'Shambolic' police commissioner poll blasted as under 14 per cent bother to vote in Greater Manchester
The region went to the polls yesterday to choose a £100,000-a-year police and crime commissioner (PCC) – who will have the power to set police budgets and priorities and hire or fire the chief constable.
The count is not due to take place until this afternoon.
But turnout figures show that fewer than 15 per cent cast their vote in all but one of the ten local authority areas in Greater Manchester. The overall turnout figure was 13.9 per cent.
|Authority||PCC turnout %|
|Gtr Mcr average||13.9|
Turnout was highest in Trafford and and lowest in Wigan (11.4pc). In Manchester it was 12.5pc and in Oldham 12.6pc.
Similar PCC elections across the rest of the country reported similarly low levels of participation – threatening to undermine the democratic legitimacy of the winners.
Labour were quick to blame coalition ministers for failing to properly publicise the votes for elected police chiefs. No taxpayer-funded electoral leaflets were sent out, leaving many voters complaining that they had no idea who their candidates were, or what they stood for.
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, said: "I think you cannot blame the candidates, who have put a lot of work into it.
"You have to ask questions about the government. This was a flagship reform and the organisation has been shambolic.
"These are important jobs that are being replaced.
"I think the government has to tell us what their ambition was for the turnout."
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "This election has been a comedy of errors from start to finish.
"Polling stations are standing empty because voters knew next to nothing about the role, let alone the candidates they were expected to pick from.
"The Home Office has operated under the assumption that 'if you build it they will come'. Democracy just doesn't work that way. There have been avoidable errors at every step, and those responsible should be held to account."
Five candidates stood to be Greater Manchester's PCC, including long-term Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd (Labour), former policeman Matt Gallagher (Lib Dem), senior councillor Michael Winstanley (Conservative), barrister Steven Woolfe (UKIP), and magistrate Roy Warren (Independent).
The results were expected to be announced at around 2pm.
M.E.N. readers took to Twitter to share their experiences of empty polling stations around the region.
One man - a caretaker at a polling station - reported seeing just four voters arrive during the whole morning.
Reader Robin Usher said he had been the fourth voter when he turned up at Milnrow Cricket Club at 10.15am – more than three hours after the polls opened. Other readers reported eerily quiet polling stations everywhere from Monton in Salford to Buxton in Derbyshire.
Turnout was expected to be significantly higher in Manchester Central – where a parliamentary by-election was also being held yesterday.
The seat was vacated by Labour’s Tony Lloyd so he could stand for the post of PCC.
And voters in the Manchester ward of Ardwick had a THIRD vote, too – with a council by-election on top of the parliamentary and PCC polls.
At St Luke’s church hall in Ardwick, voters reported a distinct lack of queues. Bilal Shafi, 34, said: “Voting is the most important thing in life. This is the only tool we have to make our voices heard.
“There were less people than I expected in the polling station. But it’s a working day, so people might come later on.”