PCC vote: Labour criticises 'shambles'

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Media captionYvette Cooper: "The £100m being spent on police elections could have been used to employ 3000 officers"

The government has made "a shambles" of the upcoming election for police and crime commissioners, the shadow home secretary says.

Elections will be held in each police force area in England and Wales outside London on 15 November.

But with days to go, Yvette Cooper said the government had failed to promote it: "I am really worried about what turnout is going to be as a result."

The Home Office said it had been promoting PCCs for more than two years.

Leaflets from the Electoral Commission were sent to 21 million households last month, explaining what the police and crime commissioners will do.

Duties include agreeing budgets, setting strategic priorities and recruiting or dismissing chief constables.

The PCC election has been described by some as the biggest shake-up of policing in 50 years.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Ms Cooper said of the government: "They have made a shambles of this, for something that was supposed to be their flagship policy."

Turnout doubt

Ms Cooper said: "Loads of people across the country still don't know about the elections, what they're for, so I am really worried about what turnout is going to be as a result of this."

She said choosing to hold the election in November, with its cold and wet weather, could make "it harder for people to go out and vote."

Labour opposed the scheme but is fielding candidates, including former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott in Humberside.

"We are doing our best to make it work, but the government needs to be doing much more," Ms Cooper said.

The Home Office said in a statement on Sunday: "The arrival of police and crime commissioners will be the most significant democratic reform of policing ever, giving the public a real say in how their communities are policed.

"We have been publicising PCCs and their benefits to local communities for more than two years.

"A national advertising campaign including television and radio ads was launched last month ahead of the election on November 15, the Electoral Commission has sent out information to households eligible to vote and candidates details have been published online, with hard copies available on request."

Ms Cooper also commented on the results of a poll from a Labour-established independent commission on policing in England and Wales.

A poll of 14,000 officers suggested 95% did not feel supported by the coalition - a result Ms Cooper said was "quite troubling".

'Lives on the line'

The commission head, former Met Police chief Lord Stevens, said there was a "national crisis of morale" among police officers, especially as the Home Office has asked police to make 20% budget cuts by 2015.

Lord Stevens told the Sunday Telegraph: "We have a national crisis of morale which threatens to undermine the work our officers are doing".

"If we're asking men and women to put their lives on the line to protect us, then I think they should know they've got the full support of the government.

"These results show that they do not perceive this to be the case."

Lord Stevens said he had never seen such figures in more than 40 years of policing.

"I think we're plummeting to the bottom."

Retirement worries

The government announced in October 2010 that central funding provided to the police service would reduce by 20% between March 2011 and March 2015. Analysis has shown that this would result in 5,800 fewer front-line officers across the 43 forces.

Referring to the cuts, Lord Stevens said: "We're hearing from officers that change is happening too fast and with a lack of consultation.

"They feel change is being forced upon them, without them being involved in the process."

The research found that a third of officers were "very worried" about being forced to retire because of cuts.

Lord Stevens added: "I don't think people are pleased with pay freezes and changes to their pensions, but I also think it's about how they've been given the credit for the job they've done."

The Home Office defended the police changes, saying: "We have swept away central targets, reduced police bureaucracy, and given police back powers of prosecution which will cut inefficiency, save time and taxpayers' money and bring swifter justice."

"And we congratulate police who are rising to the challenge of making further efficiency savings and providing greater value for money while continuing to protect the front line."

The controversial Winsor report, published last year, into police pay called for the abolition of a series of allowances and special payments and for a pay system that recognised hard work and merit instead of long service.

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