Monday, 19 March 2012

Who gets to be in charge of the red telephone?

I have been scratching my brains as to why there is so little information on the newly created police commissioners, especially since the elections are in November which is a lot closer than you think.  Nobody as far as I know has stepped up for the Thames Valley vacancy. I thought it might be the outgoing leader of OCC but Keith has ruled himself out.  It is a hugely important job, The Thames Valley police authority covers Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire which between them have a combined population of around 2.2 million and the force has 8065 employees. The candidate will be on a salary of around 80k and I presume will have a four year term of office. 

Since there was so little information and nobody has announced they were running yet I fired off a email to the electoral commission who I'm delighted to say emailed back the next day with some information which I have pasted below:

The Government has not yet confirmed the rules that will apply to standing for election, or campaign spending and donations at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The Electoral Commission anticipates that there will be: 
  • Rules about who can stand for election and the nomination process
  • Limits on spending by individual candidates
  • Limits on spending by people and organisations who campaign for or against individual candidates (non-party campaigners), in the run-up to the elections
  • Rules about who candidates can accept donations from to support their campaigns in the run-up to the elections
  • There may also be rules for political parties and non-party campaigners who support or oppose groups of candidates. 

We will produce guidance for candidates and agents, as soon as we can, currently we are waiting for rules to be finalised and agreed by Parliament. 

The most interesting thing is they don't have the confirmed rules yet. The police reform and social responsibility act received royal assent on the 15 September 2011 so I have no idea why the electoral commission is still waiting on the home office for this. It hardly smacks of great government though.

Having had a quick skim of the bill the role will be elected under the simple majority system, unless there are three or more candidates then the voting switches to supplementary vote which allows a first and second preference vote. All seems a bit odd.

I used to be all for more democratic accountability with elector mayors etc but having watched the antics of Boris and Ken and the frankly dreadful mayor of Doncaster I'm not so sure anymore. The big risk is the police commissioner will be too political and too populist when really for policing a more measured and impartial view should be taken on such things. On the plus side it does mean people will know where the buck stops but we shall see how it pans out. My only experience of commissioners is from The Wire where they are all corrupt or Commissioner Gordon who was useless and relied too much on the dark knight to sort out Gotham. 

Below is a link to the bill if you have insomnia or are like me interested in these sorts of things: 

A link to the home office page where the person who came up with that orange colour should be sacked:

A thing in the indy from a couple of months ago, about the Thames Valley role:

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