Elections 2016: Polling day test for public's interest in PCCs

ELECTIONS are usually a test of the record of those in office and of the alternative offered by their opponents.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 1:35 pm
Matthew Grove campaigns in Snaith
Matthew Grove campaigns in Snaith

But tomorrow’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections have an added dimension as the value of the posts themselves are put to the test.

The first round of PCC elections in 2012 were characterised by pitifully low turnouts blamed on the November date and the lack of familiarity with the role among the public.

Holding the elections tomorrow alongside those for councils almost guarantees more people will take part this time around.

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But some parts of the region will not have council elections and it remains to be seen whether residents in those areas will be motivated in numbers to cast their PCC ballot.

PCCs are elected using a system allowing voters to give a first and second preference. In the 2012 Humberside election, Labour candidate Lord Prescott was leading in the first round only to lose to Conservative Matthew Grove.

The close nature of the last vote, and last year’s “inadequate” judgement from inspectors on Humberside Police, have combined to make the race to be the area’s PCC one of the most closely watched.

At it’s heart is the fundamental question of what PCCs should take responsibility for? Or to put it another way, if a force is deemed “inadequate” is that the fault of the chief constable or the commissioner?

Mr Grove points to the major reorganisation he ordered prior to the critical inspection as evidence that he was aware he was “overseeing a police force that had bumped along the bottom of pretty well every national comparator of policing, every league table that existed, and had done for over a decade.”

The inspection was “six weeks into the implementation of the largest most ambitious restructure Humberside Police has ever undertaken,” he said.

“No organisation is going to be at its best at that point.

“It’s about a year ago [the inspectors] came in and we are now seeing the forces’ performance significantly improve in many ways.”

Mr Grove said recent crime statistics showed Humberside Police is “outperforming” other force areas.

He points to a host of other reforms he has implemented as evidence of his impact, including reform of working hours to ensure more officers are available at times of high demand and ending routine patrolling by officers in pairs.

Mr Grove maintains his record shows his determination to challenge the police.

But Labour candidate Keith Hunter, a former chief superintendent in Humberside Police, insists precisely the opposite is true.

“I think the majority of PCCs have missed an opportunity and I think our local PCC specifically missed his opportunity because the public don’t feel engaged in the process at all,” he said.

“They just see the PCC in Humberside as being the spokesperson for the force as that’s the way he’s made the job.

“That’s the message that comes back from every community I’ve spoken to - ‘why do we need a PCC when they just say what the chief constable used to say?’

“I’m saying the PCC should be on the side of the public, representing them to the police. When the PCC says ‘we’ he should mean the public.

“The PPC should be pushing for the style and quantity of policing the public desire, they shouldn’t be there as an apologist for Government cuts and police mismanagement.”