West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson speaks of the challenges ahead

Mark Burns-Williamson
Mark Burns-Williamson

With even more budget cuts on the horizon and the search for a new chief constable to launch, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire already has a lot on his plate.

Labour’s candidate Mark Burns-Williamson started the brand new post yesterday after winning the most votes in a West Yorkshire-wide election.

He said he is pleased to have won but knows he faces challenges ahead.

“I’m delighted with the result. It’s been a long campaign,” he said.

“Now I want to get on with the job.”

The police and crime commissioner role itself has been dogged in controversy. Critics claim it will bring about politicisation of the force, with commissioners championing vote-winning measures rather than worthy but less popular issues.

There have also been fears the new commissioners could try to interfere with the day-to-day policing responsibilites of the chief constable.

The low voter turn out at last week’s elections has brought more criticism of the role, with an average of just 13.9 per cent of people going to the ballot box in West Yorkshire.

But the Government claims the idea will mean better accountability, with commissioners being directly elected and aimed at being more visible than the previous police authorities.

Mr Burns-Williamson certainly has plenty of experience with policing. As a councillor in Wakefield, he became a member of West Yorkshire Police Authority in 1999 before earning the position of chairman of the authority in 2003.

In September 2009, he was elected deputy chairman of the Association of Police Authorities and then chairman in 2011.

He was awarded an OBE for services to the community and policing in the 2012 honours list.

He thinks the commissioner role will be different to that of chairman of the police authority but that his background was key in helping him come first in every district of West Yorkshire.

One of his first tasks will be to appoint a new chief constable for West Yorkshire, following the resignation of Sir Norman Bettison last month.

And he has a budget to set in a matter of weeks, with more Government-imposed reductions on the police force’s funds on the horizon.

He thinks more collaboration with other forces on specialised aspects of policing could help ease cutbacks.

Standing against budget cuts was one of his campaign pledges, as was keep officers on the beat, rather than handing police work over to private companies, strong and swift action on anti-social behaviour, being tough on crime and the causes of crime, giving victims a greater voice, and preserving the operational independence of the police.

Neighbourhood policing is a key priority, he added, and he wants to make sure the police are covering the rest of the priorities of the whole of its force area.

“I want to say thank you to those that voted for me,” he said.

“I’ll be doing my best to deliver on the campaign promises that I made and make sure we get the best service for the whole of West Yorkshire.”