Bath Voice News: Don’t forget to vote (bring photo ID) for the election of the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner on May 2 election – details of the candidates and election notes here

By Harry Mottram: In what could be seen a dress rehearsal for the General Election later this year the public have a chance on May 2, to elect the next Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). With four candidates to choose from – all from the four main political parties – it could be seen as something of a beauty parade as to which one voters may favour ahead of the national election. That is misleading in that the PCC doesn’t quite have the close political affiliations of local councillors or mayors of the larger cities. If you take the national opinion polls as a guide then Labour would be expected to do well.

The Avon and Somerset PCC election features four candidates pitching to win the role with its salary of £88,600 complete with office and support staff – and a chance to hold the police to account in our area.

Mark Shelford is the Conservative candidate and also the incumbent as he has held the position since 2021 when he prevailed in a five way contest against Labour’s Kerry Baker. Mark replaced Independent Sue Mountstevens who was twice elected as PCC but stood down in 2021. He will hope he can go against the prevailing political winds which have seen the Conservatives almost wiped out in the Bath and North East Somerset elections last year and of course Richi Sunak’s administration registering very low levels in the polls nationally.

He has written on his website that in his time in post he has recruited 1,500 newly trained officers, while ‘delivering an extra 500 police into Neighbourhoods and CID.’ County lines drug groups have been an issue nationwide along with sex crimes against women – he said that the number of rape cases reaching court is up 300% while the police have cracked down on illegal drug activity.

One policy he is proud of was Prisoners Building Homes programme, delivering affordable homes and giving employment skills for prisoners to have a fresh start on release – perhaps not an election winner but one that will help curb crime in the long term. New police stations in Bath and Minehead have been welcomed but larger cop shops were closed during the Conservative administration in the past – along with the cuts to police numbers.

Mark is up against Clare Moody for Labour. She is the chief executive of an equality and human rights charity, where she has worked on issues relating to violence against women and girls – reports the BBC’s Michelle Ruminski & Chloe Harcombe – and between 2014 and 2019, she was a Member of the European Parliament for the south west and held the position of vice chair of the Security and Defence Committee, covering EuroPol.

Clare had a dig at the Tories on her website: “The Conservatives have hollowed out neighbourhood policing and undermined the vital criminal justice institutions that tackle crime and stop criminals. Resulting in a society where, too often, people fear that when things go wrong, no one will come and nothing will be done.” A disguised attack on the current PCC with a further blast: “The Tories have failed in the most basic of missions to keep people safe, it simply is not good enough. It’s time for that to change. The people of Somerset & Avon deserve nothing less.”

Clearly Clare will hope she benefits from the national swing to Labour and cites her experience working with Gordon Brown in Downing Street – although her chances may be dented by what has happened in Bristol. There the Mayor Marvyn Rees has lost his vote to keep the city mayoral system with Labour losing votes and councillors to the Green Party. How that affects the whole region remains to be seen.

Speaking of the Green Party their candidate is Katy Grant who has represented the Clifton Ward in Bristol since 2021 and is a magistrate with the Avon and Somerset Bench – which will stand her in good stead should she win. On her Linked In page she writes that she has: “More than twenty years in conflict, post-conflict and disaster-prone environments, in child, refugee and social protection, human rights, GBV, gender, poverty graduation and resilience. I have designed and managed multi-million-dollar programmes and led multi-disciplinary teams of professionals in international humanitarian organisations, United Nations agencies and private sector consultancy groups.

“My strengths include strategy development, programme design, implementation and impact evaluation, plus fund-raising, advocacy, training and capacity-building experience. More recently analytical research and writing, review and evaluation. Since return to the UK I have turned my hand to local matters, and am now a family court magistrate.”

Being a helicopter pilot and an aerial cameraman will give the Liberal Democrat candidate Benet Allen a view of the region that includes the county of Somerset, South Gloucestershire, the former area of Avon, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset. He lives in Minehead and is the former deputy leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council.

On his website Benet explains his plan for the police which includes making ‘policing more visible and community-orientated’ and to ‘help police to work with integrity and without discrimination.’ Other pledges include: “Focus on ‘broken windows’ – the small crimes that damage confidence and trust; Predict and provide policing to help tackle rural crime as well as the urban type; Increase prosecution rates for serious and violent crime; Help make sure offenders don’t do it again – most want to ‘go straight.’”

He concluded: “”I have worked in many different jobs – in various parts of the world – so my horizon is broad enough to take in many different points of view. But as your PCC, I won’t be working anywhere else!”


This PCC election is different from the last one in that there will only be one winner-takes-all vote – like in a parliamentary election – last time the top two then went on to a second ballot. One thing that happened in previous elections of the PCC is that turn out is lower for traditional council and parliament elections. With Bristol going to the polls on the same day that may help turn out – who that will benefit is impossible to gauge. The received wisdom is that it will be a battle between Labour and the Conservatives for the PCC crown although the Greens and the Lib Dems will argue they have an equal chance of taking the spoils.

What the future of the PCCs holds is somewhat unclear. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration of David Cameron introduced them in 2012 to replace the old Police Boards in an attempt to make the police more accountable. Critics say they are a waste of money and have done little to improve things and with less cash for the Force the overall effect has been negative. Advocates say they have improved accountability and have seen improvements – although it is fair to say the UK has seen huge social changes in crime since 2012 from drug gangs to internet crime.

Labour said in 2014 they would abolish the system but have been less pronounced on the situation as the election approaches. The Green Party state they would end PPCs if elected to Downing Street although that seems unlikely unless a new coalition Government was to happen after the next election. It is probably a safe bet to say PPCs are here to stay for now – so it is make your mind up time. Remember that voting is a civic duty so do make an effort and vote.

For more on Mark Shelford see

For more on Clare Moody see

For more on Benet Allen see

For more on Katy Grant see

The BBC give this helpful information on the role of the PCC:

The main role of the PCC is to ensure that Avon and Somerset Police is doing its job properly by serving the public and overseeing the strategic direction of the force through the Police and Crime Plan.

It is also the PCC’s job to set the police budget, and to decide how much money the public should contribute to policing through council tax.

The PCC is also in charge of appointing the chief constable – who is currently Sarah Crew – and holding them to account for the performance of the force’s officers and staff.

The PCC is answerable to the public and is expected to build and maintain trust by consulting with local people, the council and other organisations.

They are expected to maintain safety within the community and to reduce crime through means such as outreach programmes.

For the first time, voters attending the polls will be required to bring ID with them.

The upcoming PCC election will use the first-past-the-post voting system.

It is the traditional system, which is used in general and local elections, and appoints the candidate with the most votes.

Previously, PCCs have been elected using the supplementary voting system, which allowed votes to choose a second favourite candidate if they had one.

The winning candidate would have to pass 50% of the vote in order to win the election, sometimes using second preferences to secure the position.

Chloe Smith, the former minister of state for constitution and devolution, said the supplementary vote system was “confusing and over-complicated” compared to the “tried and tested” first-past-the-post system.

However, the Electoral Reform Society, argued that first-past-the-post was the least representative system.

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769