Tories unveil plan for elected police chiefs

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Indy Politics

US-style directly elected police commissioners are being proposed today by Tory leader Michael Howard.

Local police authorities would be scrapped under a Conservative government in a move to improve police accountability, Mr Howard is due to say.

Tory spokesman Andrew Mitchell said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Crime and law and order is right at the top of most people's agenda.

"This is a very good way of getting them directly involved in making local policing more accountable. "I think people will be very pleased to take advantage of this and make sure they elect someone to represent them."

Critics warn it could put policing at the mercy of single issue campaigners.

The Tory leader and his senior colleagues were gathering in Manchester for the first of a planned series of shadow cabinet meetings outside London in the run-up to the general election, expected in May.

Crime is a rising concern among voters and the Tories say they want to give people more influence over how their police force is run.

Police authorities are made up of local councillors and magistrates, but the commissioners proposed by the Tories would be elected.

The party made its law and order plans, which include 5,000 more police a year, the focus of a newspaper advertisement on Sunday.

Much of the package had been unveiled before but the party gave more details, with Mr Howard saying crime was "out of control".

Under the proposals, criminals would serve full sentences and more prisons would be built.

Judges would set a minimum sentence - to be served in full - and a maximum to be served by those still considered a threat.