May 24 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Former police authority chairman Stephen Bett has vowed to help keep Norfolk one of the safest places in the country after he triumphed in a David versus Goliath-like battle to become the county’s first police and crime commissioner.
Mr Bett resigned from the police authority and quit the Tory party in September to embark on a campaign as an independent after he lost out to Jamie Athill in the summer as Norfolk’s Conservative candidate.
But while not having the backing of a major political party behind him Mr Bett, who dubbed his campaign The Safe Bett, was declared the winner of the landmark elections in Norwich yesterday.
As expected turnout for the election was worryingly low – just 15pc across the whole of Norfolk – but it could not detract from the result for Mr Bett, who was elected into the £70,000 a-year-post with the remit of holding the police to account and with the power to set budgets and hire and fire chief constables after he received a total of 39,988 votes compared to his closest challenger Mr Athill, who received a total of 36,605.
Speaking after the result was announced at St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich yesterday, Mr Bett said: “I’m delighted to have won the election to be Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner and pleased that my non-party political stance won the day with voters.
“I don’t dwell on the campaign itself, nor the apparent apathy of the public towards the election. However, I offer my thanks to the other candidates for their hard work in stirring things up and helping to inform the public as they did so.
“Now, the hard work begins. I set out my plans for the role in a 10-point pledge and they are the commitments that I will ultimately be judged on.
“I have pledged to keep Norfolk one of the safest counties in the UK, with public safety as my number-one priority. There will be a relentless battle to combat crime.”
Mr Bett, who spent 16 years on Norfolk Police Authority – including six as chairman – said he would do his “utmost” to keep the county safe by maintaining the police front-line in the face of further budget cuts.
He said: “I made it clear that I believe we can find the savings we need to make through continuing our collaboration with Suffolk and I believe there are more savings to be made.
“There is no need to privatise and involve large third-party companies who are ultimately focused on profits and shareholder value.
“Equally, if not more importantly, I will listen very carefully to our communities and work with as many community groups and individuals as possible to ensure policing is fair for all. I will work with all shades of the political spectrum without fear or favour ... as I did in chairing Norfolk Police Authority.
“There are some immediate priorities, including setting the budget. This will be pressured as we won’t know what the level of government will be until nearer Christmas.
“I will be seeking early consultations with the chief constable with whom I already have a very good working relationship. The quality of this partnership will form the basis of ensuring the best possible policing service for everyone in Norfolk.”
Mr Bett singled out his wife Phillippa and son and daughters for their “tremendous support” and keeping him on the “straight and narrow when the going got tough” as well as his campaign team, including running mate and soon-to-be deputy Jenny McKibben, for working so tirelessly.
Speaking after the result came in Mrs McKibben, an independent member of Norfolk Police Authority which is to be replaced by the commissioner on November 22, said: “I think this is a fantastic result – we’ve had support from across the political spectrum all backing us with a very clear message that people don’t want politics interfering with policing.
“We had a tiny team, no budget and were up against the big machinery of political parties but a strong message – a strong message of what we’ve done on the authority and that’s what got us through.”
Norfolk’s chief constable Phil Gormley said: “I congratulate Stephen Bett on his success in the police and crime commissioner elections for Norfolk. I, along with the rest of my chief officer colleagues, look forward to working with him in the months ahead to continue to develop and deliver the excellent service provided by Norfolk Constabulary.”
Mr Athill said he was disappointed to have lost the race to become police and crime commissioner – a role which he still strongly believes in.
He said: “We came second. I think it was well worth standing so that’s galling for the team. I sincerely wish the new PCC every success in what’s an important job.”
When asked about the turnout, Mr Athill said it was what it was.
The race to become Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner became a two-horse race after the first round of counting.
Mr Athill and Mr Bett were out in front after the Norfolk first round results were announced just before 4pm, but as neither had secured more than 50pc of the poll, voters’ second preferences were counted.
Mr Athill, who received 30,834 (31.7pc) votes, and Mr Bett, who got 27,842 (28.6pc) then went head-to-head in a second round of counting after the three other candidates were eliminated. Former Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew, Labour’s candidate, received 21,456 votes (22pc), Ukip’s Matthew Smith 9,633 (9.9pc) and Lib Dem candidate James Joyce 7,392 (7.6 pc).
The total of valid first-preference votes for Norfolk was 97,157, while the total rejected was 3,251.
Overall turnout was 15pc of eligible voters, which breaks down as Breckland 12.9pc, Broadland 15pc, Great Yarmouth 12.6pc, King’s Lynn 14.5pc, North Norfolk 16.1pc, Norwich 16.3pc and South Norfolk 17pc.
Mr Morphew was pleased with his performance in the elections but said the turnout raised some alarming concerns about the role.
He said his “biggest concern” was that by pressing ahead with PCCs the government was taking away one of the “fundamentals on which policing is based – policing by consent”.
He added: “What the public has said is they don’t consent with what’s going on here and that’s very significant for a democracy.”
It was a view echoed by Charles Clarke, former home secretary and former Norwich South MP, who has been an outspoken critic of the post.
He said: “The appallingly low turnout shows how flawed this system is.
“As far as Norwich is concerned, all I would say is it was an appallingly flawed election and one of the saddest aspects for the residents of Norwich is that despite voting overwhelmingly Labour there will be a police and crime commissioner who is not representing the needs of the city.”
Mr Bett will take up his post on Thursday, when police authorities will be officially abolished, and will serve a four-year term.