Thursday, November 15, 2012
Voters were today heading for polling booths up and down the region as voting began in the first ever police and crime commissioner elections.
Booths opened at 7am this morning and will stay so until 10pm. However counting is not due to begin until tomorrow afternoon, wth the results due a few hours later.
Fog shrouded the coast at Hunstanton, where voters weren’t exactly queuing up at the door. Just a handful voted in the first hour that the polling station in the Town Hall was open.
One polling station in Norwich said that the voting had got off to a slow start and that about five people had voted per hour during the morning peak while voters in Spixworth and North Walsham also said polling stations were almost empty.
The new PCCs, which are set to replace police authorities, will set spending plans and have the power to “hire and fire” chief constables.
Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will be elected by members of the public to ensure the policing needs of the community are met as effectively as possible and to oversee how crime is tackled.
Forty one new police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will be elected across England and Wales (excluding London) on November 15.
The PCC will hold the police force to account for delivering the kind of policing the public want to see. Their aim will be to cut crime and to ensure police forces are effective. They will bring a public voice to policing and they will do this is by:
engaging with the public and victims of crime to help set police and crime plans
ensuring the police force budget is spent where it matters most
appointing, and where necessary dismissing, the chief constable.
PCCs will also work with councils and other organisations to promote and enable joined up working on community safety and criminal justice.
The PCC will not ‘run’ the police force. Chief constables will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the police, but they will be accountable to the public via the police and crime commissioner.
PCCs will ensure an effective policing contribution alongside other partners to national arrangements to protect the public from other cross-boundary threats.
PCCs will be required to swear an oath of impartiality when they are elected to office. The oath is designed so that PCCs can set out publicly their commitment to tackling their new role with integrity. It will reflect the commitment police officers make to serve every member of the public impartially.
But despite a major nationwide media campaign to raise awareness there has seemingly been little public appetite for PCCs or the landmark elections taking place in 41 police force areas across England and Wales.
One particularly bleak forecast, based on an Ipsos MORI poll taken more than three weeks ago, suggests that only 15pc of the 40 million adults outside London eligible to vote are certain to do so.
The picture seemed to be only slightly more optimistic in Norfolk and Suffolk where, according to an EDP and Norwich Evening News poll of almost 140 people across the two counties, just 25pc of people surveyed were planning to vote and, perhaps more worryingly, just 3pc knew who their candidates were.
And with turnout expected to be very low, there has been a final attempt to mobilise voters to polling stations across the country today.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Today is a historic day – people across the country have the opportunity to vote for the first ever Police and Crime Commissioners.
“Their arrival will be the most significant democratic reform of policing in our lifetime. PCCs will give the public a real say in how their communities are policed and will use their mandate to cut crime.
“Crime is down, but we recognise that people are still worried about crime and that victims need to be looked after. PCCs will help to reconnect the police force with the public and will focus on what is really important for law abiding people.”
The Electoral Commission, an independent body set up by parliament to set standards for well-run elections, has been responsible for sending out booklets with information about the elections to more than 20 million homes across the country.
Phillippa Saray, Electoral Commission regional manager for the East of England, said: “These elections are completely new in England and Wales, so it’s important to know exactly how and when to cast your vote.
“PCCs will be elected using an unfamiliar voting system, the Supplementary Vote, so we want voters to be prepared for this to avoid surprises at the polling station.
“We’ve sent out information booklets explaining the system to 21 million homes across England and Wales. Voters who haven’t received their booklet or have further questions can still read it on our website at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk, or call our helpline on 0800 3 280 280.”
Under the Supplementary Vote system, voters put a cross for their first choice candidate in the left hand column.
They can then put a cross for their second choice candidate in the right hand column if they wish. As long as a cross is marked in the first choice column, their vote will count.
In Norfolk, people heading to the polls today have five candidates to choose from – Steve Morphew (Labour); Jamie Athill (Conservative); James Joyce (Lib Dems); Stephen Bett (Independent) and Matthew Smith (UKIP).
Meanwhile in Suffolk, voters have four possible candidates to choose from – Jane Basham (Labour); Tim Passmore (Conservative); David Cocks (Independent) and Bill Mountford (UKIP).
Elsewhere in the country, Labour’s most famous candidate, Lord John Prescott, will be looking to become Humberside’s first police and crime commissioner. The former Deputy prime minister is up against Godfrey Bloom (UKIP), Neil Eyre (Independent), Walter Sweeney (Independent), Simone Butterworth (Lib Dems), Matthew Grove (Conservative) and Paul Davison (Independent).