In the third of a series of articles on crime issues in the Harrogate district, candidates standing to be North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner are questioned on equality.
Candidates hoping to succeed controversy-hit Philip Allott as North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner have pledged to increase efforts to tackle equality issues facing North Yorkshire’s police and fire services, with one hopeful insisting a community-wide effort is needed to effect lasting change.
However, ahead of York and North Yorkshire residents going to the polls on Thursday, there are differences in the way candidates for the £74,000-a-year role believe equality concerns, both inside and outside the services, should be addressed.
The latest published workforce profile for the fire service from 2018 shows 95% of operational officers are male, and 84% described themselves as white British.
While the service says it supports staff to respect individual values and differences and takes an active part in diversity events, such as Pride, just one per cent of staff said they were homosexual in the profile.
Among the many equality issues North Yorkshire Police is trying to tackle includes a gender gap that is significantly above the national average, despite its chief officer team comprising more women than men.
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- Commissioner candidates questioned: Women’s safety
The force has said it is committed to setting challenging equality objectives, but the five challengers following Mr Allott resigning over women’s safety comments all insist more could be being done by both services.
Hannah Barham-Brown, Women’s Equality Party
Hannah Barham-Brown, of the Women’s Equality Party said ending gender-based violence would be her top priority, and would work to identify issues that most affect women in North Yorkshire.
“Equality is not something that can take place just inside or out of the services – it’s a collective, communal movement that requires the participation and contribution of every member of the community.”
Keith Tordoff, Independent
Independent Keith Tordoff said he would ensure hate crime and hate incidents were being dealt with properly to protect marginalised groups.
“With confidence in the police, recruiting from diverse and ethnic backgrounds will be more likely for the police and fire service of North Yorkshire.”
Emma Scott-Spivey, Labour
Labour candidate Emma Scott-Spivey said equality would be at the heart of all the work she does, adding it would be “hardwired into my police, fire and crime plan and it will be something that I will expect the services I oversee to reflect”.
“As will a zero tolerance approach to crime, including hate crime, that targets protected groups. I will be the voice for all people but most of all for those whose views are not being heard.”
James Barker, Liberal Democrat
Making the services “genuinely inclusive places to work where diversity is championed” is vital, said Liberal Democrat James Barker, before adding North Yorkshire “is ahead of the game in some respects in that it was one of the first forces in the country to record misogyny as a hate crime”.
“We need to protect and support all of North Yorkshire’s diverse communities, and I will ensure that guidance and training is introduced to make services trans inclusive and implement a strategy to provide specialist BAME and LGBT+ services.”
Zoe Metcalfe, Conservative
Conservative candidate Zoe Metcalfe said she would work with the services to ensure the correct recruitment strategies are in place.
Mrs Metcalfe said:
“There can be no room for inequalities in North Yorkshire and I will ensure the commissioner’s office leads the way on equality issues and will work with senior figures within the services so they do likewise.”