Four years on, these are still the local elections that no one's ever heard of
Image: West Midlands Police
In 2012, English and Welsh voters selected their own Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for the first time. Just 15.1 per cent those eligible cast their vote — the lowest electoral turnout in peacetime history.
Now, less than a week before the next round of PCC balloting, BMG polling for the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) shows that 89 per cent of people can’t name their current commissioner, and just four per cent feel well informed about the elections.
‘There’s been very little coverage of the election this time, much as last time, and there will be big differences in turnout depending on where there are local elections,’ commented Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS.
‘There are just a few days to get the information out and encourage people to vote – so we hope everyone concerned pulls out all the stops to get the public involved in this important vote.’
The direct election of PCCs was introduced by the Home Office because it wanted to “empower the public – increasing local accountability and giving the public a direct say on how their streets are policed”.
However, the ERS suggests that this aim can’t be realised in the absence of ‘a high quality debate or a decent democratic process.’
‘A poll conducted by Populus in 2013 showed that only 11 per cent of respondents could correctly name the person elected for their area. With today’s poll showing an almost identical result, it looks like little has changed, and little has been learnt from last time’s disastrous ballot.’
The key functions of PCCs include setting police and crime objectives, holding chief constables to account and setting the budget for their local force.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners says the PCC’s role is ‘to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account’ — difficult when the overwhelming majority of people don’t know who they are.
The ERS has also highlighted that there are obstacles to candidates from a diverse backgrounds putting themselves forward, including large deposits, unclear eligibility rules and high campaign costs.
Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.