Police elections ‘too expensive’

Police officers
Image caption The PCC will be responsible for setting priorities for the police force

Independent candidates in the police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections have expressed concerns they have been put at a disadvantage by the way the election is being run.

The PCC, who will replace the police authority, will be responsible for setting priorities for the police force, overseeing its budget and hiring the chief constable.

Candidates standing as independents across England have highlighted the lack of state funding for mail shots and the £5,000 deposit required to stand - £4,500 more than the deposit required for general election candidates - as a disadvantage to them. The deposit will be lost if the would-be PCC fails to receive 5% of the vote.

Last month independent candidate Gillian Radcliffe announced she was pulling out of the race in South Yorkshire partly due to the cost.

"An expert in political campaigns has told me that even 'doing it on the cheap' would cost at least £50,000. I simply don't have that sort of money, or anything like it," she said.

'Badly planned'

The former chairman of Hampshire Police Authority, Simon Hayes, who is standing as an independent candidate in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said: "The minister Nick Herbert said when he launched the PCC scheme that they wanted to encourage independent individuals to put themselves forward.

Image caption Simon Hayes was a Conservative councillor but is running as an independent candidate

"A lot of us did. So it was disappointing that the government decided not to pay for leaflets to be sent out (with information on the views of the candidates) as in a general election."

But despite the lack of free mailshots, Mr Hayes said he had been encouraged by the support he had received from the public.

Counter terrorism expert Colin Skelton, an independent standing in Wiltshire, said: "The election has been very badly planned. It is skewed against independents.

"First we have to get 100 signatures, and then a £5,000 deposit, which is easy for the party political machine.

"The government did make a big show about wanting independent candidates, but the whole business of this is very bureaucratic and it's a big financial cost."

'Political tug of war'

But Mr Skelton said despite a lack of resources and party organisation he had "delivered more than 6,000 leaflets and gone through a pair of socks".

Image caption Martin Surl retired from the police force in January

Former police commander Martin Surl, who is standing as an independent in Gloucestershire, said non-party political candidates were also hit by local MPs using their influence to back party candidates.

He said the whole process had ended up slanted against independents.

"The election on 15 November should be about who's the best person to satisfy the needs and expectations of the community, not another political tug of war between right and left, Tory and Labour," Mr Surl said.

UKIP candidate for Northamptonshire Jim MacArthur, a former member of the RAF police, said he thought it should not be a "political election, but the big parties are using their party machines".

"We are getting our online manifestos up (on the internet), but many people, especially older people, don't go online."

He said good candidates with experience, but without major party backing or funding, would be put off by the £5,000 deposit required.

The Green Party candidate for Cleveland, Joe Michna, said the huge deposit was putting off independent and small party candidates and because of this he was probably going to be the only candidate standing for the Greens in England and Wales.

'In same boat'

He said in Cleveland there were 250,000 households and only the larger parties would have the organisation to get leaflets to all voters.

"It is grossly unfair. We get the impression it's been designed to favour the larger parties which naturally have the resources," Mr Michna said.

James Joyce, a Liberal Democrat candidate in Norfolk, said he had serious concerns about the way the election had been organised.

"It is not a fair playing field. I can't believe we have got into a situation where there is no state funding for postal shots," he said.

"The problem with the manifestos being on the internet is that some people don't have it. It will advantage the big parties. It is wrong."

But the Conservative candidate for Bedfordshire, Jas Parmar, said: "As far as the large deposit is concerned I am in the same boat as the independent candidates. I have put up £5,000 out of my own pocket as well.

"As far as free publicity is concerned, we are in austere times. At the moment the public would not forgive us for wasting their money. The last thing we want to do is waste public money.

"Independents may not get publicity free of charge but then neither do I."

Image caption Essex Labour candidate Val Morris-Cook said there should be a level playing field for candidates

Essex Labour candidate Val Morris-Cook said the government should provide state funding for a mailshot to electors as well providing earlier access to the postal vote register.

"There should be a level playing field for all candidates. I think the government needs to relook at this," she said.

Responding to the criticism, a Home Office spokesman said: "Every household will receive information about the November elections for PCCs from the Electoral Commission.

"Furthermore, information about every candidate will be published online and, for anyone who wants it, delivered in written form, via a free phone line. Everyone will be able to get the information they need about every candidate standing."

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