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Do you know who your police and crime commissioner is?
8:40am Thursday 28th February 2013 in News
ALMOST 90 per cent of people cannot name their police and crime commissioner, according to a damning new survey.
The 41 new commissioners are paid up to £100,000 a year to head up the police force.
Among their powers is hiring and firing the chief constable, setting the budget (£200 million a year in West Mercia), deciding how much council tax each household should pay and making key decisions about policing strategy.
The commissioners were chosen during national elections in November, but turnout everywhere was low, including just 14 per cent across the West Mercia force area.
Now the Electoral Reform Society has produced a report claiming that the elections “failed both candidates and voters alike”.
The society says lessons need to be learned from the record-low turnout, and labels it “an exercise in how not to run an election”.
Their report says people were left in the dark about who they could vote for and that the winter timing of the poll discouraged participation.
In a survey, included in the report, 1,000 adults were asked to name their commissioner in random phone calls, but 89 per cent did not know the answer.
In West Mercia 134,750 people voted across Worcestershire, Telford and Wrekin, Herefordshire and Shropshire, resulting in independent candidate Bill Longmore becoming this region’s first elected police chief on a £75,000 salary.
Adrian Blackshaw, who stood as the Conservative candidate against Mr Longmore, said the election had been “badly handled”.
“The timing of the poll next time must not be in November,” he said.
“There is a timetable in place and enough time to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and I also think candidates paying £5,000 (deposit) makes it an expensive exercise.
“It was handled badly. People need to get together and improve it for next time.”
His criticism echoed the society’s report, which cited the “huge deposits, vast electoral districts and high campaign costs” as reasons to put potential candidates off.
It concludes that in 2016, the year of the next PCC elections, the poll should not be in the winter and that details on each candidate should be posted to voters.
Since being elected, Mr Longmore has alrady made some major decisions - include freezing West Mercia Police’s portion of the council tax bill, and launching a consultation over closing down or relocating up to 31 police bases.
He also wants to extend the powers of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) so they provide more assistance in fighting crime.