Mehboob Kahn, who is the leader of Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire and chairman of the Local Government Association’s safer communities board, said it is “imperative” that Labour candidates who emerge victorious from next month’s inaugural Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections deliver on their promises to cut crime.
Speaking at a fringe meeting at his party’s annual conference in Manchester yesterday, Coun Kahn said: “By the 2015 general election, we want to be able to stand up and say where communities have elected Labour PCC candidates, they have delivered far better than Lib Dem or Tory PCCs.
“If we don’t, the Tories will use this as a stick to try and attack us in the run-up to the 2015 general election, by saying Labour is weak on crime and weak on the causes of crime.
“It is imperative upon all of us, both council leaders and PCC candidates, that we can show we have effectively over the next two-and-a-half years dealt with some of the serious issues and concerns that local people are going to raise with us.”
The first ever directly-elected police commissioners will be decided in public votes across England and Wales on November 15. The new ‘top cops’ will have the power to hire and fire chief constables and set policing priorities for their local areas.
But Labour’s candidate in West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson, said few people understood the new roles and that turnout was likely to be poor.
“I think we’re all concerned about the level of the turnout,” Mr Burns-Williamson told the meeting.
“It’s a mid-November election and, quite frankly, people don’t understand what it’s about.
“A lot of people think they are going to be electing a chief constable with day-to-day operational powers. As a candidate you’ve literally got to explain this to people on the doorstep.”
Labour’s shadow policing minister David Hanson said the party had voted against the new system, but was now determined to make the best of it – and stopped well short of any pledge to repeal the PCCs in 2015.
“We can’t say now what we’re going to do in two-and-a-half years’ time,” Mr Hanson said.
“I want to talk to the PCCs in post, we might want to look at the responsibilities that have been added or taken away from PCCs. We’ll need to look at how it’s working and what else we need to do.”