The Thames Valley’s first ever elected police leader has begun his spell in office.
Conservative Anthony Stansfeld was elected after he saw off competition from Labour’s Tim Starkey in the inaugural police and crime commissioner (PCC) vote.
He is to earn a salary of £85,000 and will preside over 8,000 police officers and an annual budget of £400m.
However, the former Army officer’s victory was tainted by the fact that a meagre 5% of the electorate’s first preference votes went to him.
Only 13% of people voted in the election, but Mr Stansfeld said he could understand the low figures.
He said: “If you have an election in the middle of the winter when it’s dark in the mornings and in the evenings and there are things on TV the last thing people want to do is go to a polling station.”
Since winning the election, Mr Stansfeld has warned council tax precepts will rise in order to protect police resources. He said he will support a 2% council tax rise next year followed by a 2.5% rise the following year, believing this will protect the force’s long-term resources.
Born in Newbury, Mr Stansfeld’s career started when, aged 17, he joined the Royal Green Jackets and saw active service in Borneo and Northern Ireland.
He later learned to fly helicopters and commanded various Army Air Corps Squadrons, including in the Falklands in 1982.
Mr Stansfeld also spent two years as chief of staff intelligence in the Far East, before leaving the military to become managing director of aircraft company Pilatus Britten Norman.
It is that experience Mr Stansfeld says will help him deal with the huge budgets he faces as PCC.
Thames Valley Police has already made major cuts, but Mr Stansfeld said – barring more monetary problems in Europe – more cutbacks shouldn’t be forthcoming.
He said: “The police have already taken a big cut. In real terms, about 20%. It was supposed to be over four years, but was very much front loaded.
“In some ways we have more police on the beat now, as a layer of police bureaucracy was removed which made considerable savings.”
“Hopefully it is all done. We have no idea what the finances of Europe are going to do.
“It isn’t only outside my hands, but probably outside the hands of the Government as well.
“We live in a world where money is very tight. I hope there won’t be any more cuts.
“Any more will downgrade the presence of the police. We have to be very careful.”
Mr Stansfeld speaks from a position of experience, having been a member of the soon to be defunct Thames Valley Police Authority.
Last year he acted as chairman of the authority’s performance committee, setting the targets police have to meet and overseeing a 15% fall in crime.
But he said as PCC he would have much more power to influence the Government and represent the people of Thames Valley.
Mr Stansfeld said: “The police authority was 19 people. It did what it was required to do, but the most effective committee is a committee of one.
“As someone who is elected, all be it by a small number of people, you have a far more powerful base to say what needs doing to central Government and to the criminal justice and crime prosecution systems.
“You are in a much more powerful position to get things done. There is more of a public interface.
“The police authority did its bit to get out to people, but it hardly got the public attention.
“PCCs have more power to kick the Government, whichever party it may be. I am here to stick up for the people of Thames Valley.”
And he said this ability to directly represent people makes the role more democratic than its predecessor.
He also moved to defend the fact most PCC candidates across the country were affiliated to political parties.
Mr Stansfeld said: “There is nothing less democratic than an Independent, as no-one knows what he stands for.
“Any expenditure of public money has to be done by someone who is elected. What this has done has made it far more democratic.”
He also said he thought his £85,000 pay packet is ‘reasonably fair’.
Mr Stansfeld said: “It is half as much as the chief constable is getting and more than 20 people in the force earn more.
“Anybody who is earning less than somebody usually questions it.
“Compared to somebody running a quango it is very low pay.”