The 15th November 2012 will see Britain’s first ever elections for individuals to be in charge of our police forces. Everyone in England and Wales outside of London will go to the polls to vote for a Police & Crime Commissioner for their county. Chief Constables will answer to the new commissioners, who will set budgets and set policing priorities. Here is a list of the candidates standing for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Tomorrow’s your last chance to apply for a postal vote or register to vote – you can fill in this form. Postal vote applications need to be in by 5 p.m. but you can register to vote up till 11.59 if you like to be up against the wire. Here is a form for that too. You can apply for a proxy vote (somebody else votes on your behalf) up to 7th November.
The Police Commissioners are intended by the Conservatives to provide greater accountability to the communities they serve. I am not convinced that one person is more accountable than the existing police authorities comprising a number of people: nevertheless, it is an opportunity to get people thinking seriously about policing matters, including how best to handle offenders and prevent reoffending.
The prophets of gloom predict that the public will not bother to vote in these elections and that the turnout will hit rock bottom. It does not help that there is no public funding for candidates to help them get their message out – as there is, for example, in a General Election, when every candidate gets one leaflet delivered by the Post Office. Coupled with the fact candidates do have to stump up a £5,000 deposit, it is difficult for anyone to stand if they do not belong to one of the main political parties.
So – is everyone apathetic and indifferent? I tested this out this evening, calling on some houses in Queen Edith’s – on behalf of the Liberal Democrat PCC candidate for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Rupert Moss-Eccardt. Maybe the people I called on were atypical, but I didn’t find anyone who was intending to abstain, which is actually very unusual. I did have several people say they had received very little information on these elections, as well as some who questioned the wisdom of amateurs overseeing a professional police force. So people were enquiring and perhaps a little puzzled – but certainly not indifferent. I hope to see some of them again on Polling Day!
When you go to vote, be ready for a slightly different system, the Supplementary Vote. You vote for your first choice and second choice candidate. Here is a video clip explaining the supplementary vote system.