The publication this week of the Police Reform And Social Responsibility Bill provided, amongst other matters, details of how the planned elections for Police Commissioners (or, strictly speaking, Police and Crime Commissioners) would be conducted.
The overall plan is to treat them like local elections, with the same electorate and the same polling day in May. However, the Bill also applies the ‘standard’ election system for existing directly elected executive posts to Police Commissioners, namely the supplementary vote.
This is likely to be controversial, both because the supplementary vote is very unpopular with many Liberal Democrats and also because the earlier consultation document talked of using a “preferential voting system” and so suggested the alternative vote was a serious option.
To qualify to stand a candidate must be on the electoral register in the relevant area; i.e. the other grounds for qualifying to stand for local council are not replicated in these proposals. The citizenship requirement is the standard British, Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or EU one, which means that the oddity of Mozambicans and Rwandans (members of the Commonwealth despite never being in the British Empire) being able to stand in British elections is now to be extended to Police Commissioners.
The Bill also confirms the government’s plan to have a limit of two four-year terms on elected Police Commissioners. It also proposes to continue the usual system of paying Returning Officers for running elections, even when in reality that means paying already highly paid local council Chief Executives whose roles contain an expectation of out of hours works anyway. However, the moves to restrict such pay in the AV referendum to circumstances where the performance of the Returning Officer has been rated satisfactory or better may yet also be applied to Police Commissioner elections.
With that and the alternative vote also being subjects that MPs or peers can move amendments on, expect to see Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians work to alter the electoral provisions of the Bill even if the principle of elected police commissioners clearly wins through.