tories could even back independents in some areas. The Lib Dems will not run candidates.

The elections will take place next November, and the Home Office is currently considering the salary recommendations - based on size of force - recommended by an independent panel.

Mr Davis, who has quashed speculation he might stand, said voters were likely to look at the calibre of the candidate rather than which party they stand for.

Mr Hopkins said: “For West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire I’m sure there is a real wealth of highly competent and capable individuals to put themselves forward.”