Commissioner’s not keen on merger idea

Bicester Advertiser: The new Thames Valley Police Commissoner Anthony Stansfeld The new Thames Valley Police Commissoner Anthony Stansfeld

THE REGION’S new crime commissioner has brushed off a call to merge top jobs with a neighbouring force to save police cash.

Thames Valley Crime and Police Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld yesterday said he wanted to raise council tax precepts to protect resources.

But Oxfordshire County Council’s former emergency planning officer John Kelly said the force should explore sharing senior posts with the Hampshire Constabulary before raising council tax.

The forces already share roads policing, firearms, and dog units.

Mr Kelly, of Colwell Drive, Oxford, said both the commissioner and chief constable jobs could be shared and savings invested into frontline policing. Thames Valley Chief Constable Sara Thornton earns £162,756.

He said: “I can see no reason why Hampshire and Thames Valley don’t share a back office. They do a lot of partnership work and I am sure that could be extended.

“We don’t want extra precept if they become short of money.”

Former Army man Mr Stansfeld, who ran on a Conservative ticket, won Thursday’s election after beating off a challenge from Labour candidate Tim Starkey.

Mr Stansfeld, from Newbury, polled 94,238 votes compared to Mr Starkey’s 70,406, after second preference votes were taken into account.

Only 13.3 per cent of the electorate voted.

And in Oxfordshire, 4.7 per cent of people who did turn out to vote spoiled their ballot papers in an apparent protest at the shake-up, one of Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron’s flagship policies.

Mr Stansfeld will now be paid £85,000-a-year to oversee the force’s budget and priorities.

Yesterday he said: “We are already the biggest police force in the country outside of London.

“If Government wants to regionalise local forces there is no need to make it any bigger.”

Mr Stansfeld, who will start work from his Kidlington office on Thursday, wants a two per cent precept rise from next April and then a 2.5 per cent rise in the year after.

He said it would be about a £3 rise for the average home in a year and would only rise to cover inflation.

He said: “We have already taken in effect a 20 per cent cut – we could go on taking cuts every year. It’s a very small sum. We cannot go on being below the rate of inflation. We have to keep it on an even keel.”

And 66-year-old Mr Kelly said last week’s poll had been the first time he had not voted for more than 40 years. He said: “I really wasn’t interested in voting for party hacks, and the independents really didn’t seem up to it.”

But he added: “I am content with the democratic mandate, as we all had an opportunity to vote or choose not to vote.”

Mr Stansfeld defended the new system saying it was more “democratic” than the previous 19-member police authority he sat on.

He said: “It was not a very public interface and large committees are unwieldy. The huge mistake throughout was it wasn’t sold properly by the Government.”

But he added: “This Government has reduced the politics of it by reducing it down to a local level.”

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