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MP says police vote is 'a farce'

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 22, 2012

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SPARE a thought for the three members of staff looking after the polling booth at Topsham Town Football Club – who dealt with less than 50 voters – as apathy became the big winner of the police and crime commissioner elections.

The polling station off Topsham Road is reported to have had the lowest turnout of all the 56 in the city – at fewer than 10 per cent.

Its coverage area includes the Rydons and Newport Park – and with voting open from 7am to 10pm each staff member dealt with an average of just one voter an hour.

After a count that lasted all day last Friday until the result was announced at close to midnight, Conservative candidate Tony Hogg was named the winner among the 10 prospective PCCs.

His new job comes with an £85,000 salary and the power to set policing policy and budget in Devon and Cornwall, as well as the power to hire and fire the chief constable.

But concern has been expressed about how he can claim any sort of mandate. The elections have been labelled a "farce" with an overall turnout of just 15.44 per cent across Exeter.

John Street, returning officer for Exeter City Council, said they were expecting it to be low, but not plummet to the unprecedented depths it did.

He said: "It was certainly the lowest turnout in any election I have been involved with in more than 20 years of organising elections.

"The lowest area was the Topsham Town Football Club, where three staff members dealt with fewer than 50 voters during the whole day. It is difficult to say precisely, but that figure would normally be well into the hundreds for the local or general elections."

The vote and the count saw Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw launched a scathing attack on the process of elections

He said: "The turnout is absolutely shocking and it shows what a complete farce this whole process has been. It discredits the whole process and the result. The Government needs to go back and look at this all again.

"To try to run a police service on a mandate of 15 per cent turnout is extremely difficult. The legitimacy of the post will clearly questioned as a result.

"I don't blame the candidates themselves – this rests with the Government. Partly because people don't agree with elected police commissioners generally but the Government has done nothing to explain or sell the policy properly in my view.

"I have also found, when I have been in Exeter, that in the days running up to the vote people did not know who their candidates were and had received no information.

"This is because the Government refused to fund a mail out. They have rightly been castigated by the Electoral Commission.

"How on earth can ordinary voters know who they were and what they stood for? It has been a complete shambles. It was the lowest turnout in history for any election."

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