Labour candidate for Warwickshire Crime Commissioner election reflects on close defeat

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Labour’s candidate in the Warwickshire Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections reflected with pride on her campaign despite an agonisingly close defeat.

Sarah Feeney, the deputy leader of the Labour group on Warwickshire County Council who represents Benn ward, finished 261 votes short of ousting Conservative Philip Seccombe from a post he has held for the past eight years.With Covid pushing the last PCC ballot into 2021 and alongside the county council elections, turnout was down by nearly a third this time with Ms Feeney getting a similar number of votes to Ben Twomey, Labour’s candidate three years ago.Mr Seccombe’s tally went from 85,963 to 45,638 but he just held on with the Liberal Democrats, represented by Warwick district councillor Richard Dickson, polling slightly less (24,867) than Louis Adam had (26,660) in 2021.“It was a really steep learning curve, I had never run such a big campaign across all the boroughs and districts,” said Ms Feeney.“People keep asking whether we are really disappointed but we took a majority of 45,000 down to 261. Of course I am disappointed not to get those extra 262 votes but to have taken it down that far was incredible really.“There are things I would do differently next time, of course there are, but it was a really good campaign and I was lucky to have a great team around me as well.”One of the key battlegrounds was in the south where the Liberal Democrats seized charge of Stratford-on-Avon District Council a year ago.The Tories lost more than 12,500 PCC votes in the district this time and with the Lib Dems (8,674 votes) and Labour (5,701) only slightly down on overall numbers from 2021, a more tactical ploy in the south might have swung the pendulum.“I was a bit surprised by the vote in Stratford,” admitted Ms Feeney.“Having seen the vote there in the district elections last year, we thought Richard Dickson might take more votes there than he did but fair play to the Conservatives, they have been working hard in Stratford since before Christmas, they put in the leg work over there.”She remains undeterred, though, vowing to continue to pursue her priorities around safety for women and girls on the streets and in homes.“Clearly we are hopeful of an incoming Labour government,” she added.“Some of the stuff in my campaign was predicated on that and I just hope that if Philip gets the funds that we think he might get that he uses them wisely.“Yes, we have had 200 extra police in the force but that has just brought them up to a minimum level, there is still a lot of work to be done.“I would have hoped to drive that forward and I hope Philip is going to listen to the electorate, a big chunk of which made clear that they wanted change.“Action on violence against women and girls, that is certainly a key priority for me, and I am still committed to carrying out that work, elected or not.“Talking to women across the county about their concerns, one of the things I am passionate about is community safety in the context of the violence against women and girls working group that sits across a number of agencies and I am certainly going to push to drive that forward, even from where I am now.“It is easier to make the change if you are in office but you don’t have to be, it doesn’t mean you can’t push.”Her other plea to Mr Seccombe is to “get out and listen to communities”.“A lot of communities feel abandoned,” said Ms Feeney.“To name one, Galley Common (near Nuneaton), we spent a lot of time listening to residents on the problems they have with anti-social behaviour on motorbikes, things like that. It was clear they felt disenfranchised."One of my commitments was to hold community meetings, I know Philip does a lot with town councils and things like that but I think there is more to do. The visibility of the Police & Crime Commissioner needs to be much better, good could come from getting that right.”

Meanwhile, Mr Seccombe has outlined his plans for the future after swearing an oath of impartiality, as he prepares to begin a third term as Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire.

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Among his first acts was to swear an oath to serve all the people of Warwickshire, pledging to act with integrity, transparency and diligence and give voice to the public, especially victims of crime.

Cllr Sarah Feeney.Cllr Sarah Feeney.
Cllr Sarah Feeney.

He also pledged to ensure the police can cut crime and protect the public, respecting the operational independence of police officers, and to work with partners to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice.

Setting out his priorities for the next four years, he said he wanted to further reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and re-offending, continue to increase police officer numbers, increase support for victims and survivors of all crimes, reduce road traffic fatalities and serious injuries, engage with and listen to residents and communities, build further financial resilience for Warwickshire Police.

He said he will be preparing a new police and crime plan soon.

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Mr Seccombe said: “I want communities to understand that the police are there to protect them, that there are increased numbers and they are doing everything they can to engage with and listen to residents.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe signs the oath of office for his third term in the position.Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe signs the oath of office for his third term in the position.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe signs the oath of office for his third term in the position.

"That will be a priority for me and I think this will also help with those who have a fear of crime.”

For more information on how Mr Seccombe has outlined his plans for his third term of office click here.