I am voting this Thursday

I will be voting on Thursday for one of Warwickshire’s PCC candidates.

I vote in every election because I see it as my duty as a mark of respect for all those who fought in the various wars and campaigns where so many have made that ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we remain a democracy.

I do not agree with PCC’s; I do not want the police under local political control but the Government have decided to foist them upon us and so I will be voting.

The Governments strategy for this election has been appalling, the adverts have been rubbish. It has been overly focused on the police, PCC’s will have other responsibilities as well but the focus has been on having a say about your local police and those other responsibilities have been largely ignored or brushed over.

The Policing minister Nick Herbert left the job in this summers reshuffle,  Policy Exchange’s PCC champion Blair Gibbs also left for pastures new this summer. Neither have said anything about these election since but in both cases it does seem an odd time to leave. Although Blair’s departure may have been prompted by the tweet about the 4 horsemen of the policing apocalypse which caused some offence and gave us a bit of an insight into his and his colleagues views of policing.

We have had a few withdrawals because of minor convictions that candidates received as young people and we have witnessed the withdrawal of one independent because he was duped by his campaign manager.

We are left with a range of candidates the majority of whom are white males some of whom are ex politicians or ex Police Authority some of whom are ex police officers and some of whom have no political or police experience.

I have written a few posts about PCC’s, engaged with several candidates via Twitter even #FF’d one @DorsetRachel who I cannot vote for being in the wrong county but who engaged me in a number of debates and even prompted one of the posts I wrote about PCC’s and the reasons they were being introduced & yes I would vote for her if I could.

I and others have commented on the unfair advantage candidates who have political parties behind them have with regard to funding and campaign support whether that support will influence the elections remains to be seen.

Initially I was determined that I would vote independent I actually engaged with one individual who was thinking of standing & who then decided not to because he thought the current independent candidate had more chance. I engaged with that candidate and offered to help but that did not really go anywhere and that is not a reflection on the candidate just the way things work out.

I know who I am voting for because he is the only person who has leafleted my area. Ironically he is from one of the political parties but I am voting for him because he has a plan to raise the number of police officers in my county.

As we have the lowest number of officers in any force I think this is a critical aspect of any future policing plan.

Whether that plan will work remains to be seen but the other two candidates conservative and independent have no plans to do that and so are both to my minds following the party line.

PCC’s are coming, they will be in place sometime next week whether you vote or not. Like me you have a choice as to whether and who you vote for but irrespective of whether you do or don’t they are going to have an influence on policing going forward.

I am looking forward with some interest and trepidation to the impact they will have – described by the government as the biggest change to policing will it truly be that or will it be something of a damp squib.

My turnout prediction 20.15%

So there you have it my quick review of whats gone on, over the past 6 months or so, undoubtedly I will be blogging about PCC’s post election as we see how PCC’s influence policing in the coming years.

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PCC’s – post election democratic representation?

In less than a month I will vote for the person who I want to represent me as PCC.

This according to the government is to bring some democracy to the process of policing. If it is to be democratic and the PCC is supposed to represent my views he or she is going to need some form of network to gather my views and the views of others in my force area which is Warwickshire.

I have not seen one PCC state how they intend to do this post election – yes they are all out there now gathering views and seeking votes but the real job starts once they are elected. They will take a vow of impartiality and then free of the burden of party politics will be able to represent me and the 500,000 other people in Warwickshire.

If PCC’s are to be the voice of the people for policing then communicating with the community – all the community not just the communities they like or the interest groups etc will be absolutely critical.

I’d be interested to hear from my candidates how they intend to keep in touch with me over the 4 years of their office. I don’t expect they will but I would vote for the one who sets up a proper network across the force area to seek the populations views on a regular basis.

Id like to see a quarterly meeting in each constituency area to seek the views of people regarding crime and policing in that area with the PCC present. In Warwickshire this would mean 6 meetings every quarter.

This would be supported by a monthly meeting of the same group without the PCC to share ideas etc that can then be communicated to the PCC for their information.

This could work in some force areas but I still fail to see how one PCC is going to democratically represent the people of forces such as the Wet Midlands which has a population of nearly 2.8 million and or Thames Valley which has a population of 2.1 million spread over an area of 2,200 miles.

PCC’s cannot afford to follow the parliamentary model of only listening once every 5 years at election time and then relying on that mandate until the next election policing needs change much to quickly for that.

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Are PCC’s the governments Hadrian’s Wall for policing and all other crime related issues?

