POLICING Minister Nick Herbert was put on the spot over controversial plans for police and crime commissioners on a visit to Portsmouth.
Mr Herbert today met senior leaders from across the county as part of a series of visits across England and Wales ahead of elections in November.
The new police commissioner will replace Hampshire Police Authority, which is in charge of finance for policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The person elected to the £85,000-a-year post will have powers to appoint and dismiss the chief constable, determine local policing priorities, set the local budget and council tax precept and commission policing services.
Candidates vying for the top job in Hampshire include Cllr Jacqui Rayment, Labour chairwoman of Hampshire Police Authority, Cllr Sean Woodward, Tory Fareham Borough Council leader and the police authority’s vice-chairman, and Cllr Donna Jones, deputy Tory group leader on Portsmouth City Council.
Mr Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, said: ‘The police and crime commissioner will give the public a voice for the first time, a real say in policing. I think they will strengthen the link between the police and the public and ensure the public’s priorities are reflected.
‘They will strengthen accountability, but they will still allow the chief constable, as the professional, to do their job.
‘These are all roles that the police authority is doing. Now they will be done by an elected individual. It makes policing more transparent, more accountable and gives a direct say to the public. I think that they will be welcomed.
Critics say the move to an elected police and crime commissioner risks politicising the force and undermining the chief constable.
But Mr Herbert insists the role will give the public more powers. He added: ‘There is no intention that we should politicise policing. These reforms give the public a greater say through direct accountability.’
However the move has been criticised by Portsmouth City Council’s Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson. He said: ‘It’s a total waste of money. The problem for us in Portsmouth is it’s likely to be someone from a rural part of Hampshire.
‘It could be someone who has no idea what it’s like living in cities. At least at the moment the cities get a voice. It won’t happen under the new system.’