Police commissioners champion Nick Herbert quits amid reshuffle

 

The champion of the Government's plan to bring in elected police and crime commissioners has quit as David Cameron shakes up his top team.

Nick Herbert, who was a leading force behind the move to give elected individuals the power to hire and fire chief constables and set force budgets, said he was stepping down to focus on "new ideas".

The Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs wrote on Twitter: "Decided to step down from Govt. Honoured to have worked with police & driven big reforms. Will focus on new ideas & protecting countryside."

The Policing and Criminal Justice Minister will be replaced by Damian Green, who is moving from the immigration brief.

Elections for the new police and crime commissioners, who will replace the existing police authorities in 41 areas in England and Wales outside London, will take place on November 15.

But concerns have frequently been raised over the quality of the potential candidates.

A study by the Institute for Government last year said the success of the crime chiefs will "depend heavily" on the right applicants, including independents, standing for election.

But it found the three major parties had taken "few concrete steps" to select candidates in the 41 police force areas.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said she wanted to see more independent candidates run.

She previously highlighted Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who was contemplating the South Wales post, but he pulled out in July saying he was becoming disillusioned and the campaign was "too political".

Last month, a group of independent candidates urged the Government to level the playing field by giving them a free mailshot.

They claimed the polls will be unfairly weighted in favour of political hopefuls backed by parties - and their money - because information is not going to every voter.

But the Home Office has said information about every candidate will be published online and, for everyone who wants it, delivered in written form.

Ann Barnes, who is standing in Kent, said the failure to give candidates a free mailshot to voters was "perverse and undemocratic".

The current system means candidates backed by major political parties will be at an advantage over independents, she said.

The Electoral Commission warned in March that, as a result of the Government's decision, up to seven million people who did not use the internet could be disadvantaged.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, who is standing as a candidate in Hull, described the move as "scandalous".

Mr Herbert also refused to set a level of voter turnout for the November poll that the Government would deem to be a success.

Mr Herbert recently spoke of his frustration that politics gets in the way of change.

"During my two years as a minister, it's been incredibly important to stay focused on the big objectives - delivery, change - and not to allow the crap to get in the way," he told Total Politics magazine in June.

"The Yes Minister parody - there's a hell of a lot of truth in that.

"There's an enormous amount of process that can sap your energy and determination: meetings for meetings' sake, three options offered, two of which you'd have to be a certified lunatic to take because the civil service is determined you should take the first.

"I could go on, but the way through is to remain absolutely focused on the big picture. I'm doing this job because I'm absolutely determined to change things. Sometimes, the politics gets in the way of that."

PA

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