'A safer Essex and less crime': County's first police commissioner prepares to take up office (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Essex's first police and crime commissioner Nick Alston vows to make county safer as he prepares to take up office
THE COUNTY'S first ever elected police commissioner is preparing to take up office.
Conservative hopeful Nick Alston, 60, beat independent candidate Mick Thwaites to be named Essex’s police and crime commissioner on Friday.
The new role, which he will officially take up on Thursday, gives him responsibility for setting the force's priorities, overseeing its budget and hiring its chief constable.
Only 10 per cent of Epping Forest voters turned out for Thursday's elections - just 10,221 of an electorate of 98,862 - with turnout across the county at only 12.8 per cent.
Mr Alston took 51.5 per cent of votes in the second round of voting.
"I won the election. I have got the mandate," said Mr Alston.
"I wasn't surprised by the low turnout. Nobody understood what the police authority did. At first glance it's not exciting stuff.
"Nobody voted for anybody on the police authority and tens of thousands have voted for me. It's a small step but nevertheless it's a democratic one."
The introduction of PCCs has been criticised for politicising the police, but Mr Alston denied politics would steer his decision-making.
"From my point of view, the politics stopped on the day of the election. It's never been a concern for me," he said.
"It's now about delivering for Essex."
Runner-up Mr Thwaites is a retired policeman with 30 years of service, while Mr Alston - although born in the Harwich police station where his father was based - is a retired Naval officer who has worked in national security and for Goldman Sachs.
"Somebody tried to say to me 'you're selling your campaign on the fact that your dad was a policeman," he said.
"That's not the point, but of course I have an affinity with the police."
Mr Alston has promised prompt and professional policing that meets local needs and more cooperation with councils and the voluntary sector. He also says he will listen to, and speak for, the victims of crime.
"I'm confident that I will do what I promised," he said.
"I'm hopeful it will lead to a safer Essex and less crime. That's what it's all about."
He said the 'scale of Essex' meant he would only be able to visit Epping Forest once or twice a year, but added: "I'm going to be just as visible as I possibly can be. We'll run a very open office."
He denied his first role would be to find a replacement for the force's chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle, who wrote to candidates during the campaign to announce he was standing down.
"He made it clear that this was not about the PCC," said Mr Alston.
"The bottom line is it won't be my first priority to replace him. There are lots of things to get my teeth into.
"He's not going to walk out the door next week."
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