Voters in England and Wales go to the polls today to elect 41 new police and crime commissioners to give citizens a say when it comes to cutting crime in their area. I’m predicting that turnout will not be high and there’s a good reason for it.
Government has failed to convince the public that commissioners are nothing more than another ‘quango’ – a further level of bureaucracy that we can well do without.
The elections have been described as the biggest shake-up of policing for almost 50 years. Commissioners will be responsible for appointing the chief constable of their force, setting out local policing priorities, reporting annually on progress, and setting out the force budget and community safety grants. The government says commissioners are not there to run local police forces but to hold them to account.
Election apathy can be a dangerous thing. If turnout is low, successful candidates cannot really claim that they have been elected on a mandate given by the majority of citizens. But, if people don’t vote, they cannot really complain if the appointed commissioner does something later with which they don’t agree.
But who are the candidates?
According to the BBC, it seems all the major parties are getting involved in the election, with Labour and the Conservatives putting up candidates in all force areas. The Liberal Democrats are not centrally supporting candidates but have not barred their members from standing. Plaid Cymru is not putting up candidates in Wales but will be supporting independents. Only 42 of 192 candidates are not linked to a political party.
Locally, we’ve had no leaflets giving information about the proposed candidates and the policies they represent. This makes it very difficult to inspire people – particularly the elderly – to get out and vote on such an important issue. Let’s face it, not everyone can get online; indeed I visited the Police Commissioner’s website this morning to find out more information about my local candidates and got the following error message
“Resource Limit Is ReachedThe website is temporarily unable to service your request as it exceeded resource limit. Please try again later.”
Let’s hope then that the successful candidates aren’t as dis-functional as the website when it comes to meeting their policing objectives.