On the 15th of November Police and Crime Commissioners will be elected for 41 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

On the 16th of November the government will hold a party to celebrate the fact that they now have individuals they can blame for absolutely everything that is crime related.

No more will we be able to point the finger at the Home Office for rising crime, falling detection rates, less police on the streets, the privatisation of policing, anti social behaviour, drugs problems, court problems, victim problems etc.

You name it your local PCC will be to blame.

It’s a brilliant ploy at a time when the government will need to distance themselves from the changes they are introducing and the consequences that will inevitably result.

It is reported that crime has fallen in recent years following increases in police numbers and economic prosperity and almost inevitably it will rise following falls in police numbers and decreasing economic prosperity. There is always a lag between cause and effect and the government are reaping the benefits of the increases and are about to jump the responsibility ship before  the detrimental effects of their policies become reality.

The adverts and much of the publicity have focused on the PCC’s role in terms of the police i.e. hiring and firing chief constables, setting the budget, and producing the policing plan. They also have a much wider remit which includes “addressing levels of antisocial behaviour, reducing numbers of victims, and generally improving public confidence in criminal justice agencies and feelings of safety”. See the Criminal Justice Alliance PCC briefing for further details.

While I do not think that PCC’s were introduced solely for this purpose they will provide a convenient deflector shield for the government who will still pass the laws and provide much of the money for fighting crime but will be able to point at PCC’s and state that they are responsible for the way policing and crime reduction is tackled on a local basis.

We can only wait and see whether PCC’s do indeed become the Governments Hadrian’s wall against complaints about crime and policing.

Come the next election the government will either deflect blame for all things crime related onto the democratically elected PCC’s or if crime has fallen they will claim success for introducing PCC’s.

Something of a win win situation for them and a win lose situation for PCC’s!

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PCC elections – exactly four weeks to go!

It is now only 4 weeks until the electorate in England and Wales get the chance to elect their local Police and Crime commissioner. I have written a couple of posts on this subject, discussed the role on numerous occasions on twitter and have reached a few tentative conclusions regarding this new and somewhat controversial political appointment.

It is my view that independents will have a hard time getting elected – they are up against organised political party machinery which whatever anybody says are able to utilise their members to pound the streets leafletting , door knocking etc.

However the main difficulty for independents will arise where more than one is standing in a force area. Most are standing on a keep politics out of policing ticket and so have much the same message. This will I believe result in the independent vote being fairly evenly divided across the independent candidates in that force area.

The division of the vote will leave the way open for the usual suspects to take first and second place in the first round. The eventual winner will then be decided by the second preference votes of the now rejected independent candidates.

The only areas where independents will have a realistic chance are those where only one is standing and where one of the main parties is not standing for whatever reason. I believe that the Liberal Democrats are not declaring candidates in all police force areas but cannot verify this until the list of official candidates is declared.

Predictions for the turnout remain low and I & others have used this as a no mandate argument against PCC’s. However it is now clear to me that whether or not they have a mandate is irrelevant. They are going to be elected and will then be in charge of the police budget set the policing priorities & will take on a range of other crime reduction responsibilities.

They will also become the democratic voice for the population of the police force they are elected to. In Warwickshire this means around 500,000 people, in Thames valley 2.5 million people and in the West Midlands 2.8 million people.

How is one person supposed to democratically represent the views of all those people? I do not believe that this is possible and so they will either have to gather a range of advisors around them to connect with the public or just stick to their  manifesto pledges that a relatively small percentage of the population may have voted for.

So far the governments campaign has been completely underwhelming the advert is just about policing and makes no mention of the other aspects of the role. They keep on about the removal of the ‘evil’ Police Authority and forget to mention the new Police and Crime panel (very similar to a Police Authority) and will not have details of candidates available on their website until the 28th of October. This is in my opinion an appalling level of commitment to what was a main feature of conservative policy for the general election as discussed in this Telegraph article.

Perhaps they have realised just how little interest there is in PCC’s and so do not want to waste money on it?

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The Marked Register – another advantage for political party PCC candidates?

Whenever you vote at an election someone takes your electoral role number and marks it off on a register before handing you the voting form.  Although I have often wondered what use that information is put too it is only this week that I have come to understand what a useful tool this information can be to those seeking election whether its as an M.P., Councillor or now as a PCC.

After an election candidates and agents can purchase copies of the Marked Register to see who voted in a particular county, city, town, village, street etc. On its own this is helpful because it gives an indication as to whose doors would be politicians should be knocking on in future elections.

