The running to be Labour’s new candidate for Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner has been narrowed to a shortlist of two.
Both former Stockton South MP, Paul Williams, and Hartlepool councillor, Dave Hunter, are in the running for the party’s nomination ahead of the May 7 election.
Labour’s selection process is taking place after the incumbent Labour PCC, Barry Coppinger, confirmed he would be stepping down from the £70,000 role following a raft of high-profile failings at Cleveland Police.
Since he was first elected in 2012, the force has illegally spied on journalists and ex-staff, was found to have allowed its own officers to be racially abused and had officers convicted of serious sexual offences up to and including rape.
The organisation has had six chief constables since 2012 – when Sean Price was sacked.
And a damning probe by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary last year saw the force become the first ever to be rated “inadequate” in all key areas.
But setting out his stall, Cllr Dave Hunter said failings at the force fell at the feet of Tory cuts.
“For too long, Labour representatives across Cleveland have seen the communities we serve suffer from Tory cuts that have ripped the heart out of community policing,” he said.
“Enough is enough – it’s time for us to take a stand and fight back.”
Cllr Hunter said his 11 years working for a “crime fighting charity” had given him the opportunity to work with chief constables and PCCs across the country.
“Make no mistake – the rise in crime across our region is a symptom of Tory austerity, which we all know is far from over,” he continued.
“We need real and immediate solutions to tackle it – and I believe that if given the opportunity, I can provide them.
“Each area of Cleveland has its own unique issues so a broad brush approach will not work – it is vital that we not only work with our representatives in communities to tackle crime together but actively engage our communities to ensure they become a significant part of a team solution.
“This way, by ensuring we fly the Labour flag at every opportunity, I am confident that not only can we reduce crime, but we can also win more seats – both council and parliamentary.”
He added: “I know that I can bring about real change and win the coming election.
“For this reason, I’m asking for your support in the upcoming nomination meeting to select Labour’s candidate for Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner”
Meanwhile, Dr Paul Williams, who lost his Stockton South seat in December, said what was needed was an “intelligent and evidence-based approach to crime – keeping people out of the criminal justice system where appropriate”.
He said: “Since losing my seat at the general election I have thought carefully about how I can best serve our community and our party.
“I am driven by my Labour values – seeking social justice and striving for a fairer society.
“This role provides a chance to put those values into action. The public deserve the very best police force, and I’ve worked at a senior level holding public services to account as Chair of the Quality, Performance and Finance committee overseeing NHS services in Stockton and Hartlepool.
“I’ve also chaired the Health Select Committee in Parliament.
“Victims need excellent services, so that they only have to tell their story once and are supported and cared for thoroughly.
“And Labour need to show that we have an intelligent and evidence-based approach to crime – keeping people out of the criminal justice system where appropriate, investing in a public health approach to drugs, and working with partners to reduce domestic violence and adverse childhood experiences.
“I have experience of strategic planning, public engagement and dealing with the media.
“I have a masters degree in Public Health and I’ve been a leader in the public, private and third sectors.
“Above all, I think I’m the candidate with the best chance of beating the Tories.
“This will be a tough contest in the current political climate, but my profile, experience and credibility puts me in a strong position to win for our party. Thank you for considering me to be our party’s candidate to be PCC.”
Both Dr Williams and Mr Hunt were named as nominees by the Labour Party’s NEC/Regional Board selections panel.
It’s understood that Constituency Labour Party nomination meetings will now take place until February 16.
Only Labour members who joined the party at least six months ago are eligible to take part in the selection process, it’s believed. Members have been told that a Labour candidate will be selected by February 17.