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Police boss Martyn Underhill still mystery to most of his community
THE new role of the Police and Crime Commissioner has come under fire – months on from an election which saw just 15 per cent of voters turn out.
As figures were published showing that almost one in 10 UK voters do not know who their PCC is, an electoral pressure group called for ‘lessons to be learnt’ over the handling of the elections.
The Electoral Reform Society said November’s elections ‘failed both candidates and voters alike’.
Its report found people were ‘left in the dark about who to vote for’ and candidates had been deterred from running by ‘huge deposits, unclear eligibility rules, vast electoral districts and huge campaign costs’.
Of 20 people in Weymouth town centre who were asked by the Echo to name their PCC, none were able to do so.
Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said he agreed with the criticisms of the election in the report by the Electoral Reform Society.
He said that he had met around 3,000 people in public meetings since he took on the role.
Mr Underhill said: “The way the elections were advertised and implemented was appalling.
“The day before the PCC elections, while I was campaigning in Poole and Wimborne, I was meeting people who had no idea what they were about.
“In addition, television advertising was poor and failed to explain the role.
“Despite all these issues I was humbled to win in every area of Dorset.
“I have met around 3,000 people in public meetings and I try to interact with the public every day.”
A poll carried out in the last week of January for the Electoral Reform Society showed that only 11 per cent of people in the UK could correctly name the PCC for their area.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the society, said in the report: “Democratic accountability requires active participation and fair representation.
“The Police and Crime Commissioner elections failed to provide either for candidates or voters.”
The pressure group also called for lessons to be learnt in time for the next PCC elections in May 2016.
It recommends in the report that PCC elections are not held in winter again, to ensure information is posted to voters and to ensure a level playing field for candidates through well-designed elections rules.
Almost 16 per cent of voters turned out during the elections in November in Weymouth and Portland, one of the lowest turnouts in the county.
The West Dorset area had a turnout of 21 per cent.
How new position replaced authority
POLICE and Crime Commissioners replaced the Police Authority as the body to scrutinise police forces.
Their role is to cut crime, promote community safety and represent the views of those living in their area.
Martyn Underhill, who is independent and not affiliated to any political party, was a Detective Chief Inspector with Sussex Police before he retired and moved to Dorset.
While with Sussex Police he worked on the Sarah Payne case and, after his retirement, continued to campaign for child safeguarding issues.
Mr Underhill aims to create PCC forums and surgeries across the county to discuss issues.
For more information visit dorset.pcc.police.uk