However where it really comes into its own is when the Marked Register is compared with the results of canvassing for previous elections. If a political party has a list of those people who said they would vote for them and a list of those who actually voted on election day  they can compare lists and identify those people who actually voted on the day and who therefore may have voted for them.

It is true that those identified may not have actually voted for the particular party on the day  but it does provide a targeted list of people to visit prior to the next election. Visiting those people who actually go out and vote is a much better use of time than blanket visiting every residence in an attempt to connect with those who actually vote.

Assuming that Independent candidates can access the Marked Register they can identify who voted and so have something of a target audience to visit in pre election canvassing but they do not have a list of voters who are likely to vote for them because this is the first PCC election and so the data does not exist.

In the forthcoming PCC elections this clearly gives another advantage to those standing for political parties as providing they have done their research they will know who they should visit as both probable voters and probable supporters.

This will make it even more difficult for independent candidates to win these elections and demonstrates that in my opinion this is clearly not a level playing field.

As Tom Waterhouse points out it is the well prepared candidates who will have the best chance.

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Police and Crime Commissioners out with the old in with the new (ish)!

Leaving aside all the hype and propaganda there is in my opinion not very much difference between the existing and new arrangements for managing the police.

I have compared below the existing Police Authority arrangements with the soon to be introduced Police and crime Commissioner arrangements.

The one key difference is that the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) will be elected by the public within the police area for which the PCC will be responsible. There is also a shift in powers from the existing police authority a collective group of people to the PCC one individual as set out below. However the PCC’s work will be scrutinised by the Crime and Police panel and are in effect exercising a similar role to that of the Police Authority?

I have taken the information reproduced below from the information available for the West Midlands police area specifically http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/wmpcp & http://www.west-midlands-pa.gov.uk/index.asp

The existing Police Authority has the following responsibilities and duties:

“While the overriding statutory duty is to secure an efficient and effective police force for its area, the Authority has a number of other duties:

Setting local objectives, reflecting national objectives set by the Home Secretary and approving the Policing Plan

Ensuring that Best Value is achieved in every area of force activity

Paying regard to the need to reduce crime and disorder and appoint representatives to each Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in our area; there are seven in the West Midlands, one for each of the unitary authorities that constitute the West Midlands

Setting the budget requirement each year and setting a precept as an element of the Council Tax to fund local policing and monitor expenditure and income against budget

Ensuring that arrangements exist for consulting the public on matters concerning the policing of the area and for obtaining public co-operation with the police in crime prevention

Appointing Chief Officers

Making arrangements for one or more of its members to attend local council meetings to take questions from local authority members on the discharge of the functions of the Authority

Publishing its plans and accounts

Operating a custody visiting scheme for the area”

The current West Midlands Police Authority consists of seventeen members eight of whom are Councillors & nine independent members three of whom are Justices of the Peace and one other of the independent members is the current Chair of the Police authority

Looking at the new arrangements the PCC will:

“Set the police budget and the policing precept (the “policing precept” is the part of local council tax that goes to the police)

Consult the public, including victims of crime, on policing and community safety

Write and implement policing and crime plans that include strategic objectives and targets

Work with partners on community safety and policing

Monitor police performance and hold the Chief Constable to account

Monitor how the police deal with complaints

Appoint a Deputy PCC if desired

The existing police authority will be replaced by the Police and Crime Panel whose responsibilities will be to hold the Commissioner to account and scrutinise their work.

The PCP will act as a critical friend to the Commissioner – assisting them through independent challenge.

The Panel has a number of powers and responsibilities, including:

  • Reviewing the draft Police and Crime Plan to ensure local priorities have been considered
  • Scrutinising the Commissioner’s Annual Report
  • Scrutinising the decisions and actions of the Commissioner
  • Reviewing, and potentially vetoing, the Commissioner’s proposed policing precept*
  • Holding confirmation hearings for the proposed appointment of a Chief Constable and senior support staff

*the money collected from Council Tax for policing

The West Midlands Police and Crime Panel will be made up of twelve local councillors from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and two co-opted independent members. The Panel will be appointing two local people as independent members through an open recruitment process.”

In summary the Police and Crime Panel has more councillors, less independents, no JP’s and totals 16 individuals – If we add the PCC we arrive at the same number of members that make up the existing Police Authority

We have a shift in the balance of power from the collective Police Authority to the individual elected Police and Crime Commissioner, no change in numbers although the Police and Crime panel will have less independent members, more councillors and the added cost of the elections at some £75 million.

