LABOUR Party activists hit Staffordshire’s streets to support their candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner asking residents to make their choice by dropping a ball.
Campaigners asked the people of Lichfield to place a ball in one of two boxes, representing the opposing policies of Labour Party candidate, Stoke on Trent City Councillor Joy Garner, and Conservative Party candidate, Staffordshire County Councillor Matthew Ellis.
One box depicting an iPad, represented Councillor Ellis’ proposal to arm Staffordshire’s police force with tablet computers, which he says will reduce time spent on admin and increase their time on the street.
The other box showed an image of policemen, representing Councillor Garner’s suggestion the money would be better spent paying police wages and reducing the need for proposed cuts to the force.
With 50 votes cast, 49 chose to spend the money on police officers, while only one had selected the iPad option.
Councillor Garner said: "Today's result shows just how out of touch Matthew Ellis and the Conservatives are.
“Spending £1.1 million on iPads is not what the people of Staffordshire want, like me they believe that we should spend the money on keeping bobbies on the beat,” she said. She said iPads were “an expensive gimmick” that Lichfield, Councillor Ellis’ home town, had rejected.
But Councillor Ellis called the campaign “a stunt” and said it devalued the importance of technology in freeing up police time to get out in the community instead of being stuck inside because of ‘out of date and bureaucratic processes’.
“Mobile technology has revolutionised our lives and yet we still expect police officers in Staffordshire to use a pen and paper to then embark on a manual process through a system which is fragmented, frustrating and years out of date,” he said. “It's wasting thousands of hours of police officer time which could be better used being visible to local people and deterring crime before it happens.
“I make no apology of my vision for Staffordshire's Police Service to be the best in terms of technology meaning police can get back to traditional values of more face to face contact with local people and high visibility policing for communities across the county."
Councillor Ellis pointed to two recent technology trials by Hampshire and Avon and Somerset Police that he said proved the use of technology could lead to a more visible police presence.
Mr Ellis added that proposed Labour places to raise more money by increasing council task were ‘wrong’ when there were opportunities to improve efficiency.
"It's easy for Joy Garner to make local tax payers stump up yet more money for public services but that's wrong when the money available now isn't spent as well as it could be,” he said. “It's not only how much is spent on public services, it's how effectively it is used and I refuse to ask people for any more until we've exhausted getting better value for the public money already spent.”