March 24 2021

Voters will have the chance in May to choose the next Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner.

The PCC is responsible for the effective policing of the region, drawing up a budget – including the annual precept charged to council tax payers – setting priorities for the force through a police and crime plan and holding the chief constable and officers to account for delivering it.

Since its creation in 2012 the post has been held by independent Sue Mountstevens, who is standing down.

The candidates are Kerry Barker, Labour; Cleo Lake, Green; Heather Shearer, Lib Dem; Mark Shelford, Conservative and John Smith, Independent.

Here's a chance to find out more about them and what they would do if they got this role.

What are your top three priorities for policing in the Avon and Somerset force area? 

Kerry Barker: Successful policing depends upon the gathering of local intelligence by local police officers. My priorities are: to strengthen community policing with more officers who live and work in the areas for which they are responsible; stop the closure of police stations; bring back and strengthen specialist detective teams, such as burglary teams and sexual assault teams. Each will have the aim of improving the welfare and safety of women.

Cleo Lake: Trust – the police need to reflect the communities they work for. This requires active recruitment among under-represented groups, and supporting recruits through challenges. Prevention – reform of drug laws, which create needless criminals and victims - is required. Focus should be on cybercrime, which denies many their savings, and road safety, including pavement parking. Despite budget pressures, the public deserve value-for-money policing and for their priorities to be met.

Heather Shearer: Catch and prosecute burglars and scammers – currently only 8% of burglars are detected; Invest in responsive neighbourhood police teams so they can truly be part of their communities; Work more effectively with partner organisations across the county to target drugs and knife crime. Focusing on crime prevention and building safer communities would be my way to achieve these three things.

Mark Shelford: Reassure residents the police are there for them: increase visible policing and work with communities to increase their resistant to crime; Refocus the police on fighting crimes people care about by freeing officers up from non-policing tasks; Rebuild morale on the frontline: overhaul training and cut paperwork to allow Police more time on our streets. Boost Special Constable numbers, review the use of police buildings, and investigate the efficiency of the current PCC office.

John Smith: As the only independent candidate, I will answer only to local residents, not to party politicians in Westminster. If elected, I will make keeping everyone safe and secure my main priority, and my first focus will be on: Supporting the police to enforce Covid-19 regulations appropriately so we can get back to living normally as soon as possible; Protecting the most vulnerable in society, including children and victims of domestic violence; Tackling burglary, knife and drug crime including County Lines.

How will your approach to the role differ from the current PCC’s? 

Mark Shelford: I know how to lead and motivate a uniformed service, and how to properly consult and engage with voters. Our Police do a difficult job with courage and skill: they need leadership that understands their and the community’s needs. 

John Smith: As well as continuing current priorities such as road safety and anti-social behaviour, I will prioritise more areas that local people have told me need additional resources such as cyber crime and fraud, rural crime and business crime. 

Kerry Barker: I will change strategies to make local policing the priority; stop closures of police stations; emphasise the welfare and safety of women and move back to specialist teams of detectives. The soaring levels of violent and sexual offences are unacceptable. 

Cleo Lake: I would be highly visible. I would like to work more closely with unions and Independent Advisory Groups to inform from a community perspective. I would support setting up both a youth and African Heritage IAG.

Heather Shearer: I would ask difficult questions of the Constabulary and partners but also build effective working relationships. My decisions would be evidence-based but you have to take people with you, especially when the decisions are not what everyone wants to hear.