Ten candidates – thought to be the highest number in the country – are to fight it out to become Devon and Cornwall's first ever police and crime commissioner.
The list of nominated candidates, which was officially confirmed yesterday, contains representatives from the three main political parties, the UK Independence Party and six independents.
Voting for the £85,000 post takes place on November 15 on what is likely to be a pivotal day for the future of policing in the two counties.
Devon and Cornwall Police are already wrestling with having to make budget savings of £50 million by 2015, with officer numbers being slashed from 3,500 to 2,810. Some 500 police staff are also being axed.
In the midst of the cuts, crime in the two counties has also risen – spiking by 7% in the 12 months to the end of June this year.
The commissioner, who will set the strategic vision for the force but will not control operational policing, also faces key decisions around council tax and appointing a permanent chief constable in their first few months in office. The Government introduced the post, saying the American-style role would bring a level of democracy and accountability never seen in local policing before.
Critics however have warned that it risks the "politicisation of the police service" and attacked the £75 million cost of the election at a time of cuts in police budgets.
A number of warnings have also been issued about the likelihood of a very low turnout at the election.
The Electoral Reform Society said it would be a "complete shambles" and warned fewer than one in five voters could turn out, while Labour has warned that the new police chiefs could be returned on a vote as low as 8%.
Kevin Lavery, the chief executive of Cornwall Council and police area returning officer, yesterday published the list of the confirmed candidates.
They are Conservative Tony Hogg, Liberal Democrat Brian Blake, Labour's Nicky Williams and Bob Smith for the UK Independence Party.
The six independent candidates are Brian Greenslade, Tam Macpherson, Graham Calderwood, Ivan Jordan, William Morris and John Smith.
A poll by Ipsos MORI commissioned by the Transitional Board of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners this week suggested that independent candidates could fare well in the elections, despite not having the backing of a party machine.
In a poll of 1,280 adults, 30% said they favoured a candidate "not representing a political party" while 16% said they would vote Labour, 8% Conservative, 4% Liberal Democrat and 1% UKIP.
Chief among people's priorities were tackling antisocial behaviour and disorder (45%), making the police more visible in the community (37%) and tackling robbery and other property crime (32%).
Mark Castle, chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner's Transition Board, said: "With almost a month to go until the first 41 police and crime commissioners are elected to oversee police forces and tackle crime across England and Wales, 62% of the public are aware of these elections and that, whilst most voters have clear views about who they would vote for, almost a fifth of those who say they 'definitely' will vote are undecided about who to support on November 15."
An earlier poll for the think tank Policy Exchange found that former government ministers and senior politicians were seen as the least suitable candidates.
A majority of those surveyed (59%) thought former police officers would be the best candidates, followed by ordinary people with an interest in the issues (29%), someone from a military background (26%) or someone from a business background (13%).
Former government ministers and senior politicians and MPs were deemed the least suitable being backed by just 6%. The survey also found that voters were not prepared to pay more for policing via their council tax.
Devon and Cornwall Police's share of overall council tax bills rose by £3.13 a year to £159.66 for a Band D property, after a 2% compromise deal was agreed by the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.
The Government has extended its offer of grants to local authorities, police forces and fire services in lieu of council tax freezes for a third year.
However, the 1% uplift in grant in exchange for freezing its share of council tax would leave Devon and Cornwall another £1.6 million short with its medium-term financial strategy based on an increase in council tax precept of 2.6% a year.
The Police Federation, the staff association which represents constables, sergeants and inspectors, said that could cost the force the equivalent of another 50 officers.
It said the "repercussions of another cut in the budget are unthinkable".
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said the offer could "completely tie their hands financially" and "made a mockery" of the Government's arguments for commissioners.
On November 15, there will be 1,375 polling stations open across Devon and Cornwall.
The election is being held under the supplementary vote system in which electors can make a first and second preference. The count, which is expected to take several hours, is being held at Carn Brea in Cornwall.
