Harborough district councillor could be next head of police

Cllr Neil Bannister
Cllr Neil Bannister

Cllr Neil Bannister has been selected as the Conservatives’ choice for the role of Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner

Neil Bannister (57) has been selected by the Conservatives as their party’s choice for the elected job, making him the favourite in the current political climate.

The current Police Commissioner, Sir Clive Loader, who was also a Conservative candidate, said three months ago that he would step down at the next election for the job, which will be in May 2016.

Mr Bannister told the Mail that his “number one priority” was to maximise the visibility of police officers in the community and try to ensure that “front line services” were untouched.

He said he also wanted to “support victims and witnesses, and give them a better, stronger voice”.

On rural crime he said: “On occasions the public get the impression that crime in the countryside is not treated as urgently as urban crime”.

He said he wanted to make sure all crime was given equal weight by the police.

And he said he also wanted to work on crime prevention, by working with groups that might “slip into crime” through drug or alcohol addiction, through mental health issues, or because they had been radicalised.

Mr Bannister, who was elected to Harborough District Council in 2011, lives in Ullesthorpe, near Lutterworth, and has worked for the Crown Prosecution Service in Magistrates Courts and as a Crown Advocate in Crown Courts.

He is married to Kathryn, a radiographer at Leicester Royal Infirmary, and has two grown-up daughters, who also live and work in south Leicestershire.

He said: “For 22 years I’ve worked very closely with the police, advising them on investigations, so I have a close working knowledge of how the police work.”

But he added that his job meant that he sometimes had to disagree with the police on some cases, and his training as a lawyer meant he could remain objective.

The role of the Police and Crime Commissioner is to be the elected voice of the people and hold the police to account.

Commissioners are responsible for the totality of policing, aiming to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service.

Commissioners replaced the now-abolished Police Authorities, which were largely made up of councillors.

But part of a new commissioner’s job may be to convince the public of the value of his role.

The turnout for the last election of the Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012 was just 16 per cent, one of the lowest ever seen for any election in Leicestershire and Rutland.

Mr Bannister said though he might be favourite for the job in the elections, “I’m not taking anything for granted”.

“I want to campaign hard; get into the city of Leicester, round Leicestershire and into Rutland, and get myself known across the city and county.”