Officials say PCC election was flawed

The PCC election count at Kettering Conference Centre in November
The PCC election count at Kettering Conference Centre in November
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Voters were not at the heart of the process for the police and crime commissioner elections, electoral staff have said.

Electoral administrators said they were faced with high volumes of enquiries and complaints from members of the public about the elections held last November.

The Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) has also found information was not readily accessible and was not well co-ordinated at a national level.

Conservative Adam Simmonds won the vote in Northamptonshire, picking up 30 per cent of first-preference votes and beating Labour’s Lee Barron in the run-off.

PCCs, which replaced existing police authorities in 41 force areas across England and Wales, have the power to set force budgets and even hire and fire chief constables.

The process was marred by a record-low turnout with around one in seven bothering to go to the ballot box, prompting a detailed inquiry by the Electoral Commission.

Northamptonshire’s turnout of 20 per cent was the highest in the country, but was helped by the fact the hotly contested Corby and East Northants by-election took place on the same day.

But the AEA concluded it was not in the interests of voters or the Government to hold a major national poll in November.

The report said: “Government responsibility for delivering the first elections of police and crime commissioners lay with the Home Office.

“They did not have sufficient resources or the level of expertise to do so effectively and the electoral process suffered as a result.”

In the future, the AEA said, the Cabinet Office should oversee all electoral administration matters and ensure that electoral law and funding are in place six months before the election.

It urged the Electoral Commission to consult senior election officials and electoral administrators to agree an approach to performance standards at future elections.

It also said candidates at PCC elections should be made aware of the disqualifications from being nominated, with doubt surrounding Mr Barron’s candidacy following the realisation he had been convicted of an offence more than 20 years ago.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “These elections marked the biggest democratic reform in policing in our lifetimes.

“More than five million people turned out to vote for the first ever election of police and crime commissioners, giving them an infinitely bigger mandate than the unelected and invisible police authorities they replaced.

“That number will only grow in the future as people see the real impact PCCs are already making in their areas, delivering on public priorities in tackling crime.

“The Home Office will look at the points made in this report, along with the conclusions of the Electoral Commission’s upcoming assessment.”