The election for Devon and Cornwall’s first ever police and crime commissioner cost £800,000, it has finally emerged, less than half that originally forecast.
The bill for the national November 2012 poll – estimated at £75 million by Prime Minister David Cameron – was one of many complaints about the Government’s flagship policing policy, particularly at a time of deep cuts to budgets.
In Devon and Cornwall, forecasts from the 12 local authorities in the region put the election bill at £1.9 million.
However Cornwall Council, which organised the election, has now confirmed that the election cost taxpayers £800,000 which has now been reclaimed from the Home Office.
Ten candidates, the highest number in the country, stood for election for the landmark post which was secured by Conservative Tony Hogg.
Among the other candidates was independent Brian Greenslade, former chairman of the now redundant police authority and a prominent Devon councillor, who came second.
Mr Greenslade admitted he was “somewhat surprised” at the final cost given initial estimates.
“From the public purse point of view it is obviously good news,” Mr Greenslade said. “But it is still £800,000 that was spent on an election that the public didn’t want.
“It would have been better spent on frontline policing which I think is something the public would have voted for.”
The ballot came at a pivotal moment for the force which was downsizing to meet budget cuts of £51 million by 2015.
Officer numbers have fallen from a high of 3,500 to just over 3,000 while some 400 civilian staff have also been lost.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has been among Mr Hogg’s critics, particularly for the increasing cost of his office.
Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts, branch chairman in Devon and Cornwall, said £800,000 would have paid for some 25 officers for a year.
“It is a huge amount of money when budgets are being cut so hard,” Sgt Rabbitts said. “Is it adding value? Is it value for money? It just seems like more bureaucracy.”
The Government introduced the post, saying the American-style role would bring a level of democracy and accountability never seen in local policing before.
In an interview to mark the first anniversary of the elections, Police Minister Damian Green said the investment in reform had been worthwhile.
“For the first time, people have got direct input, they have got a face and a name they can go to, who is holding the police to account,” he said.
“I think one of the effects we have seen over the past year, since the elections, is that people are much more interested then they used to be in how the police are performing and what can be done about it and that is because they have got an individual, who is democratically elected, whose sole job is to hold the police to account.”