Police and crime commissioner election: Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire police generic Gloucestershire police's priority in 2012 is to "keep people safe from harm"

On 15 November, 37 police and crime commissioners will be elected in England, along with four in Wales.

The PCCs, as they will be known, will be tasked with scrutinising their force and holding it to account. They will also be able to hire and dismiss the chief constable and set the force's budget.

The commissioners will be paid and are supposed to empower local people into having a say on how crime is tackled in their area.

Nominations for candidates in Gloucestershire have now officially closed.

BBC News has taken a look at each of the police forces ahead of the elections.

Gloucestershire Police

Gloucestershire has a population of about 594,000 across 1,045 sq miles, which takes in the city of Gloucester and towns such as Cheltenham and Stroud.

Analysis

Whoever gets the job come 16 November will walk into an office with an overflowing in-tray.

A senior police officer admitted recently it is a demoralised force. It also has an acting chief constable - the last one sensationally quit in April over government cuts and plans to introduce the police and crime commissioner role.

Then you have the issue of police funding. It was frozen this year despite pleas from the constabulary that it needed more money to protect front-line services.

So money and what to do with it is a major issue facing the constabulary.

Police station closures are already being implemented by the outgoing police authority in a drive to save money but already there are calls for any sell-off and closures to be halted.

When it comes to policing policy, Gloucestershire's force faces a major challenge of how to police some very different areas, from the rural parts like the Cotswold villages to the Forest of Dean's towns and hamlets. Then you have the urban centres of Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud with their late night economies.

And whoever gets the job also knows that the £2m a year funding of 63 community police officers by the county council comes to an end next March - so will that mean fewer bobbies on the beat?

It is a £65,000-a-year job, but the list of issues facing the winner of the vote means they will certainly have their work cut out.

The policing districts are divided up into six areas; Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury.

The South Gloucestershire Council area comes under Avon and Somerset police force.

Like neighbouring Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire's population is largely rural where over 50% of the land has been designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

In terms of policing priorities, the main objective for the force in 2012 was to "keep people safe from harm and to inspire the highest levels of public confidence in us, their local police".

This meant aiming to "listen, understand, and effectively respond to the issues that matter to our communities and staff" and to "sustain a visible presence in communities".

The police force is accountable to Gloucestershire Police Authority, which sets the police budget, agrees on a policing plan and investigates police complaints.

In the past, senior officers have spoken out against spending cuts and the police authority's decision to freeze its share of the council tax bill.

Specific projects in Gloucestershire have included trying to reduce the 25% injury rate among 17-24-year-old drivers and tackling anti-social behaviour in local communities.

The police force also works with Avon and Somerset police on Operation Zephyr, which tackles serious and organised crime.

Funding

In 2011-12 the police budget was set at £106.4m, of which £44.9m came from its share of the council tax bill.

Timetable for PCC Elections

  • There are 41 police and crime commissioner elections taking place - 37 in police force areas in England and four in Wales
  • No elections will take place in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London
  • Nominations for candidates will close on 19 October
  • Voting takes places on 15 November
  • PCCs will be elected every four years

The final settlement also included a one-off payment from the government of £1.3m for freezing its share of the council tax bill, which which prompted concern from senior officers in January.

The government's Comprehensive Spending Review over 2011-12 to 2014-15 will see the force having to make savings of £18m.

Since May 2011, 13 police stations have been closed down as part of the savings plans as well as staff cuts of 200 police officers.

Crime and performance

Violent crime remains low in Gloucestershire - where the annual average of homicides over the past five years stands at 13.

Between 2011-12 the number of recorded crimes in the county was 34,602. This compares with 36,044 during the same period in 2010-11, a reduction of 4%.

However, crimes in domestic burglary, thefts from motor vehicles and drug offences had increased.

Police were told of 28,618 incidents of anti-social behaviour across the county during 2011-12.

During the April 2012 Police Crime Survey for Gloucestershire, 61.9% of respondents "agreed" and "strongly agreed" that the police and local council were dealing with the anti-social behaviour and crime issues that mattered in their local area.

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