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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Only 1 in 3 say they will definitely vote in Cumbria police election - poll

When the Prime Minister comes to Cumbria, you can bet there’s an election looming.

Police photo

Related: The survey answers (.pdf file - opens in new window)

But David Cameron’s visit to Carlisle yesterday is unlikely to persuade voters to turn out in droves to elect a police and crime commissioner.

An opinion poll in the News & Star and on this web site suggests the public have little appetite for the Government’s big idea to revolutionise policing.

Elected police commissioners will replace police authorities across England and Wales. They will have powers to hire and fire chief constables, and to set policing priorities and force budgets.

Four candidates in Cumbria are vying for the role, which attracts a salary of £65,000 a year.

Conservative Richard Rhodes is the favourite.

He must see off the challenge of Labour’s Patrick Leonard, Liberal Democrat Pru Jupe, and of Independent candidate Mary Robinson who believes the post should not be held by a party politician.

That view is shared by most of the 302 people who took part in our poll.

Eighty-seven per cent were worried that having a politician in charge might politicise the police force.

A hefty 77 per cent were concerned that too much power would be vested in one person.

Only 20 per cent thought police and crime commissioners were a good idea and just 11 per cent thought they would have a beneficial effect in bringing down crime.

The statistic that most worries the Government, however, is the one for voter turnout.

In our poll, 88 per cent said they normally vote in national or local elections but only 35 per cent were planning to vote for the police and crime commissioner. In reality, the turnout is likely to be lower still.

Professor Mike Tonge, head of the University of Cumbria’s Institute of Policing and Partnerships, believes that lack of publicity about the election means the figure will be below 20 per cent.

The former Gwent chief constable told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “Fewer than one in five people know this [election] is taking place.

“If we get an 18 per cent turnout it really will cause doubt in terms of the principle of electing people to represent the public in holding their chief constable to account.”

Mr Cameron ducked the question when it was put to him.

The Prime Minister said: “It is pointless to have a debate about turnout before the election has taken place. It’s a new post. I challenge you to go out and find anyone who knows what the police authority do.

“We will have a local law-and-order champion who everybody knows about.

“We are encouraging people to take part and vote and have real accountability of the police, who in Cumbria do an excellent job.”

Elections are taking place across England and Wales except in London where the Metropolitan Police is already answerable to an individual – elected mayor Boris Johnson.

Mr Cameron said: “The one place where we have a single identifiable person is London and it has been successful.

“It is always difficult to explain change to people. In four years time I will come back and everyone will know the name of the police and crime commissioner – hopefully it will be Richard Rhodes.”

Our poll reveals that 55 per cent of voters want to see more police on the streets and 48 per cent believe that anti-social behaviour is the biggest law-and-order issue in their area.

Mr Cameron accepts, however, that whoever is elected in Cumbria will not have extra money to go out and recruit more police officers.

He said: “We spend a huge amount of money on policing. It is properly resourced but like other public services they are having to do more with less.

“There were 2,000 fewer victims of crime in Cumbria last year than when the Government came into office. It proves you can do more with less.

“The additional transparency of having one person to be accountable will help progress this agenda even further.”

Replay our webchat with Cumbria’s crime commissioner candidates

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