Police commissioner candidates slam Government’s “shocking” lack of publicity

ALL three candidates in tomorrow’s police and crime commissioner elections have criticised the Government for not raising awareness of their own reform.

Voters around the UK will go to the polls tomorrow (Thursday November 15) to choose the commissioners, who will set force budgets, direct policing strategy and have the power to hire and fire chief constables.

But with turnout as low as 17 per cent predicted, Home Secretary Theresa May has publicly insisted the commissioners will have more of a mandate than the appointed Police Authorities they will replace.

Each of Warwickshire’s three candidates criticised the Government for not doing more to publicise the reform, saying hardly anybody had received booklets explaining the changes.

Independent candidate Ron Ball said: “The Government has done a shocking job of selling one of its major reforms.

“For such a major change there should have been an information programme for months before the election. It’s only in the past week or so that the number of people who even know this election is happening has passed the 50 per cent mark.”

Conservative candidate Fraser Pithie said he would not shy from criticising his own party, adding: “One of the big issues we have faced is getting past the point where you explain to people what the role is and what commissioners will do.”

James Plaskitt, Labour’s candidate and a former Warwick and Leamington MP, has said he does not believe turnout will be as low as the 17 per cent predicted by the Electoral Reform Society, but said it was “completely impossible” to predict.

He criticised the Government’s decision not to allow candidates a chance to send leaflets by freepost - a factor Ron Ball said weighed heavily against him as an Independent with no party machine.

While all three praised BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, which has organised debates and given candidates airtime, they were lukewarm about television coverage.

Mr Ball said he had been “disappointed” by local newspapers in Warwickshire, which he felt could have done more.

The three candidates also criticised comments by former Warwickshire chief constable Peter Joslin, who said people should not vote, predicting commissioners would lack experience and qualifications.

Mr Ball suggested the claim, which echoed that of former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, might be motivated by a desire to undermine the elected commissioners’ mandate.

Mr Pithie said there would be a mandate because everybody had an opportunity to cast their vote.

Mr Plaskitt added: “This election can shape the way policing is carried out in Warwickshire.

“When there is an opportunity to vote it’s as well to use your ballot. It’s a civic right - no taxation without representation.”

· An earlier version of this story included a quote from James Plaskitt, saying he did not believe turnout would be as low as the 17 per cent predicted by the Electoral Commission.

The commission has asked us to point out that it has never opined or made any predictions on turnout. The prediction was made by the Electoral Reform Society. It was then misattributed to the commission elsewhere in the media.