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28 June 2012
Police and crime commissioner (PCC) candidates believe that party politics will be the most decisive factor in how people vote in this November's elections, according to the first survey of candidates.
The findings come amid concerns that independent candidates for the job risked being priced out of standing, and fears that voters will stay at home.
A poll of PCC candidates carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed that three in four candidates are expecting turnout to be lower than for last month's local government elections, which saw 33 per cent of voters visit the ballot box – the lowest since 2000. More candidates (78 per cent) believe that party politics will be more of a vote winner than other factors like policing experience (33 per cent) and living in the local area (31 per cent).
With just over five months to go until polling day on November 15, the survey of candidates who have been shortlisted or declared an intention to stand, is the first of its kind.
It reveals that neighbourhood policing is likely to be seen as a key priority by those who take office in November, with many saying that the key change they would make to policing in their area would be more joint working between officers and residents. A greater focus on supporting victims of crime and more visible officers on the street to help curb youth offending also emerged as key themes.
Anti-social behaviour is seen by many as the criminal activity they would want to prioritise tackling, while councils are seen as a key organisation to work closely with.
The survey found that PCC candidates believe:
Party politics will have the most bearing on how people vote. 78 per cent said they thought political party would be among the factors that had the most bearing. 53 per cent said they thought it would be the most important factor.
Tackling anti-social behaviour would be a top priority for 69 per cent of candidates, while 50 per cent said clamping down on alcohol-related crime and disorder. Only one respondent said gun and knife crime would be a priority area.
Voter turnout will be low, with 75 per cent of candidates saying they expect it to be less than for council elections. 17 per cent said they thought turnout would be about the same.
Local councils were identified as a key partner organisation to work closely with by 89 per cent of candidates, while 67 per cent said the probation service and 58 per said voluntary sector organisations.
Media profile will be a key factor in how people vote, according to 69 per cent of candidates, 61 per cent said knowledge of crime issues in the local area would also be a decider. One in three (33 per cent) thought experience of working for or alongside the police would be a vote winner.
Unlike General, European and GLA elections, government has opted not to give candidates a freepost allowance for campaign flyers. Instead the Home Office will fund a website to host campaign materials from candidates.
The LGA is warning that this risks leaving those not online disengaged, and puts independent candidates – who do not receive party money and resources – at a disadvantage. All candidates will have to pay a £5,000 deposit which they will lose if they win less than five per cent of the vote
Cllr Mehboob Khan, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
"It's concerning that with less than six months until polling day, most would agree that there's a consensus of apathy among the public at the prospect of new police and crime commissioners.
"The results of this survey reveal a real appetite among candidates to get the police working more closely with residents, community groups and victims of crime.
"Government could help this effort by providing the same level of support with election materials that it does for prospective MPs and MEPs. Independent candidates may struggle to afford to produce and distribute fliers and the Home Office's decision to support online campaigning only risks alienating older members of the public who are less likely to have internet access but would usually be more likely to vote.
"Police and crime commissioners will have a democratic mandate to hold their police force to account and tackle crime in their area. Such a huge task will require police commissioners to work alongside chief constables, community safety partnerships and a whole range of other bodies in the broader policing and community safety family.
"It is encouraging to see that, even at this early stage, candidates recognise how important it will be to work with all parts of the public sector in their local areas including councils, the probation service and charities."