Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner candidates in clash

The candidates for the police and crime commissioner role with Gwent Police appeared on Sunday Politics Wales

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Candidates to become the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCCs) for the Gwent force area have clashed over their suitability for the role.

Voters will go to the polls to elect 43 PCCs across the UK on 15 November.

The four Gwent candidates were speaking in a special edition of the Sunday Politics Wales.

Two independent candidates are retired police officers while the other two candidates represent the Conservatives and the Labour Party respectively.

The police and crime commissioners will replace police authorities in 41 areas and will be paid a salary between £65,000 and £100,000.

Police authorities - made up of local councillors and independent appointees - currently control police budgets, set priorities and have the power to recruit or dismiss their area's chief constable.

'Scrutiny'

Labour candidate Hamish Sandison - a solicitor - questioned the suitability of former police officers in the elections to become police commissioner.

"Unlike the independent candidates, I'm not a former policeman and I am independent of the police and will hold the police to account without fear or favour," said Mr Sandison.

"A lot of people think they're electing a chief of police or a second chief constable, it's really important to make it clear that we're not electing a policeman but somebody to hold the police to account and decide how our public money is spent on local policing priorities - and that's a political job, not a policing job," he added.

But Mr Sandison's comments drew swift responses from both independent candidates.

"I see it as the complete opposite - I think a political role will take away the accountability of the police altogether," said independent candidate Christopher Wright, a retired police officer who spent 30 years serving the Metropolitan, Gloucestershire and Gwent forces.

"I want to give the people of Gwent the chance to vote for a non-political candidates for a non-political role and give the people of Gwent the chance vote to keep control of their local police.

"I think people need to understand that to hold the police to account, you need to understand what happens at the bottom when you make decision at the top," added Mr Wright.

Independent candidate Ian Johnston served the Gwent force for 33 years, rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent before taking a post with the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales.

He strongly believes that the person elected to the role of commissioner should have first hand experience and knowledge of the police.

"It's nothing personal but if you look at the job description, in the first 100 days you are expected to set the budget and set the policing plan for the following year.

"I'm amazed that people think that policing is so simple. Policing is complex and that's why I don't think people want politicians in this place."

Mr Johnston added added: "I think the public quite frankly has had enough of politicians over the past 12 months."

Conservative candidate Nick Webb said the idea of "politicising the police" was "a sound bite that doesn't really stand up to any scrutiny".

"The system we currently have is a police authority where a large number of whom are party political councillors who've been appointed on to it," said Mr Webb.

"This isn't about politicising, it's about accountability.

"At the moment if a community feels they they are not being well served by the police priorities they have no recourse to action.

"Once they've got a directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner, they will be able to kick someone out if they are not following their priorities," he added.

There is more political coverage on the new BBC Wales series The Wales Report with Huw Edwards on BBC One Wales at 22:25 BST on Sunday 21 October.

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