So we now have a Police & Crime Commissioner. I have had a good few complaints about the elections, and queries and questions about voting systems, remits, and roles. So I hope people forgive me if I make a few observations on the process. When I voted, I was the 59th at my polling station at 8pm. I would be stretching the bounds of credulity to pretend that the elections generated massive levels of enthusiasm. But I think it would be wrong to entirely dismiss the exercise. Some disagree with the very idea, as it politicises the police in their view. To my mind, they merely replace an appointed Police Authority, whose membership was unknown and met only four times a year, with an accountable individual doing the job permanently, and extending their remit to include the needs of victims. Any election is a step forward from an era when no-one had a vote – and the choice to not vote is one we all have.
Should the election have been held in November? At the risk of sounding partisan, you would need to ask the LibDems, who made November a condition of supporting the Bill. I am still unclear how it benefitted either them or the process. More difficult is to answer the question of whether more funded publicity was needed. Political party candidates and Independents spent what they could on promotion, but with no Freepost facility, were hamstrung by what money they could raise and what they could inspire their activists to do. It’s hard to raise money to pay for leaflets for an election no-one is noticing, and the reason they’re not noticing is because no leaflets are going out! One solution is to fund a Freepost facility – but should taxpayers money be used to fund such an initiative at a time when we are trying to cut down the cost of politics? Incidentally, I was genuinely glad to see so many Independents win, as I think it will show that not every local role has to be party political in order to succeed. Let’s see how they get on now – the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
I did do some proper constituency work as well as the PCC campaign last week … I started off paying a visit to Shabby 2 Chic (www.shabby2chic.co.uk), one of our excellent social enterprises which also passes on much needed skills in up-cycling old furniture, and who partner with Recycling Lives in Preston to give vocational training to marginalised groups such as the homeless. Sandra Johnson is an inspirational lady who runs the social enterprise and essentially funds it – the work she does is great, and I really hope Blackpool Council and Blackpool’s third sector engaged with it just as much as Preston seem to be doing. Nonetheless, if you are ever around Burton Road, have a look in the showroom, and you might just be surprised!
I also managed to fit in a few musical events. I attended the Blackpool Gang Show – well known as the best in the country, or so Carl Hankinson tells me, their County Commissioner. It was certainly a vibrant and energetic show, with commendable enthusiasm from all concerned. Few realise just how much work goes into preparing these shows, and it certainly gets the audience pumping! The audience were equally excited by Marton Operatic Society’s rendition of Ruddigore which had its usual array of fine singing and acting, with a few new cast members to liven up the range.
You may wonder why I so often refer to what I term ‘cultural’ visits, and the reason crystallised for me when I was talking to the conductor of the Blackpool Symphony Orchestra (yes, we do have one, www.blackpoolsymphony.co.uk) who made the point that it is incumbent upon all the different choirs, theatre groups, orchestras and so on to support each other’s events. It’s also an important way for the community to signal that there is more to this part of the world than what we see on programmes like 999 Emergency. If you’re asking what you can do for the Fylde Coast, just scan the Gazette a little more and find a local event to go to one evening over the next month. There’s no shortage of choirs performing – Fleetwood & District Choral is on the 1st December, for example – and it’s the perfect time of year, and it helps build and strengthen our community.