Nicky Williams, 41LabourCabinet member for children and young people on Plymouth City Council, Nicky Williams has a degree in social policy and criminology, and has been closely involved with neighbourhood-led policing in the Honicknowle ward she represents. She said she would “lobby Government and challenge some of the cuts which are going to be imposed” on the force adding “it’s about prioritising and listening to people”. She said: “I have five key pledges: to oppose the police cuts and challenge the government budget; keep police on the beat by opposing creeping privatisation; tackle antisocial behaviour and aim to have non emergency victims responded to within 24 hours; work in partnership with the voluntary sector and focus on early intervention; and I’m committed to protecting the operational independence of the chief constable.”John Smith, 70IndependentA former Liberal Democrat, Mr Smith has served as deputy leader of Devon County Council and as chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority. He has also been a board member of the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Service, part of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.Mr Smith, from Teignmouth, said he would “campaign to have our budgets increased” and “protect police personnel” but also look for what “further efficiencies could be achieved with more regional, inter-force cooperation and local council partnerships”.“I’m very keen we stop re-offending and that is all to do with how people perceive themselves,” he has said. “I also want to support the police – it doesn’t serve us well if we have a police force that feels demoralised.”Bob Smith, 60UK Independence PartyMr Smith, who lives near Penzance in West Cornwall, was confirmed as UKIP’s candidate for the police commissioner election earlier this month.The psychologist, who is married with four children, has described the new post as “an exciting opportunity to develop an effective and transparent partnership between the police and the community”.“I support a strong, visible and responsive police force,” Mr Smith said. “The new police and crime commissioner should be a member of the community – not just a career politician.“I will be tough on crime, including low level nuisance crime and antisocial behaviour than can blight communities. I am determined to reconnect the police with the people and their communities.”William Morris, 62IndependentA former farmer, Mr Morris, from Penzance, has worked in the mining industry and heads a charity which works towards conflict resolution in the Middle East. His interest in crime prevention developed during the ten years he lived and worked in South Wales and volunteered as a prison visitor at Swansea jail. Mr Morris said he was “acutely aware of the unique problems of the South West” and that “social deprivation is a key cause of crime”.“I will introduce zero-tolerance policing in areas where there are increasing levels of violence and antisocial behaviour,” the father-of-three and grandfather-of-one has said.“I want more restorative justice and community payback. My priority is the young and my flagship measure is to introduce a detox centre for the under 21s.”Tam Macpherson, 41IndependentTam Macpherson, corr a former Royal Marine and well-known Plymouth businessman, has proposed a radical plan to give Devon and Cornwall separate police forces.He believes two separate forces would improve policing in an area with one of the biggest rural communities in the UK. Mr Macpherson said a balance of “transparency and scrutiny” would help improve the police service.He said: “I am a strong supporter of the police, but I have also been a victim and have been left with the perception that red tape can often stifle good policing. I will be the voice of the resident, business and visitor, the victim and the witness; not the political party. “The future of our police service and justice system should not be decided on the crack of a partisan whip or the colour of a party rosette.”Ivan Jordan, 39IndependentArchitect and farmer Ivan Jordan, from Exeter, said he would “focus on prevention, prevention, prevention”.He said he wanted to use the police to “draw agencies together, and attack the root causes of crime: addiction; poor mental health; low education, expectation and experience for young people in particular”.Mr Jordan has said driving down re-offending rates and addressing addiction and mental health issues would “stop a huge drain on police resources”. Savings could be reinvested in community policing, volunteer organisations and protecting the force from further cuts. “I want justice for all – for everyone in the community, the young, the old, the ethnic minorities, so that everyone gets a say. I want to see partnership-led community policing and no privatisation.”Tony Hogg, 63ConservativeA former commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, Tony Hogg was selected as the Conservative candidate after a series of hustings events.The Falklands war veteran, from Helston, Cornwall, oversaw 3,000 personnel and an annual budget of £80m. He has also been the chief executive of BF Adventure, a Cornish charity which uses outdoor pursuits to help turn around the lives of young people. “I’m resolved to provide a better link with the people of Devon and Cornwall than the existing police authority,” he said. “I want to show strong leadership at a time of enormous change for the police. I also want to raise the agenda of domestic violence, sexual violence and mental health issues. Thirdly, I recognise the enormous value the voluntary sector offer in terms of cutting crime.”Brian Greenslade, 63IndependentThe Liberal Democrat leader of North Devon Council chose to stand as an independent after opposing Government legislation introducing the commissioner, mainly on the grounds of the politicisation of the police service.Councillor Greenslade is a former leader of Devon County Council and a former chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority which is being replaced by the commissioner. He said he would look for “every affordable opportunity” to avoid further cuts to police officer numbers.“I think my experience of policing and crime issues is really quite strong and I can reasonably claim to be experienced in dealing with the police budget,” he said. My top priorities include making a clear commitment to continue funding our PCSOs, rebuilding the cuts in officer numbers once that is sustainable and working with partners in the voluntary sector.”Graham Calderwood, 67IndependentA duty solicitor for 40 years, Mr Calderwood, who lives at Lelant, near St Ives in West Cornwall, has seen the workings of the criminal justice system at first hand.He said he had decided to stand as an independent in the election as “there should be no role for politics in this position”.Mr Calderwood said he was keen to “keep our bobbies on the beat rather than tie them up for long periods in the custody centres”.He added: “I think the crime commissioner needs to be someone who knows some of the processes of the criminal justice system so they can see where improvements need to be made.“I’m keen to speed up the process in the police stations, I also want to tackle drugs, which affect so many crimes and ruin so many families.”Brian Blake, 65Liberal DemocratsThe former detective chief inspector, from Yealmpton in South Devon, served with Devon and Cornwall Police for 31 years. Now retired, he also worked in personnel vetting for the Ministry of Defence and NATO.Mr Blake, who twice unsuccessfully stood as a Lib Dem candidate for South Hams District Council, said he favoured a return to “bobbies on the beat”, and an emphasis on partnership working to reduce crime in communities. He has said: “I don’t see it as a political role. It’s about representing all people in Devon and Cornwall who will be telling the commissioner what they want from their police force. It will be up to the winning candidate to deliver.”Mr Blake was selected by the Liberal Democrats despite an initial decision not to contest the election.