Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tories select candidate for Essex Police and Crime Commissioner

THE Conservative Party’s new candidate for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner election race next year wants to focus on tackling antisocial behaviour, domestic violence and gang crime.

Roger Hirst was announced as the party’s runner at a hustings at Essex County Cricket Ground on Saturday night, after the current police chief Nick Alston revealed in July that he is stepping down to spend more time with his family.

Mr Hirst has been a Brentwood borough councillor for six years and is the authority’s deputy leader, while he is Essex County Council’s cabinet member for customer services, libraries, planning and the environment after being elected in 2013.

"I’m responsible for the gypsy and traveller units and have done a lot of work with the safer communities strategy, it’s a natural progression from that and it all feeds into law and order," he said.

"It’s all about making our communities safer and more secure."

Before entering the world of politics, the father-of-three worked in the City for 30 years, including for the now defunct American investment giant, Bear Stearns, in the 1990s.

"I’m delighted to have won the nomination, it’s a big job," he added. "It will be a long campaign, but I can’t wait to get going and I hope I win.

"I need to sit down and get to grips with the police budget and see what they will do and how they do it."

Despite saving £72.5 million during the Coalition Government’s reign, Essex Police still needs to save £60 million over the next five years.

The force has already lost more than 300 police officers and almost 200 police community support offices (PCSOS) since 2010/11 and could cut the number of frontline officers even further.

"There’s a lot of big challenges, we have a lot of financial challenges and I have a lot of experience in helping organisations understand priorities and manage their resources," he added.

"I have worked with a lot of organisations and significant savings can be always be made by getting people to focus on what makes a difference, whether it’s the property portfolio or back office organisation."

In September 2014, it was suggested at an Essex Fire Authority meeting that PCSOs could also carry out the role of retained firefighters and vice versa, in order to plug the funding shortfall.

"Policing is about being local and connecting with people in the community," he said.

"It’s been a tough five years, there’s no magic wand, but I would look at any opportunity to improve the efficiency of all the emergency services."

Earlier this month, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex Police, Julia Wortley, wrote to all local authorities across the county to say the force would have to prioritise the three per cent of "high risk" antisocial behaviour reports.

But Mr Hirst wants to focus on antisocial behaviour and continue the current PCC’s work to tackle domestic abuse.

"Domestic abuse is awful for the victims and that includes children who have to grow up in that environment, so I would look to continue Nick Alston’s work in that area," said the 55-year-old, who lives in Hutton.

"Other key areas would be anti-social behaviour and tackling gangs. The Met Police have made terrific gains, but we don’t want that to be pushed out into Essex.

"It’s about working in partnership with local councils so the police can connect with the community, making police more visible and more accessible.

"Technology can help, the police are not on the cutting edge of that yet, but if PCSOs and sergeants can harness social media, they can communicate better with the population."

The Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green candidates are yet to be announced.


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