Matthew Barber says he will be 'his own man' and not a clone of his controversial Conservative predecessor if he wins next month’s election to become Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner.
An Oxfordshire resident and councillor, Mr Barber has been the deputy police and crime commissioner for the huge region that includes Milton Keynes while working alongside retiring PCC Anthony Stansfeld since January 2017.
Earlier this year Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel decided that Mr Stansfeld had overstepped his authority by becoming involved in an insolvency matter. Mr Stansfeld said he had been supporting the victims of fraud.
“I am my own man,” said Mr Barber. “I worked closely with Anthony and he’s done a great job to create a role out of nothing since he was first elected in 2012.
“But I am my own person and I ask people to judge me on my merits.”
Mr Barber is hoping he will be able to repeat his predecessor’s 30,000-vote victory at the ballot box on May 6.
But he is conscious that the PCC election uniquely gives people first and second preference votes, and four years ago the Conservative candidate only beat Labour after a count of second choices.
“Some may say that I am in poll position but I am not being complacent,” he said.
But he has used his time to draft a plan of policies that he can formally consult on from day one.
“We have to be clever how we deal with issues like serious organised crime, county lines and knife crime,” he said.
Although he puts recruitment of more officers on his list of policies he says tackling crime includes “changing cultural issues”.
“Some people think carrying a knife is a normal way to behave,” he said. “We need to do a lot to tackle that.”
Dealing with illegal encampments is also on his agenda.
But he denied that all his priorities would pile pressure on front line officers.
“We can address this by ensuring that the right resources are in the right places at the right time,” he said.
In terms of Milton Keynes policies, Cllr Barber said he wants to launch a scheme where the PCC would pay the council to clear up flytips on private land and to use their powers to prosecute the culprits.
“The fines from prosecutions would be reinvested,” he said.
On dog thefts he recognised that the numbers of reported crimes are low and often “over-reported on social media”. But he said dog thefts should be dealt with seriously as it is “on the radar of serious organised crime”.
Being married to a GP, having two young daughters and being a district councillor doesn’t give Cllr Barber much time for himself. But he has been watching Line of Duty and enjoys seeing the PCC role portrayed on the small screen.
The candidates in the Thames Valley PCC election are: Matthew David Barber (Conservative); Laetisia Carter (Lab and Co-op); John Orrell Howson (Lib Dem); and Alan Gordon Robinson (Independent).