Independent prospective candidate Ann Barnes demands state-funded mailshots prompting a furious reaction from her Tory and Labour rivals
Prospective candidates for the Police and Crime Commissioner role have become embroiled in a spat after an independent hopeful accused political parties of high-jacking the elections.
Kent’s most high profile independent candidate Ann Barnes led a delegation to Downing Street to protest against what she claims is “election unfairness”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, she demanded the Government use state funds to pay for mailshots which are used in parliamentary elections, where information about each candidate is posted out to voters.
The Home office has refused to do the same for the PCC polls, arguing it would cost £25m-£35m nationwide, and that details will instead be online and information posted to those who want it.
But Mrs Barnes, who is former chair of watchdog Kent Police Authority, the body being replaced by the PCC in November, argued that political candidates have the advantage of the “party machine” to help fund electoral campaigns, including mailshots, unlike independent candidates.
Each hopeful is allowed to spend up to £228,338 in Kent, with a £5,000 deposit to stand.
Mrs Barnes said: “The Government has repeatedly stated it wanted strong, local independent candidates to come forward as potential police commissioners.
“However, it is denying them the state-funded election address to every elector that they would have had should they have been standing as an MP.
“My letter asked the Prime Minister to personally intervene and ensure that the Home Office’s refusal to fund a state-funded election address to every voter is overturned.
“David Cameron is constantly saying that society should be open, fair and just.
“This election is none of these.
“It is being hijacked by the main political parties with their ‘party machines’ and ‘party money’.”
But Labour’s prospective PCC candidate Harriet Yeo, an Ashford councillor, reacted furiously, arguing that her campaign was not being funded by the Labour Party.
“I am left to my own devices to fund my own campaign,” she said.
“We have to raise our own finances. I’ll be doing that how every other prospective candidate will be.
“Ann Barnes can afford to spend money on newspaper advertising – I can’t afford to do that. I don’t think she’s that hard done by.”
Ms Yeo also questioned how Mrs Barnes was not aware of the Government’s decision not to fund mailshots.
“I’ve read reports that she didn’t know about this, but she was chair of the Kent Police Authority – how did she not know? It was made clear from the start to prospective candidates.”
Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay, a Medway councillor and magistrate, also reacted with fury over claims of party-funded campaigns.
“This is absolutely not true – the party is not awash with cash,” he said.
“I will need to raise the money and rely on kind donations from supporters.
“Political parties are a group of like-minded people who decided to join together to advance a common thread of values.
“An independent could have done that months ago – rallied support and really made a go of it.
“If they are incapable of getting support from local people, it should not be the taxpayer who picks up the enormous bill.
“Independent candidates entering the race did so knowing that there would be no free delivery; for independent candidates now to claim that this is somehow unfair is disingenuous.
“The cost to the Kent taxpayer of a free election address distribution could be in the order of £1.2m, enough to pay for 40 frontline police officers.”
Voters will take to the polls on November 15 to elect the PCC to replace KPA.
The successful candidate will have the power to hire and fire the chief constable, set the police budget, write a police and crime plan, and commission services.
Prospective candidates include Steven Uncles (English Democrats) and independents Dai Liyanage, Ken Little, Fran Croucher, Fergus Wilson and Ian Driver.