Elections loom for Police and Crime Commissioners but does anyone care?

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's David Hughes

The famed wit and playwright Oscar Wilde once said: "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

He could have been writing about the region's police and crime commissioners.

According to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) their role is to be "the voice of the people and hold the police to account.

But we have had elected PCCs now for over decade and ever since the first election back in 2012 enthusiasm for the post has been somewhat lacking.

That first election just 1 in 5 eligible voters bothered to trek to the ballot box. The turnout at the last election in 2021 the average turn out was around 1 in 3.

When ITV news Anglia Crews took to the streets of Colchester, Peterborough, Bedford and Bishop's Stortford there was fare to say a general lack of awareness that elections were taking place or of what the role entailed.

So what do Police & Crime Commissioners do?

  • They hold the police to account

  • They set police force priorities

  • They can appoint and sack Chief Constables

  • They also set budgets

  • And some areas like Essex and Northamptonshire they also have additional responsibilty for the Fire Service.

George Freeman, the Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk argues that low turnout might actually be a positive.

"We don’t want a 90% turnout with huge partisan campaigning around the police... we don’t want the chief constable doing public meetings all the time, he’s got an important job to do running it [the constabulary].

"I think they [the PCCs] are working and giving the public an interface to let their views be expressed back to the police but I do think awareness is a bit low."

There are elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in all of the region's police forces on Thursday 2 May 2024 Credit: ITV News Anglia

Labour objected to the creation of the role. The party's view is that more money should be put into actual frontline policing.

Jess Assato, Labour's candidate for the newly named Lowestoft constituency, explains: "Confidence in policing and crime is incredibly low and there’s no surprise for that because knife crime has absolutely rocketed, shoplifting in just the last year has gone up by 32%, so I think it’s actuallyalso to do with the fact people can’t see any change.

"What has actually happened has actually got worse in their local area under Police and Crime Commissioners so I think that’s another thing that’s been reflected there. "

A view echoed by the Liberal Democrats.

Vicoria Collins, the Lib Dem candidate for Harpenden and Berkhampstead, said that in her county of Hertfordshire: "Stats towards the end of last year showed that 80% of burglaries had gone unsolved and a lot of people are worried about things are going unsolved again and again.

"...Millions of pounds can go into the running of these offices and a lot of money is also spent on those elections and actually what we really need is community policing so if we have to make a choice at this time that money would be better spent on community policing solving the crimes that everyday people are facing all the time."

Of course extra investment for policing comes from the Government and the Prime Minister revealed on ITV West Country that a national vote wouldn't take place on May 2, but you can still have your say on local law enforcement.

Candidates have until the 5 April to declare they'll stand in the PCC elections.

  • People still need be registered to vote - and as with all elections they now do need photo ID to cast their ballot.

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