The election is on 5th May and details can be found on https://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/area/wiltshire
In an attempt to learn a bit more about the candidates and see how they responded to a specific question I thought I would ask about Solstice Policing. In reaction to some social media comments from people objecting to English Heritage's introduction of car parking charges I included a mention of this. I sent all four candidates the following email:
Sent: 17 April 2016 14:04
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Statement on Stonehenge Solstice Policing costs
If you are elected to the position of PCC of Wiltshire what will you guidance be on the costs of policing the solstice celebrations at Stonehenge? If you could provide me a statement for publication as to the justification of the force’s expenditure and estimated size of it, it would be much appreciated. You will be aware that this year the organisers English Heritage are starting to charge for parking at the event and are now an independent charity.
As of 20 April (22:00) I had only had two answers:
The first arrived very quickly from Dr Brian Mathew (Lib Dem):
You pose an interesting question. One that I had not until now considered. I have been more concerned with the appalling burglary detection rate of Wiltshire Police, the worst in England and Wales according to Churchill insurance.
Rather than guestimate figures, which I have no real access to as a candidate, why don’t you give me your perspective, as this is clearly something you have looked into.
I once attended a Stonehenge free festival, in I think 1984. I was appalled by the events at the 1995 ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ when festival goers were set upon by police recently militarised by the Coal strikes. It happened after I had left the UK to work on my first professional Aid project in Western Province Zambia as a water engineer assisting refugee Angolans who were fleeing the fighting in neighbouring Angola.
In principal the idea of a festival for the solstice is for me an appealing one. If English Heritage and the National Trust could get their heads together then a properly organised festival could make money for these two excellent organisations as well as pay for the policing, and many people could have a good time.
Best wishesAnd from the next day one came from Kevin Small (Lab)
I was a County Councillor when the policing of the summer solstice was a major issue for Wiltshire police and remember a Joint Leader being advised each year of the orders that had been imposed to close certain roads to help prevent access to the stones.
Thankfully the Stonehenge Summer Solstice is less of an issue as each year passes and there is now a far more open approach to allowing people near the stones during the summer equinox, whilst a policing presence is needed like for any large crowd event, I do not think policing levels need to be of a high nature unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise.
On your final point about car parking charges, I take it that you are referring to who should pay for the policing of this occasion? If we were in a situation of what was witness in the 1980/90's then I do think it would totally acceptable for Wiltshire Council tax Payers to foot most if not all the bill. In these more calmer times then the recharging of policing activity is one that should be considered, and maybe the football ground model maybe one that should be adopted.
No reply from the Conservative or UKIP candidates.
Make of that what you will..