PROTECTING neighbourhood policing, stamping out hidden crime and boosting the democratic face of policing are among the key priorities for Clare Moody, Labour’s candidate to be Wiltshire’s first police and crime commissioner.

Ms Moody, a south west regional officer at the union Unite, will go up against Conservative Angus Macpherson, of Wroughton , at the county-wide election on November 15. The Lib Dems have yet to announce a candidate.

Directly-elected police and crime commissioners are being brought in by the Government to replace police authorities in England and Wales, and will have the power to hire and fire chief constables and set the force’s budget and strategy.

Ms Moody, who lives in Salisbury, was previously a political officer for Unite and, in this role worked closely with police staff to help inform the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which brought in the commissioners.

She said a key priority would be to maintain and possibly increase funding for neighbourhood police teams which carry out the community police work in different areas of towns.

“One of the most commented-upon parts of people’s experiences of crime in Wiltshire is anti-social behaviour,” she said.

“The most effective way to deal with this is protecting those front-line neighbourhood police teams because they deal with anti-social behaviour.

“But also a big issue is people’s perception of crime, their fear of crime, and having a public presence of the police is an important reassurance.”

Ms Moody, who once worked in the political office of 10 Downing Street under Gordon Brown, said she would work with other agencies and community groups to ensure that support for often “hidden” crime, such as domestic violence and hate crime against the disabled, is not reduced. She said: “It’s terribly easy in a time of cuts that these are areas that are cut back.”

Ms Moody, who has already started leafleting for the election campaign, said if elected she planned to hold regular public meetings to ensure she is more accountable and public-facing than the existing police authority.

“The role of police and crime commissioner was set up to be the democratic face of the police and it is established that it should be a communication role,” she said.

Ms Moody, who was a Labour Parliamentary candidate for Salisbury in 2005 and a European Parliament candidate for the south west in 2004 said: “It’s essential that whoever is elected as police and crime commissioner will be out there.

“And, while I’ve identified particular community groups, I think it’s important that it’s not an exclusive post.

“I would take it as a fundamental part of my role to be talking to communities, to be out seen doing public meetings, being as visible as possible and as democratically accountable to the voters of Wiltshire as possible.”