The four candidates battling to become Lincolnshire’s next Police and Crime Commissioner have all vowed to fight for a fairer funding deal for the force.
The election for the £74,000-a-year post will take place on Thursday.
Victoria Ayling (UKIP) Marc Jones (Conservatives) Lucinda Preston (Labour) and Danial Simpson (Lincolnshire Independents) are all hoping to succeed Alan Hardwick as the county’s new crime Tsar.
Speaking at a hustings in Horncastle last Thursday, the candidates all stressed police did a ‘fantastic job’
However, they agreed budget cuts – imposed by central Government – had stretched the ‘thin blue line’ to breaking point and affected the morale of officers.
Ms Ayling said a recent promise of extra funding appeared to have ‘been kicked into the long grass’.
If elected, she said she would campaign strongly for more money and stressed it was vital people in the county ‘felt safe and were safe.’
Mr Simpson told a packed audience at the Stanhope Hall that it was time for politicians to ‘get off their hind legs’ and demand more money.
He was backed by Ms Preston who accused the Conservatives of ‘forcing’ a 10 per cent cut reduction on the force’s budget.
She said: “The police do an absolutely fantastic job in very difficult and testing circumstances.
“Resources are stretched – not just in this county – and we need to ask some very serious questions. You can’t carry on with a policy of cut, cut cut.”
Mr Jones said he was already lobbying for more funding but said it would be difficult securing a better deal in the current climate.
He stressed it was a matter of getting the ‘best possible value’ from the existing deal which amounts to around £113m a year.
Ms Ayling stressed she would stand down as a county councillor to devote all her time to the role of commissioner. Mr Jones said he would step down as the county council’s portfolio holder for finance but had yet to decide about whether to resign as a councillor.
He was accused by Ms Preston of a ‘clear and worrying conflict of interests’ if he did not resign.
Ms Preston said she would quit as a teacher but not until July. She shrugged off claims that she could not handle two responsible jobs at the same time – particularly without a deputy.
All four candidates pledge to ‘get tough’ on the causes of crime and Ms Ayling said she would adopt a policy of ‘zero tolerance.’ She also revealed she would campaign against legalising cannabis, claiming it would lead to an increase in offences and social problems.
All four candidates promised to retain the current number of 1,110 front line officers and 149 PCSOs.
There were calls for more ‘specials’ and volunteers – and a full review of the force’s controversial contract with G4S.