Welsh Labour names police commissioner candidates

Alun Michael MP and his son Tal Alun Michael is Labour candidate for South Wales and son Tal in North Wales

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Labour has unveiled its list of candidates to become Wales' first elected police and crime commissioners.

The party initially opposed creating the posts, which will replace police authorities, but is putting up candidates for all four Welsh forces.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael has been nominated as Labour's candidate for south Wales with his son, Tal Michael, representing north Wales.

Elections to decide the post holders will be held on 15 November.

Former Welsh government agriculture minister Christine Gwyther will contest Dyfed-Powys with Hamish Sandison, a solicitor, standing in Gwent, who previously stood as Labour candidate in Monmouth in the 2010 General Election.

Commissioners will be responsible for setting budgets and council tax precepts. They will also have the power to hire and fire chief constables.

BBC Wales parliamentary correspondent David Cornock reports on the changes

Alun Michael - who was the Welsh assembly's first leader - will stand down as an MP, causing a by-election.

He highlighted his experience as a Home Office minister in the previous Labour UK government.

"As I brought in the anti-social behaviour order which has been a success in many areas I think I can claim to understand the problem rather better than most," he said.

Some crimes, such as domestic violence, needed a "more organised approach", he added.

Are we about to see the politicisation of the police?

In London, an elected mayor forced out the Metropolitan Police commissioner and critics fear elected Police and Crime Commissioners will do the same outside London.

Labour say their candidates have signed contracts to guarantee the independence of chief constables but the new commissioners will have huge power.

They won't run the police, but they will be able to sack chief constables and will set not only local policing priorities but also budgets.

UK government ministers argue they will be a more visible way of making the police accountable than the police authorities they replace.

But fear of politicisation is one reason why some political parties have been reticent about fielding candidates in November's elections.

No Welsh Liberal Democrat has come forward, while Plaid Cymru have been looking at the idea of backing non-party candidates. The Conservatives will unveil their "slate" next month.

Labour say their candidates will highlight UK government cuts of 20 per cent in police funding - Labour would have made smaller cuts of 12 per cent.

There are fears of a low turn-out in November's poll after a decision to confine much official campaign information to the internet.

But voters in Cardiff South and Penarth will have a chance to go to the polls before then - to elect a successor to Alun Michael when he steps down as an MP to stand for the commissioner's job.

In January, his son announced his decision to resign as the chief executive of North Wales Police Authority so he could stand for the election to become the area's first police and crime commissioner.

It is a £70,000-a-year post.

He said: "I'm not going to be scoring points off the police. I don't think that's right.

"But they do need to be held to account and it is important for the commissioner to work with them to work out how we can reduce spend without reducing service."

The UK government says replacing police authorities with elected commissioners in Wales and England, outside London, will make the police more accountable.

Hire and fire

The Conservatives are seeking to contest all four posts and want to get as many candidates selected as possible by the end of next month.

Plaid Cymru has said it will back non-party candidates who support devolving police powers.

Liberal Democrat members standing in the elections will not receive party funding.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said she hopes to see more independent candidates such as Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who will run for South Wales Police commissioner.

Prof Martin Innes, director of the Police Science Institute at Cardiff University, said he was optimistic the reforms would work, despite the challenge of a public spending squeeze.

"I think one of the things to say about looking forward is this is going to be an incredibly challenging role," he said.

"There's been lots of debate about politicisation and what could go wrong with it.

"But actually we know that public services are going to see reductions in funding and it's going to be very difficult, I think, for any police and crime commissioner to square, if you like, public demand for policing and the resources that they have actually got available."

List of declared police commissioner candidates in Wales

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