First police commissioners chosen amid turnout concerns

 

David Cameron says voting numbers were "always going to be low"

Several former police officers have beaten party candidates in the first-ever elections for crime commissioners in England and Wales.

So far, Labour and the Conservatives have roughly split most contests, but independents won 11 of the 41 posts.

Voter turnout was historically low, leading the Electoral Commission to describe it as "a concern for everyone who cares about democracy".

With all ballots counted, turnout was about 14.9%, BBC research showed.

Prime Minister David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected.

"It takes time to explain a new post," the prime minister said, and he predicted voting numbers would be "much higher next time round".

The Conservatives have won 16, Labour 13 and independents 11, with one other successful candidate.

One of the most high-profile defeats was in Humberside where Labour former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott lost to Tory rival Matthew Grove.

Police and crime commissioners will have powers to hire and fire chief constables and set police strategy and budgets.

Lord Prescott Lord Prescott lost to his Conservative rival in Humberside

The government says PCCs will give local people more control over policing, but opponents have warned the changes will politicise the police - and low turnout shows people don't want them.

In other election developments on Friday:

The record low for a national poll in peacetime is the 23% turnout for the 1999 European elections.

Turnout in the PCC election was 12.9% in Merseyside, 13.3% in Thames Valley, and 13.5% in Greater Manchester. These figures include spoilt ballot papers.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson said: "These were new elections taking place at an unfamiliar time of year, which is why we have made clear at every stage that it would be important to engage effectively with voters.

"The government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with. But what is important now is that the right lessons are learnt: we will talk to voters, candidates and returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't.

"The commission is going to undertake a thorough review, and we will present our findings to Parliament in early 2013."

Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said it could be the worst turnout ever.

He added the elections "raised questions" about whether the whole exercise was worth it.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said a general apathy towards politics was to blame for the low turnout.

He said: "We are at a mid-term point in this government, there's a lot of difficult news around at the moment."

But Downing Street sources partly blamed the media, saying because the elections had not been held in London they had generated insufficient national news coverage.

"The national media have not covered themselves in glory," a No 10 source said.

Start Quote

The real flaw was something more fundamental - the voters were never persuaded they needed an elected police and crime commissioner”

End Quote

Home Secretary Theresa May said first elections were always difficult. "The police and crime commissioners are visible, they'll be accessible, they've been elected and crucially they will be accountable to people through the ballot box."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said many people had been cross about a lack of information, including what the job entailed and who the candidates were.

"It's not acceptable to be so careless with democracy, so careless with policing, but also so careless with money for the tax payer too."

Labour's Chuka Umunna called the elections "a total shambles", suggesting the £100m cost would have paid for 3,000 police officers.

Turnout reached 27.48% in the PCC election in Bristol, where voters were also going to the polls to choose the city's first directly-elected mayor, but across the Avon and Somerset police area as a whole it dropped to 19.58%.

Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society said the PCC elections had started as a flagship government policy, but had descended into a "farce".

He said having an election in November was "crazy", but resourcing of the election needed to be addressed as well, so that candidates are able to cover areas larger than a usual constituency.

Residents of Wiltshire tell the BBC's Jon Kay why they did, and didn't, vote

One of successful independents in England, Ann Barnes, a former Kent Police Authority chairwoman, said the "real winners are the people of Kent who did not want their police force to be politicised".

In Dorset, successful candidate Mr Underhill said his "number one" priority was to hire a chief constable "with my vision".

"There's a lot to do in the first 100 days."

The first PCC for Lancashire, Labour's Clive Grunshaw, said it was a "new era for policing", while the North Yorkshire PCC, Conservative Julia Mulligan, said she intended to work hard "without political prejudice."

In Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld said after his election success: "I am a Conservative but I haven't had a gilded life. You grow up quickly commanding a platoon in the jungles of Borneo."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1852.

    Well the North Yorkshire fix is in for the police they will have to dance to the government tune and do as the government says as the PPC and PCP are both TORY
    So it will be more jobs for the friends of the Tory party

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1851.

    1828. Ukrule1

    'It's staggering how out of touch Politicians are' Totally agree, we need more people like the above. I will be voting UKIP when i turn 18. Only a year to go ... Very exciting =)
    +++
    Ah Bless.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1850.

    Grant Shapps, Conservative party chairman, says 'people will vote next time round when they feel the effect on their neighbourhood'

    Well it'd be hard to get less people to vote if you tried but if he thinks these commissioners are going to turn up for work on Monday and single handledly reduce crime then he's deluded to say the least.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1849.

