Police Commissioners: Polls In England And Wales

Glen Oglaza, Political Correspondent
Police Commissioners: Polls In England And Wales

The first ever elections for police and crime commissioners are taking place in 41 forces across England and Wales.

The latest turnout projections vary between a high of 28% and a low of just 15% in some areas.

These are new elections for a new role with different constituencies to any other election.

Those elected will wield a lot of power and they will be paid up to £100,000 a year, controlling budgets worth a total of £8bn.

They will replace the existing police authorities as the watchdog of their local police forces, which means control of police budgets and powers to hire and fire chief constables.

Supporters of the idea say it is far more democratic and that, after health and education reforms, the turn of the police is long overdue.

However, opponents fear the newly-elected politicians will clash with their chief constables and say the move is hard to justify at a time when thousands of frontline officers' jobs are at risk.

The largest electoral area is the West Midlands, with nearly two million people eligible to vote, while another 12 police force areas have more than one million eligible to vote.

There is no election in London, where the Mayor has responsibility for the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Corporation controls The City of London Police.

But that has not stopped former Met Chief Lord Blair from urging people not to vote.

He told Sky News: "I've never said this before but I actually hope people don't vote because that is the only way we are going to stop this."

Although there are one of two familiar faces, including Labour's former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in Humberside and Conservative former Northern Ireland Minister Michael Mates in Hampshire, the vast majority of candidates are unknown to most - and the overwhelming majority have no experience of policing issues.

Indeed, of the 192 candidates standing around the country, only three have experience of serving on a police authority or are former police officers.

Despite that, they will draw up a police budget and a "police and crime plan" within weeks of taking office.

The election of these powerful new figures will be held under the supplementary voting system.

This means voters choose their first and second preferences and, unless a candidate wins 50% or more of the first choice votes in the first round, the top two candidates progress.

The rest are eliminated with their second preferences distributed among the surviving two.

The votes will be counted on Friday, with most results due by the end of that afternoon.