Police and Crime Commissioner candidates: Walter Sweeney (Independent)
Former MP Walter Sweeney wants to make a difference if elected as Humberside's Police and Crime Commissioner. Here is Jenna Thompson's last profile on candidates from this region ...
HE IS more used to turning down beds and making pots of tea.
But the former Conservative MP Walter Sweeney now has his eyes fixed on a much bigger job – becoming the first Humberside police and crime commissioner.
"I miss the business of politics, it is one that is hard to switch off," he says, sitting in the dining room of Newbigin House, the Beverley B&B he owns and runs with wife Nuala.
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A member of Parliament for five years in the 1990s, he tried to re-enter politics in 2008, standing against David Davis in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.
Now, he can be found juggling customers at the B&B and working as a wills and probate solicitor in Hull – both jobs he will leave if he is chosen as the first commissioner.
"I have made a success of being a solicitor, I have made a success of running a B&B and now I want to make a success of this.
"It is a new challenge and one I think my CV makes me entirely suitable for."
Despite his past party loyalty, Mr Sweeney resigned from the Conservatives before announcing he was standing to become commissioner.
Instead, he is running as an independent candidate, believing the role of commissioner is one that should be untouched by politics.
"Whoever is elected as the PCC should be totally independent of police or any political party," he says.
"I have been so used to being part of a party machine that I feel a sense of liberation to only be accountable to myself and the electorate."
Studying law and politics at the University of Hull inspired a lifelong interest in policing and crime, he says.
During his time in Parliament, he advised then-Home Secretary Michael Howard and was a member of the home affairs select committee.
In his professional career as a solicitor, he has also worked in criminal law, prosecuting and defending offenders.
"It is very important in this job to be able to hold the chief constable to account and that means having a detailed knowledge and understanding of policing works."
He says his experiences in politics and policing, but the independence he now has, will allow him to get control of the force's £180-million budget and set the correct priorities for the region's police.
"It is easy to say I want to further reduce crime, but it will be extremely difficult," he admits.
"There has been a trajectory of crime reduction over the last five years. Whoever is elected will face a very difficult task continuing that downward trend against a backdrop of reducing financial support from the government.
"There will have to be difficult decisions to try to balance the budget while at the same time trying to reduce crime. I think I would be better at doing that than the other candidates because I have studied police management and I can prioritise where money should be spent to achieve the best value."
While acknowledging the need to save money, he resists saying he would protect the number of officers on the streets.
"Nobody should assume, just because a police officer is not visible on the street, they are not working on solving crimes," he says.
"That is too simplistic a view. The public feel reassured by that, but it might be better to have some in the station sifting through evidence, profiling suspects and interviewing, rather than all being on the beat."
If elected, he says he will prioritise tackling low-level crime and antisocial behaviour – a move he believes could also cut more serious crime by stopping offenders before their behaviour worsens.
"There are a lot of things that annoy the public and affect people's quality of life, like litter and graffiti.
"I would like to see a clampdown on pubs serving alcohol to people who have already had too much to drink. Antisocial behaviour is the bane of many people's lives and we need to have a concerted effort to stamp it out."
He also wants to improve relations between the police and the public, believing this would make more victims and witnesses willing to give evidence against offenders.
If he is chosen to become the first commissioner, he says he won't go in "tearing things up" and will instead take time to consider what needs to be done – adding anything else would be "grossly irresponsible".
"I want a serious job where I believe I can make a difference. This is that job."