    1822m59e

    1796ladyinred1
    "I voted but was disappointed in the candidates available to vote for."

    Are you saying you voted for someone who you didn't really want to have the job?
    __

    I can't speak for ladyinred1, but I have never felt unqualified approval for anyone I have been able to vote for. That doesn't stop us making a choice, and doesn't mean that we shouldn't.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1848.

    I wonder why this HYS was not aired until after the vote?
    May be they did not want a lot of the truth about what people thought affecting the vote.
    BBC political micromanaging again maybe.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 1847.

    Police Commissioners are a great idea, but the turnout was diabolical, especially in a democratic society. More needs to be done to get people interested in voting.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1846.

    Our local polling station was manned from 6.30am - 10.30pm by 3 people. They were each paid £17 per hour plus travelling expenses.

    34 people voted. Call that £600 compensation, £100 rental and each vote cost £20. What a waste of money. Incidentally, we received absolutely no information about any of the candidates, so uninformed there was no point in expressing a preference.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1845.

    Whys should we be interested in voting thus rubber stamping even more non-jobs for politicians, especially i n times of Austerity?

    Well done to everyone who didn't vote!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1844.

    Electoral Comm chair Jenny Watson giving information about review says: The government took a number of decisions on how to run the elections we did not agree with. What is important now is the lessons are learnt: Will talk to voters candidates returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't. Commission to undertake thorough review, will present findings to Parliament in early 2013.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1843.

    Online Voting would increase turnout considerably. People are using facebook, twitter, aggregator sites, even this BBC website in there Millions so why not use the internet to vote?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1842.

    1799 Totally agree, but police are not far behind - putting them together seems a marriage made in hell.

    Perhaps with a representative from Liberty or another civil rights group, people may have seen an opportunity for two extremes to bring about a better, more transparent police rather than paying another salary to someone who is unlikely to change/do anything.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1841.

    I didn't vote in this election quite simply because no one canvassed me, no information came though the door. How can someone make an informed decsion with no information? As one person commented it was cold yesterday so why should I spend my time and effort to spoil a vote?

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 1840.

    If the average turnout is only 15%, that's fine - all the more power to the 15% of us who DID manage to find out a bit about each candidate, DID manage to make a decision, and DID make the effort to walk round the corner to vote. The other 85% of you - please don't complain about the PCC you get, or the choices they make - you had your chance, and you wasted it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1839.

    Here in North Wales , the TWO Independent candidates had more votes than the party hacks from the Labour and Conservative parties. Winston Roddick Independent won and Richard Hibbs Independent was only a few votes behind the Conservative. Shows that people want their Police independent of political interference and control. Time for party hacks everywhere to have a rethink or scrap the PC farce.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1838.

    Isn't it somewhat puzzling to hear that PCC's have a mandate on such a low turnout, and then when the unions have a mandate from their members to carry out industrial action on a turnout somewhat similar, it's deemed undemocratic by the government of the day.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1837.

    I found that learning about the candidates was very difficult and information only being published week or so before the poling day.

    I have not seen or herd any presence of the candidates in the press. Only the conservative party candidate sent out a postal flyer which just preached party political lines.
    I do not believe that the role of the PCC should be affiliated to any political party.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1836.

    I think Mark Easton has it spot on. I do not want an elected police commissioner - they will just be a waste of (our) money and risk politicising the police. If we had been asked in a referendum if we wanted them, I am confident the idea would have been rejected (as happened with nearly all the propsed city mayors) - the last thing the public wants is another bunch of polticians on our payroll.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1835.

    I did not vote because I object to having elected police commissioners.It will inevitably politicise the police at a local level.

    Ppl who say we ought to vote otherwise we have no right to comment on the outcome are ignoring the fact we live in a PARLIAMENTARY democracy.I always vote in Westminster elections.It is because I believe in PARLIAMENTARY democracy that I refused to vote in this one

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1834.

    TO: DAVID CAMERON

    YOU CANNOT TELL THE UNIONS THEY HAVE NO MANDATE IF THEY RECEIVE VOTES BELOW A CERTAIN % BUT THEN ALLOW POLICE COMMISSIONERS TO TAKE UP OFFICE WHEN A VAST MAJORITY HAS NOT VOTED.

    THAT IS AN ABUSE OF POWER AND DEMOCRACY. CALL THESE PCC ELECTIONS NULL & VOID NOW.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1833.

    I didn't vote because I just don't care.

    If you give us something good to vote about, I may consider it. I'd rather vote for X factor than either a police chief or political party. X factor has more of an influence over my life than voting for basically the same people with different coloured badges on.

 

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