Police commissioner: Blunkett's low poll turnout concern

Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett has warned that turnout in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections could be lower than 15%.

Such a low turnout would not give "proper legitimacy" to the winning candidates, he told BBC Wales.

But the Home Office said commissioners would have a better democratic mandate than "invisible police authorities".

Elections will be held in all police forces in Wales and England outside London on Thursday.

Commissioners will agree budgets and have the power to hire and fire chief constables.

They will replace police authorities in all four Welsh forces and although they will not be responsible for day-to-day operations they will set strategic priorities.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said commissioners will be the "voice of the people", whatever the turnout on Thursday.

But Mr Blunkett said if fewer than 15% of voters take part "you are struggling to have that mandate".

He told BBC Wales: "I fear that the turnout will be as low as 15%, perhaps even lower, and that is not good for democracy.

'Not a true reflection'

"It's not really a true reflection of people's feelings.

"Above all it fails to give proper legitimacy to whoever is elected and that's why I am reluctantly asking people to turn out and to use their vote because we fought for the vote and we may not like the particular structure that's been created by the coalition but we've got somehow over the next few years to make it work."

He added: "I think we've got a very big challenge to get people to turn out, whichever candidate they are voting for.

"To actually know that if we are going to have this system and very many people, including me express concerns about it, then we need the best possible person to provide a voice for the community, to be able to work alongside and with the chief constable and the leadership team and to make it work."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "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.

"Any turnout will confer a better democratic mandate than the current invisible police authorities have.

"We have been publicising PCCs for more than two years and launched a national advertising campaign last month."

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