New Police and Crime Commissioner welcomes review after low turnoutBy Jon Nurse
November 27, 2012
The new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for the Thames Valley has welcomed a review into the elections after just 13.3 per cent in the region turned out to vote.
Tory candidate Anthony Stansfeld secured the position on Friday, with a total of 94,238 votes after the second round of the count against Labour’s Tim Starkey.
As PCC he will oversee the largest non-metropolitan force in the country with 8,000 police officers and staff and an annual budget of nearly £400 million.
In Wokingham there was a 13.97 per cent turnout, lower than the national average of 15 per cent.
Councillor David Lee, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said: “The turnout was very low and it’s difficult to take any clear mandate from it.
“I think November is a bad time to do it and it should have been done with the elections in May. In hindsight you can say it needed more publicity but I think as much was done as could be in this area.
“The commissioners need to respond to local need for policing and react accordingly. All too often organisations become talking shops and it’s absolutely vital the public see the benefits and the specific outcomes of having a PCC. If they see that I think they will be sold on the idea.”
The Electoral Commission has announced it will conduct a nationwide review into the elections due to the low number of voters, with ministers blaming public unfamiliarity with the role.
Mr Stansfeld agreed the Government should have done more to explain and publicise the PCC elections and the second preference supplementary voting system.
He said: “We would have liked a vastly bigger turnout, but in the depths of winter when the mornings and evenings are dark, when people come back from work the last thing they want to do is go to a polling station.”
Mr Stansfeld added the Government had not offered a free postal system so none of the candidates were able to write to the 1.6 million voters in the region.
“The Government was caught in a Catch-22 situation,” he said. “The more publicity, the more it was going to cost and it was trying to keep that down.
“It still cost a huge amount, but that is one of the first things needed to get people turning out.”
He said people were confused about the voting system.
Mr Stansfeld has resigned as a West Berkshire Council executive member, but will continue to serve Kintbury ward, where he lives.
He will officially take up the new post tomorrow with staff employed by the police authority transferring to the commission at midnight.
Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton said: “I would like to congratulate Mr Stansfeld on his election victory and look forward to working together on behalf of the people in the Thames Valley.”
The PCC will indicate its proposed budget and precept for 2013/14 in December and a Police and Crime Plan will be published by March 2013.