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
    +5

    Comment number 1892.

    How can I vote for someone when I have received precisely zero information on them? I didn't have as much as a leaflet through my door detailing the candidates. Online - it took 3 different websites to reach the names and then only a paragraph on each one. Four of the 6 hadn't bothered to write their own which I really object to. If you want the job, put in the effort.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1891.

    Couldn't believe the Hampshire winner gets an £85,000 a year salary. And thats not even one of the major police forces in the country! How can they justify that? The government moan about people not being in work; and then give the equivalent of 5 £17,000 salaries to ONE person

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1890.

    I didn't vote because a) I do not agree with the policical control of policing, b) because I received absolutely no information whatever on any of the cadidates to enable any decision and c) it is a complete and utter waste of Money and achieves nothing onther than lining the pockets a few useless politicians who will never listen to public opinion, know nothing about the Police or Policing

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1889.

    Try having a vote on; EU, immigration, fuel prices or wind farms and watch the massive turnout figures! What a total waste of time. I suspect the next election turnout will be as bad, with no REAL choice - who cares

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1888.

    1843.avp1982 "Online Voting would increase turnout considerably. People are using facebook, twitter, ... ...so why not use the internet to vote?"

    Fine in theory but you'd have to run both systems - and how to make sure the voting isn't rigged when organisations like NASA & the CIA can't even stop their systems being hacked? No govt computerisation ever yet worked properly or came in on budget.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1887.

    "
    @chezza
    All very well if you are online. But what about the thousands of people who are not online? So how do they find out about the candidates?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1886.

    This PCC election should have followed a process similar to recruiting and selecting a candidate for a high powered job in industry or commerce. 1 )Consulting interested parties on the need for the position and the qualities required 2) preparing and agreeing a job description detailing the objectives and main responsibilities. 3) Prepare a shortlist of qualified applicants. select with a pin

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1885.

    @1857. Rodders
    I don't see how profits increase costs. If they charge too much, the council will go to a competitor. The force will want to lower its costs to attract more customers.

    There would be less corruption. The council could sack the corrupt force, damaging its all important reputation. We can't do that with public forces.

    But I agree with u, we should keep it a public force anyway.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1884.

    Damian Green: "Whenever you do something new, people in this country tend to be slow to warm up to it"

    Do you mean ConDem DESTRUCTION of accross board FRONT line services, especially elderly/care services, which YOU ConDems promised would NOT happen
    Do you mean £billions of avoided taxes of corporates.
    Do you mean not getting back taxpayers £billions from banks, while USA is

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1883.

    1715. jonsmithuk
    Where did the money go ? Saw nothing , heard nothing , told nothing. So who trousered the money ?

    Simple hire of buildings and bureaucracy plus kick loads of kids out of school for elections nobody wanted when it could have piggy backed on council elections and caused less disruption

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1882.

    I do not recognise this office nor shall I submit to its powers.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1881.

    @1818 confused...

    The OBVIOUS alternative would be to advertise a position and hold job interviews. Or is that not obvious enough?

  • Comment number 1880.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1879.

    @1850.BadlyPackedKebab
    "Grant Shapps, Conservative party chairman, says 'people will vote next time round when they feel the effect on their neighbourhood'"

    Yes, because they'll be voting for which Commissioner they want next, but still denied the vote of whether we wanted them in the first place.

    A lot like the EU really.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1878.

    1843avp1982

    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?
    __

    Nice idea in a way but Facebook and Twitter are not nearly secure enough. Neither are high tech company websites, and government would likely be worse.

    Perhaps I should work on that voting botnet....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1877.

    It all went pear-shaped on The Wire.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1876.

    They give us a vote on this waste of money.

    When will they give us a vote on the EU?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 1875.

    "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."

    Maybe the 85% feel they shouldn't have to look for information. Candidates wanting our respect enough for us to vote for them should have to earn it.

    Never before has there been a greater need for a "none of the above" or "I disagree with this policy" option.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1874.

    For many people it was NOT apathy but a total lack of information on candidates.

  • Comment number 1873.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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