Election at risk of being a disaster
The election of the country's first police and crime commissioners takes place in just two months' time. However, few people are aware that an election is even taking place. A poll carried out by the Leicester Mercury of 150 people in the city centre found that 82 per cent did not know about the election and that 74 per cent did not intend to vote.
Nationally, the Electoral Reform Society estimates that only 18.5 per cent of the electorate will vote in the November election and that it could achieve the lowest turnout ever for a British election.
The creation of this new post could be a positive move. It could create greater public interest and engagement in policing and that has the potential to be a good thing for both the public and the police.
However, it will not achieve these goals if the election turnout is as lamentably low as is currently being predicted. The successful candidates will simply not have a credible mandate if fewer than 20 per cent of the electorate has voted.
The Electoral Reform Society is clear about where the blame lies for this situation.
It has accused the Home Office of "shirking its responsibility to provide voters with even the most basic information that the elections are taking place."
Chief executive Katie Ghose told The Guardian recently: "The stated purpose of electing police and crime commissioners was to improve accountability and reconnect the public and police – an aim which is clearly undermined by a painfully low turnout."
She said the Home Office's shortcomings had included failing to carry out a mail-out with information about the elections, only providing information online and holding the election in November when no other elections are taking place.
At present, this has all the signs of turning into an embarrassing debacle and an expensive one at that – the election will cost £75million.
The Home Office really must get a move on. Doubtlessly, it is planning a publicity drive in the immediate run-up to the election but it is in grave danger of leaving it too late. Public awareness has to be built up over a longer period and with only two months to go there is a real danger that it has already missed the boat.