Elected Police Commissioners: how the elections would work

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.

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This entry was posted in Election law and News.


  • Paul Kennedy 5th Dec '10 - 5:34pm

    Just how much influence do we have in this so-called Coalition Government if the Tories can implement their wild west policing plan without even giving us a proper voting system?

  • Let me get this right.

    We currently have County Police Authorities comprising of around eight councillors, who’ve been elected, plus around eight independent members from within the local community, and one magistrate.

    And these are going to be replaced* with one elected commissioner.

    How is shifting all the power to one person an improvement?

    *or the commissioner will have powers over the Police Authority.

  • What happens if, due to a low turn-out for example, a member of the BNP gets elected?

  • Tony Greaves 5th Dec '10 - 6:35pm

    The Commissioners will be the police authority.

    This rubbish will be a good test of how far LDs in government can stop dangerous Tory legislation. Unfortunately I am not confident the Labour Party will be sound on all this.

    The Supplementary Vote is a very bad system. It is the kind of detail that a competent LD minister, or a workable filtering system at top level, should have been able to stop. Unfortunately I fear that half the people we have in positions of SPADs etc are useless.

    Tony Greaves

  • Nick (not Clegg) 5th Dec '10 - 9:20pm

    I understand STV,I understand AV. I even understood what AV+ would have been. Would someone please explain what the Supplementary Vote is?

  • Tony Greaves 6th Dec '10 - 3:36pm

    There are a number of things wrong with the SV (which
    was dreamed up for the London Mayor by Labour policy plonks in Number 10 who didn’t think people could count).

    Some people vote for the same candidate in both columns.

    Some people only vote for one candidate (the natural thing to do with a X ballot).

    A lot of the people who do not vote for one of the top two cast their second X for a candidate who is not in the top two. Their second preference is therefore not counted.

    As a result of these problems, many votes are not transferable and are wasted – in the case of the third category of people this is not any fault of theirs.

    Lord Campbell-Savours is a great fan of SV and is trying to get it on the ballot paper for the AV referendum!

    Tony Greaves

  • Peter Burrows 6th Dec '10 - 6:21pm

    This measure is centralist & allows the concentration of power in the hands of one person. It makes a sham of any kind of link between the community & the police & does nothing in terms of accountability . All in all this is American style politics & is fundamentally Illiberal & should be opposed .

  • As a constituent,I object to elected police commissioners.
    Mrs Wallace

  • Robert Franks 8th May '11 - 9:09pm

    SV is AV without AV’s obvious silly flaws. 1. SV is simple to understand for most people (being only two rounds) and after a few years it would be second nature in habituation for voters; 2. Cheap and quick to get a result, being only two rounds on election night; 3. Crucially maintains one person one vote; 4. Eventual winner roughly getting a more accountable 50% of the vote (anyway AV’s precise over 50% principled mandate doesn’t count those who didn’t vote); 5. Not alien to British Culture, being already established in mayoral elections throughout the UK; 6. While your vote effectively doesn’t count in first past the post in opposing a safe seat (feeling completely and utterly disempowered), SV counters this, with a feeling of causation and empowerment to the voter in all but the most safest seats, so more people are likely to get out and vote; 7. Most voters aren’t silly and can roughly guess who would finish in the top two places after round one, while in AV with all its potential mind-numbing complex multiple rounds, the voter cannot clearly see how their preferences actually influenced the final outcome and what part they played: AV was fair game for the NO campaign in the referendum to pick flaws in. SV could counter these criticisms resulting in a voting system with more Liberal Seats in parliament, with much all-round party referendum support including the right (e.g. many UKIP voters using Conservative for their second preference vote in SV) to win a referendum.

  • John Wrexham 11th Dec '11 - 2:36pm

    At least with SV, everyone who doesn’t vote for the two leading candidates can have a say in the second round. AV is a daft idea as it would give the casting votes to voters for fringe parties like the BNP, UKIP and whatever obscure socialist-communist sects are still around, because those are the parties that would be knocked out first. Why should they get the first say over more centrist and popular parties coming third or fourth? I know the Lib Dems are a generous bunch but your support for AV is still hard to understand. What ever happened to STV or has that been dropped as a principle as well?

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