Today marked the first by-election for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) since the introduction of the post in 2012. The West Midlands by-election was held following the death of Bob Jones. PCCs are responsible for setting policing priorities, allocating resources to police forces and holding the area’s Chief Constable accountable on their performance. PCCs were intended to make the police more accountable to local communities by assigning responsibility to a democratically elected office-holder.
Turnout for the election was just 10%, down from 12% in 2012, setting a new record low for peacetime turnout. The government has spent £700,000 distributing candidate information booklets to publicise the election, but this has failed to engage voters.
Commenting on the low turnout in the West Midlands PCC by-election, Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said:
“Just one in ten voters turned out to choose their Police and Crime Commissioner. This level of turnout is a disaster which should put the future of PCCs into doubt. Few voters knew that the election was happening and even fewer cared. The government has fixed some of the mistakes made during the first PCC elections, but the fundamental problems with PCCs remain.
This level of turnout stretches the legitimacy of the office to its limit. Voters have comprehensively rejected PCCs, which were imposed on local communities from the centre. The government should now accept that PCCs cannot continue in their current form.”