EAST Devon retired police officer Bob Spencer has won the influential support of a top Plymouth businessman in his bid to become the next Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall.
Charles Howeson, an acknowledged expert on South West economic regeneration, has been openly critical of the politicisation of the role of commissioner.
Only last month he challenged the Home Secretary for her endorsement of the Conservative candidate for the role.
In the run up to the May 5th election Mr Howeson has thrown his considerable influence behind the independent candidate Bob Spencer, a retired Acting Assistant Chief Constable in the Devon and Cornwall force.
The move must be unsettling for the official Conservative candidate Alison Hernandez because of the support Mr Howeson carries within the business community in Devon and Cornwall.
Mr Spencer said he was delighted to have the clear support of Mr Howeson as the strategic leader of the two counties’ business communities.
He said: “This declaration is hugely welcomed and significant.
“Charles has unparalleled links with, and influence within, the peninsula’s wider business community, as well as nationally.
“Importantly this also addresses the tourism industry which includes the 10 million people who visit the Westcountry every year.
“His own strictly non-party political balance, strategic experience and perspective on the challenges that we all face in the next four years will perfectly complement my own and so be invaluable.”
Mr Howeson’s backing for Mr Spencer follows the announcement by Simon Payne, also a former police officer and currently a Major in the Territorial Army, that he would be standing down as a candidate in the PCC election in favour of Mr Spencer and to act as his Campaign Manager.
Said Mr Payne: ““After meeting with Bob and talking about our shared views and values, I felt I wanted to support Bob’s campaign and could best do this by being his campaign manager.”
He added: “The most important thing is not to split the Independent vote. Keeping party politics out of policing is our aim. Bob with his knowledge of both policing, policy and partnership work is the person most likely to succeed.”
In a recent open letter to the press Mr Howeson spelled out his fears about political appointments being unable to act impartially in the defence of policing in Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
He said: “I would argue most strongly that any post holder elected under such definitive patronage will have unavoidable external loyalties that are wholly inappropriate to the discharging of the PCC's duties. In effect this becomes a standing conflict of interest.
“The next PCC will need, and be expected, to challenge (whatever national) government on behalf of the SW population impartially and this could get very tough indeed. There will be no room for coziness or any lack of resolution. So however good they might be as individuals, if they had been party politically placed, our next PCC would almost certainly have to grossly embarrass their sponsor, simply in order to do their job right for us! And just how likely is that?
“For this reason I believe that ONLY an entirely non-party political candidate, ie an independent commissioner, can satisfy the local remit, however outstanding or well motivated any individual political appointee may be!
Mr Howeson said he had worked across the Devon and Cornwall peninsula for many years and in all sectors had remained strictly independent of all party politics.
He said he had considered putting his own name forward for the post but did not want several independent candidates to water down each others’ support.
He said: “After very careful research and much thought, I have decided to fully endorse and support Bob Spencer's candidature as representing the best opportunity for our wider community to achieve the most outstanding potential Police and Crime Commissioner in the upcoming May election.”