England

Essex PCC election: Conservative Nick Alston chosen as commissioner

Nick Alston, Conservative candidate
Image caption Nick Alston believes he has the skills to ensure victims of crime have a greater say in policing

Conservative Nick Alston has been chosen as Essex's first police and crime commissioner (PCC).

He beat Independent Mick Thwaites after second preference votes were counted, as neither got 50% of votes initially.

Directly-elected PCCs are replacing police authorities and will be responsible for controlling budgets and setting police priorities.

Mr Alston won 51.5% of votes in the second round. Turnout across the county was 12.8% with 168,234 votes cast.

There were 3,383 papers spoiled in the election - about 1.97%.

The winner was announced at Riverside Leisure Centre in Chelmsford.

Mr Alston, in his campaign, said he believed he had the skills to ensure victims of crime have a greater say in policing.

He secured 62,350 votes in the second round, compared to Mr Thwaites' count of 58,664.

Mr Alston initially secured 51,325 votes in the first round (30.5%), with Mr Thwaites gaining 40,132 votes (23.9%).

'Tough campaign'

Six candidates in total were hoping to win the role to oversee policing in the county, which has a population of more than 1.5m people.

The new PCCs, which are set to replace police authorities, will set spending plans and have the power to "hire and fire" chief constables.

The government set up the commissioner role in what it described as an effort to make police more accountable, with a single "figurehead" monitoring and ensuring performance.

Ministers said the cost of commissioners and police and crime panels would be no greater than the cost of running police authorities.

Mr Alston said: "It's been a long and pretty tough campaign. Essex is a huge county, so it's taken a lot of time getting around everywhere and meeting everybody.

"I think there are some really tough challenges.

'Lessons'

"We all know that there are financial challenges, there will be uncertainty about the old authority going, but making sure we've got an office that's really public-facing so that people know how to get hold of us and know what we're about - there'll be lots of things to do on that first day."

When asked whether he was unhappy with the level of the vote after a low turnout, Mr Alston said: "It would have been great if more people would have voted, but I'm certainly not unhappy with it."

Mick Thwaites, who has worked in policing for 30 years, congratulated Mr Alston on his win and said he had "no regrets", believing his campaign went "extremely well".

"I think there are lessons," he said.

"You walk around the streets and even until yesterday there were people saying: 'We didn't know who the candidates were, we weren't sure what we're voting for, we're not sure what we're getting rid of'.

"I think there's a whole communication thing that we need to reflect on and perhaps get that message out - we've now got three-and-a-half years to do that."