Police and crime commissioner elections: Essex

Jim Barker-McCardle Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle is responsible for policing England's fifth most populous county

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 Essex have now officially closed.

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

Essex

Essex Police serves a population of 1.7m residents in England's fifth most populated county.

The area - 1,405sq miles - ranges from the densely populated towns of Southend and Harlow to the less populated rural areas such as Uttlesford and Maldon.

Analysis

When the new police and crime commissioner for Essex takes office in November, he or she will get a salary of £85,000, extensive powers over policing, and some tough decisions to make.

Perhaps the most crucial decision is how to cut £42m from the force's annual budget while upholding the commissioner's oath to ensure the police can "cut crime and protect the public".

Yet there is already controversy surrounding this election in Essex.

In the summer, there were accusations that the Essex Police Authority was not being open and transparent enough in its handling of briefings for potential candidates.

The authority insisted it was acting according to national guidelines.

Arguments like that underline how much is riding on this election, the outcome of which will determine the priorities and direction of Essex Police for the next four years.

It has two airports (Southend and Stansted), two ports (Tilbury and Harwich) and seven stations on the London Underground.

Headed up by Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle, Essex Police employed 6,063 people, as of April 1, of whom 3,381 were police officers.

Making best use of its resources is one of the constabulary's key priorities for the next three years.

The other priorities highlighted in the Policing Plan for 2012 - 2015 are tackling anti-social behaviour, protecting people from serious harm and improving public satisfaction with the police.

2012 has been a challenging year for Essex Police.

It has played a significant role in policing the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Not only was Hadleigh Farm the home of the mountain biking, but the county was home to three Olympic training venues.

The Olympic Slalom Canoe venue straddled the Essex/Hertfordshire border at Waltham Abbey and the county's transport routes were heavily used by those attending the Games, both from within the UK and beyond.

Funding

This year's budget is £261.9m - £7m less than last year - of which £173.1m comes from the government. The remaining £88.8m in funding comes in the form of a precept paid by council taxpayers. This year that figure rose by £4.58 to £136.70 for an average band D property.

Essex Police expects to reduce its head count by more than 1,000 as it shaves £42.2m off its budget by 2014-2015.

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

Speaking earlier this year, Chief Constable Barker-McCardle said he faced "highly challenging budget cuts" which meant he, and the Essex Police Authority, had to make "some very tough decisions".

For example, the constabulary will be selling off nine police stations (Brightlingsea, Great Yeldham, Hatfield Heath, Mistley, Moulsham Lodge, Rochford, South Benfleet, Stansted Mountfitchet and Walton), five houses and four other buildings in the hope of raising up to £5m.

It also plans to disband its mounted section.

The proposals were put before Essex Police Authority on 3 September and a final decision about the police horse unit is expected to be made in October.

Crime and performance

The latest figures show Essex Police solved 29.8% of the more than 100,000 crimes reported.

In the coming year, Essex Police wants to increase the number of serious sexual crimes solved by 18% from 235 to 277.

It also wants to reduce all recorded crime by 1% to 104,026 offences, to cut incidents of anti-social behaviour down to 60,520 reports and to increase the level of solved crimes to 31% of all reported.

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