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Clash Over Funding and Priorities in Surrey PCC Race


On the eve of the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner election, candidates are locked in a battle of ideas over funding allocations and the strategic direction of law enforcement in the county.

Independent candidate Alex Coley, former barrister Paul Kennedy of the Liberal Democrat Party, and Kate Chinn representing the Labour Party have all weighed in on the key issues facing Surrey’s police force and incumbent Commissioner Lisa Townsend for the Conservative Party responds.

Alex Coley, (Residents Association Councillor on Epsom and Ewell Borough Council for Ruxley Ward) a vocal critic of current spending practices, has campaigned on the issue of financial management within the force. “Over the past six weeks Surrey has been my treadmill, six weeks of walking and talking to residents all over this county,” Mr Coley stated. He emphasized concerns raised by residents about the allocation of resources, particularly in light of a significant underspend by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) office. “The number one question from residents has been: ‘how are you going to pay for more police?'” Coley highlighted, pointing to unutilized funds that he argues should be directed towards bolstering the police force.

Furthermore, Mr Coley raised eyebrows with his critique of what he termed “casino politics in policing,” alluding to financial dealings between the PCC and Surrey County Council. “I don’t think residents want a PCC acting like an investment bank that dabbles in the gilt markets, backed by your council tax,” he asserted, painting a picture of fiscal irresponsibility that he vows to rectify if elected. Full statement HERE.

In contrast, Paul Kennedy of the Liberal Democrat Party takes a different approach, drawing on his legal and financial background to advocate for prudent fiscal management. “The challenge of funding more community policing requires professional discipline, not simplistic solutions,” Kennedy remarked. With experience as a barrister and an accountant, Kennedy positioned himself as a candidate with the expertise necessary to navigate the complex financial landscape of law enforcement.

Mr Kennedy defended the current funding structure of Surrey Police, stressing the importance of maintaining a buffer to address cash flow fluctuations. “Temporary surpluses can’t just be run down as some have suggested,” he cautioned, echoing sentiments of fiscal conservatism that have resonated with some voters. Full statement HERE.

Meanwhile, Kate Chinn (Epsom and Ewell Borough Councillor for Court Ward) of the Labour Party emphasized the human aspect of policing, focusing on recruitment and retention as key priorities. “Of course the budget needs scrutiny and increasing, but as Alex Coley identifies it is ensuring enough officers are recruited and retained that is the real priority,” Ms Chinn argued. She outlined a series of measures aimed at bolstering recruitment and supporting existing officers, including streamlining the recruitment process and providing adequate mental health resources.

Ms Chinn’s vision for policing centred on valuing and supporting front-line officers, with a pledge to advocate for fair pay and long-term investment in law enforcement. “A Labour government would ensure police pay recognizes the value of the work our officers do and commit to long-term investment,” she asserted, positioning herself as a champion of the men and women who serve on the front-lines of policing. Full statement HERE.

As the candidates make their final pitches to voters, the future direction of policing in Surrey hangs in the balance. With each candidate offering a distinct vision for the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner, residents face a critical decision that will shape the county’s law enforcement priorities for years to come.

A response from Conservative candidate and current Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, was awaited at the time of going to press and just came in minutes after…….

Lisa Townsend refutes Mr Coley’s claims: “There is no loan to Surrey County Council. The £43m is the amount of cash held at the 31/8/23. This represents reserves of about £30m as well as cash held due to the timing of council tax receipts, grants, payments out, etc. Rather than holding all our cash in a single bank we pool it on an overnight basis with SCC who add it to their spare cash and invest it in overnight money market deposits with many banks. This reduces the risk as this pooled money is spread over a larger number of institutions than if we were to do this alone, and it also reduces the cost of management.”

In respect of underspending the Commissioner points out the small underspend in proportion to the total budget and how it arose from a higher staff vacancy rate than expected. Full statement HERE.

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