You will be pleased to note that “The government has said that the total running costs for PCCs will be no greater than the total cost of the police authorities they replace”.

I appreciate that the arrangements are not the same and that a directly elected official is being added to the mix but is it really going to make that much of a difference when the actual duties remain more or less the same?

There has to be the possibility that the new arrangements may actually result in a less democratic process as the number of councillors increase and the independents decrease creating a stronger political party presence within the Crime and Police panel, and who may be able to influence or be influenced by the PCC.

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Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Warwickshire – some low turnout predictions.

I have been thinking about the possibility of a low turnout in Novembers Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) elections and trying understand why Nick Herbert MP & Blair Gibbs seem to be so reluctant to answer questions about this subject.

In an effort to understand what a low turnout could mean I have made some predictions for Warwickshire my force as detailed below.  What these illustrate to me is that a candidate may not need that many votes to be elected. A concerted campaign in one or two  constituencies could be sufficient to win the election.

Who benefits the most from a low turnout in the elections remains to be seen but perhaps it explains Nick Herbert MP’s recent Ignore the criticisms of Police and crime Commissioners – we are giving the people a voice article at Conservative Home?

Several commentators are predicting a low turnout of between 20 and 30% for the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections this November.Assuming that there is a low turnout I have tried to predict how many votes a candidate may need to become the first PCC in Warwickshire my own constabulary area?

The voting system in use is a variation of the Supplementary vote system. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the first preference votes they are elected as the PCC – this is in effect the standard first past the post system. This system is also used if there are only 2 candidates.

If there are more than 2 candidates & no one candidate receives the 50%+ necessary at the first count the second choices of voters are added to the first choice votes and the candidate who receives the most votes wins.

I have decided to use the the results from the General election in 2010 as my benchmark for the predictions. Although the numbers involved in terms of the electorate may have changed slightly they are sufficiently recent to be used to calculate the number of votes a candidate might need to become the PCC.

Set out below are figures from the General election:

Constituency                           Turnout           Electorate    Percentage

Kenilworth and Southam        48,431              64362          75.25%

North Warwickshire               47265               70138          67.39%

Nuneaton                                 44,646                67837        65.81%

Rugby                                       47468               68914         68.88%

Stratford upon Avon              50,542             69,517         72.70%

Warwick and Leamington     49032              67800         72.32%

Overall Totals                        287384            408568       70.34%

The total eligible electorate at the 2010 election was 408568 & it is this number that I will use to determine the possible votes required in four  different scenarios consisting of two first past the post scenarios with turnouts of 20%, and of 30% & two Supplementary vote scenarios with three and four candidates again using turnouts of 20 and 30% as detailed below:

A 20% turnout will yield 81714 votes and a 30% turnout 122570 votes.

In the first past the post scenarios the winning candidate needs to achieve just over 50% of the vote to win, with a 20% turnout that will require 40857(+) votes and with a 30% turnout 61286(+) votes. This equates to approximately ten and fifteen percent of the eligible electorate respectively.

The permutations under the supplementary vote system are almost endless; however the worst case scenario would see an almost equal divide of the votes between the candidates with no one casting a second preference vote.

In this scenario with 3 candidates standing the winning percentage of votes would be around 34% of the turnout assuming the votes are evenly spread across the 3 candidates.  This would equate to 27783 votes at 20% turnout and 41674 votes at 30% turnout.

Keeping with the no second preference votes cast scenario above with 4 candidates standing for election the minimum winning percentage of votes required will be approximately 26% of the turnout this would equate to 21246 votes at 20% turnout and 31868 votes at 30% turnout.

Based on these scenarios it is conceivable that if the turnout is as low as 20% and if my worst case scenario comes true that a PCC could be elected with under 22000 votes or 5.3% of the eligible electorate.

In my best case scenario whereby the candidate achieves just over 50% of the vote at a 30% turnout the PCC is elected by 15% of the eligible electorate.

I accept that these are all low turnout worst case scenarios and in reality the turnout and the votes cast could be much higher. If for example the turnout matched the general election  of 70% the minimum votes required for a first past the post win would be 143000 and in an equal split four candidate supplementary vote win the minimum votes would be 71500 (at just over 25%).

However it is possible that a low turnout scenario may apply and in these cases a PCC could be elected on just 5, 10 or 15% of the eligible electorate.

I accept that that is the system and that they have won the election and the right to be the first PCC but how that translates into a credible valid mandate remains to be seen.

Perhaps this is why Nick Herbert and Blair Gibbs have avoided answering the question?

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