THE hopefuls looking to become West Mercia's next police and crime commissioner are locking horns for the first time this Monday - in a packed Worcester pub.

The city's Cap 'N' Gown, which lit up last year's General Election, is hosting a hustings event to give YOU chance to question the candidates.

Last week the nomination deadline closed, with six confirmed candidates vying to replace Bill Longmore in the £75,000-a-year position.

The roles are critical, with a PCC responsible for setting a policing and crime strategy, holding the chief constable to account, linking the force to the wider community and setting the budget - which in West Mercia's case is £203 million.

Independent Barrie Sheldon, who was Mr Longmore's deputy PCC during his four-year tenure, is standing to try and take over the top job, saying he wants to "keep politics out of policing".

The Conservatives have selected Councillor John Campion to take him on, a cabinet member at Worcestershire County Council who has accused Mr Sheldon of being part of a "failed" team.

The Labour Party is hoping to give it a good go and is standing Daniel Walton, who stood in West Worcestershire at last year's General Election.

The roll call of experience does not end there, with the Lib Dems putting forward Wychavon Councillor Margaret Rowley, a three-time former parliamentary candidate herself.

The Green Party has selected Councillor John Raine, a Malvern district and county councillor and criminal justice expert at the University of Birmingham, while the UKIP hopeful is magistrate Peter Jewell, who stood in Redditch at last year's General Election.

On Monday evening the hustings event will get underway from 8pm at the Upper Tything-based pub, with each candidate being allowed a seven-minute speech followed by audience questions.

Landlord Ted Marshall said: "Last year's General Election was absolutely fantastic and these events are all about putting Worcester on the map both locally and nationally.

"We're expecting a fantastic debate and all the candidates have accepted the chance to come along and talk."

The elections for a new police and crime commissioner will take place on Thursday, May 5 - the same day as the local council elections.

The Cap 'N' Gown made UK General Election history last year by becoming the only pub in the whole of Britain to stage 10 weeks of hustings events in the run-up to the day of the poll.

Once the PCC and local elections are over, the pub is also planning seven weeks of EU referendum debates between May and June.

The first starting of those will start on Tuesday, May 10 from 8pm, which will be chaired by Lord Richard Faulkner.


THIS coming Monday is not the only time West Mercia's police and crime commissioner hopefuls will come together for a Q&A.

The candidates have been invited to a hustings event at the University of Worcester for a special debate on how to support domestic abuse and sexual violence victims.

The West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre has organised the debate alongside partner organisations like West Mercia Women's Aid.

Leisa Taylor, from the Women's Equality Party, which is also backing it, said: "One of the party's core objectives is to end violence towards women and girls, and we will be making this a focus of our involvement in the PCC hustings.

"We hope the hustings will raise awareness of these issues and further open up discussions around the criminal justice system, police response and victim reporting."

Jocelyn Anderson, chief executive of the abuse centre, added: "We have supported over 1,300 survivors of sexual violence in face-to-face support during the last 12 months.

"It is imperative that we, and the clients we support, understand the plans the prospective police and crime commissioners have for supporting survivors of both sexual and domestic violence."

It will be held on Thursday, April 21 at the university's St John's campus from 6pm and be chaired by Ruth Jones OBE from the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse.

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THE PCC is effectively the elected figurehead of a region's police force, and directly holds the chief constable to account.

They have powers to fire a chief constable if they are not up to scratch and can appoint a new one.

The PCC also sets out a strategy for tackling and reducing crime, and are in turn accountable to the public via the ballot box and councillors from the various local authorities in their force area.

They have to report annually on the progress being made and provide that link to the wider community which includes consulting local people, councils and other organisations.

In setting the force budget they have powers to increase the police's portion of council tax, and decide where to earmark community safety grants - spending £8 billion nationally.

The operational independence of the police is still protected by legislation.

In May elections are taking place to vote in 41 PCCs across England and Wales to serve new four-year terms.

Back in November 2012 the first ever elections for PCCs led to some dismal turn-outs, with the Government tying this year's ballots in with the local elections to try and drum up more interest.