Stances differ on police and crime commissioner elections

By staff writers
11 Nov 2012

Unlock Democracy is promoting a social media campaign to raise awareness of police and crime commissioner elections, while others argue that they are a cover for cuts and a diminution of genuine accountability.

"Supporters from across the country have spoken to us expressing concern that voters have been left in the dark about these elections," says Alexandra Runswick, the organisation's deputy director.

On Thursday 15 November people in England and Wales will have the chance to elect a police and crime commissioner for the first time.

The Electoral Commission has warned that millions of people could be disadvantaged by the government's decision not to fund a mailing to each house, as they do for parliamentary elections.

Unlock Democracy conducted an informal survey of 100 supporters and found that a fifth did not even know when the election was happening.

It is hardly surprising that turnout in these elections is expected to be very low, says the campaign group.

Ms Strudwick continued: "It’s important we remind as many people as possible. We are encouraging those on Twitter or Facebook to sign up to participate in our 'thunderclap' which will remind friends and followers that the elections are happening on the day."

Thunderclap is a utility tool aimed at mobilising civil society support for particular causes.

"With just a few days left until the elections, it’s crucial we spread this information to as many people as possible," said Ms Strudwick.

She added: "Our survey also found that people are generally feeling they have a lack of information about the elections. On the basis of this, we have put together a guide addressing frequently asked questions, and directing people to information which will help them make up their minds."

There have been extensive arguments about the desirability or otherwise of police and crime commissioner elections.

The Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government has introduced these posts at a significant cost to the taxpayer. The cost of the election has been estimated at £75 million every four years.

Opponents of the move argue that policing should be operationally independent of politics, administered at a more local level and backed by vigorous community oversight from local elected representatives such as councillors, MPs and elected panels, and representing a variety of communities and political beliefs.

The Brighton and Hove Green Party, which runs the council there, is not backing or endorsing anyone and is not encouraging people to vote in the election.

Electing a commissioner will not stop government imposed policing and security cuts, it argues. Indeed, the first job of a new commissioner may be to impose even harsher cuts.

Others say that since a choice will be made on 15 November, it is wise for people to choose the best option available on the ballot paper.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, their respective devolved governments have power over policing and have chosen not to introduce elected PCCs.

The Welsh Assembly has less power and its policing is still subject to Westminster policy, which is why elections are taking place in Wales.

* Unlock Democracy police and crime commissioner elections 'thunderclap': https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/604-vote-in-the-pcc-elections

* Unlock Democracy briefing on police and crime commissioner elections: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/pages/your-guide-to-the-pcc-elections

* Green Party advice on police and crime commissioner elections: http://www.brightonhovegreens.org/news/advice-on-the-police-and-crime-co...

[Ekk/3]

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