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Police commissioner election turnout to hit record high (but don’t get too excited)

Police commissioner election turnout to hit record high (but don’t get too excited)

🕔04.May 2016

Turnout at tomorrow’s ‘forgotten elections’ for police and crime commissioners across England and Wales will reach a high point. But only because for the first time the PCC elections are being held on the same day that voters go to the polls to choose local councillors, writes Paul Dale.

It is inevitable that the miserable 12 per cent turnout at the 2012 West Midlands police commissioner elections, held on a dark November day, will be exceeded on May 5. Voters will be handed two ballot papers, one for the local council and one for the PCC, making it certain that the police commissioner elections will receive a measure of democratic legitimacy with turnout climbing to the giddy heights of, perhaps, 30 per cent.

There is little else to report about the contest to choose a £100,000-a-year commissioner to oversee the largest police force outside of London, for hustings and campaigning have been somewhat short on the ground, to say the least.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has done her best to talk up police commissioners, insisting they are doing a better job than the “invisible” police authorities they replaced, but there are few signs yet that the English and Welsh have taken to the American-style tradition of electing civic officials.

Famously, at the 2012 police commissioner elections, a ballot box was emptied when the polls closed in Newport, South Wales, only to discover that not a single vote had been cast.

If the PCC elections were a one-off event and not being held on the same day as local government elections, you could safely bet the average turnout would be less than 20 per cent.

In the West Midlands, David Jamieson, the Labour police commissioner who replaced the late Bob Jones at a by-election in 2014, is hot favourite to be re-elected, although his margin of victory may turn out to be smaller than that enjoyed by Mr Jones four years ago.

Should he be returned, one of Mr Jamieson’s first tasks will be to appoint a deputy police commissioner, if he wishes to do so. The existing deputy, Yvonne Mosquito, has been suspended for more than a month while an inquiry takes place into a visit she made to the family of a murder victim and allegedly did not follow protocol by not informing investigating officers of the visit in advance.

Mr Jamieson said he was forced to suspend Ms Mosquito from the £65,000-a-year post because her visit “may have interfered with and disrupted a highly complex and sensitive criminal investigation”

A spokesman for Mr Jamieson told Chamberlain Files that the investigation is almost complete.

He said there was no truth in a suggestion that the result of the inquiry and an announcement about Ms Mosquito’s future is deliberately being delayed until after the PCC and local council elections.

The Conservative West Midlands PCC candidate is Les Jones, a former leader of Dudley Council. UKIP are running Sandwell branch chairman Pete Durnell. There is an Independent candidate, Andy Flynn. The Liberal Democrats have decided to give this election a miss and are not standing.

In his manifesto Mr Jamieson promises to recruit 1,000 new police officers if he is re-elected.

He states that neighbourhood policing lies at the core of keeping communities safe and that “residents need to know officers in their area”.

Mr Jones, the Conservative candidate, says his previous experience as a member of the police authority and a council leader makes him ideally suited to become police commissioner. He promises to keep police stations open, review all spending, and prioritise “the frontline” if elected.

UKIP candidate Pete Durnell is promising more community policing and says he will “work tirelessly to provide the key link between the West Midlands public and its police force”.

Independent candidate Andy Flynn says he would reduce crime by ensuring 80 per cent of officers’ time is spent on duty, patrolling or actively policing the wider community.

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