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Cheshire PCC Elections 2016: From badger baiting to drugs crime

Cheshire Police
Image caption Cheshire is a socially diverse county providing a wide range of challenges for the police

The geography of Cheshire might make it seem like a hard place to win an election.

Those trying to become the next police and crime commissioner (PCC) must discuss badger baiting and speeding on country lanes alongside drugs and antisocial behaviour.

The county is large physically and socially diverse.

It means votes are needed from corners of the county that might not appear to have much in common with each other.

The four candidates are having to appeal to those in the Merseyside-centric west, the Potteries-facing south and the towns and villages which nowadays form part of the Manchester commuter belt in the north.

They have to cut through to the occupants of Cheshire's stereotype mansions as well as those in more deprived areas.

Conservative John Dwyer has been doing the job since 2012, dealing with multi-million pound budget cuts which mean the number of officers this year will be 100 less than in 2010 - though he has recently announced increases.

'No black officers'

He has also had to deal with the fallout from the Home Secretary's revelation that the constabulary employs no black officers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cheshire Police was singled out for having no black police officers in a speech by Theresa May to the National Black Police Association conference

But Mr Dwyer points out that crime in the county is low and recent inspections have praised most areas of the force's work.

He says he will make officers more "visible" and enhance community policing, as well as strengthening specialist teams investigating cyber crime and child sexual exploitation.

Labour's David Keane is currently a councillor in Warrington. He promises to "put bobbies back on the beat" to challenge antisocial behaviour and gain intelligence.

He has also pledged to "challenge the government's priorities" for policing.

The Liberal Democrats are represented by businessman Neil Lewis, whose campaign has been dominated by cyber crime. He wants to increase education about crimes which occur online, and make them easier to report.

He also promises more bobbies on the beat - his manifesto mentions an increase in the hours that officers spend "on our streets and in our neighbourhoods".

Finally UKIP's Jonathan Starkey is a former councillor in Ellesmere Port, as well as a composer and virtuoso pianist. The chorus of his campaign is "bringing policing back to the community", claiming some areas of the county feel "detached" from the force.

He also promises to concentrate on drugs and antisocial behaviour.

But for all four of the county's candidates there remains a distant question of whether the job will exist in four years' time. That's because of the incomplete negotiations over whether the government will devolve powers and funding to Cheshire.

Devolution deals in other areas have only been agreed with the promise that mayors will be introduced - and in some cases those mayors have taken on the commissioner's job.

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