In a major change to the accountability of our local police forces the population of the UK will be invited to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner for their local force on 15th November 2012. The newly elected PCCs will then take office on 22nd November.

With less than 90 days to go do you know enough to make an informed vote, or are you just going vote on a party political basis?

The Electoral Reform Society has though put out a warning that not enough is being done to ensure a significant turnout of voters on the day.

With projections that the turnout for the £75 million elections could be as low as 18.5% that could then put the democratic legitimacy of those elected into doubt and the whole aim of re-connecting the people with the police would be significantly undermined.

The Society has pointed to “The Home Office’s 5 point plan to drive turnout into the ground”:

1.   Do not conduct a mail out with information about the elections and the candidates
2.   Only provide information online so that the 7m people on the electoral roll who don’t regularly access the internet are unlikely to know it’s happening
3.   Set up a helpline but don’t activate it until 23 days before the election is due to take place
4.   Hold the election in November when no other elections are taking place (research shows that winter elections have significantly lower turnout than those held in summer months³)
5.   Include no provisions for information in accessible formats for people with sight difficulties or in any other languages.

There are also other concerns says the Society. Independence and diversity of the 41 PCCs have been put at risk by the rules and procedures and political party candidates will have the advantage of party resources.

The Society goes on to say that ‘those pulling the strings have not done their homework’. I would put it another way. Those that are pulling the strings know exactly what they are doing, especially when what they absolutely do not want is independence and diversity; what they crave is a continuation of the two party system by ensuring that only big parties can afford to contest the elections and have the horsepower to get their own message out.

But on a positive note the fact that the PCC elections are out of kilter in time with other elections does make it less likely that the incumbent government would get more of their candidates through.

The Police Minister, Nick Herbert, has called this just a ‘silly season story and mere ‘carping’.

One interesting comparison to make is between some of the different political positions available, their deposit and other requirements.

Comparison table (all need to be a minimum of 18 years of age):

Type of politician

Deposit

Other

MP £500 (returnable if you get over 5% of the vote). Need ten constituency electors to nominate you.
MEP £5,000 (returnable if you get over 2.5% of the vote). Be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union.
Local Councillor Nil. Registered to vote, or worked, or lived or be a landowner or tenant within the council’s area.
Mayor of London £10,000 (returnable if you get over 5% of first choice votes). 330 signatures of people on the electoral register supporting the nomination (10 from each London borough and the City of London).A citizen of the UK, Republic of Ireland, a European Union nation or Commonwealth Nation.Registered to vote in London, or have lived, worked, rented or owned property in London for the last 12 months.
Police Commissioner £5,000 (returnable if you get over 5% of the votes cast). No imprisonable criminal convictions.Not in a concurrent public position.Registered to vote within the chosen force area.100 nominations from within the force area.

 

Police Lamp

Police Lamp by Roger Whittlestone

Image by Roger Whittleston [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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