Commissioner election criticised as shambles

WEST Yorkshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner was elected amid widespread criticism that the elections were a “mess”.

Mark Burns-Williamson, the former chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA), was elected into the new role last Friday with 114,736 votes.

It gives him the power to hire and fire the chief constable, set the force’s budget and produce a crime plan for West Yorkshire.

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But the Home Office, which is understood to have spent £100m on introducing the new system, has been criticised for not giving prospective voters enough information.

Just 13.91 per cent cast their vote in West Yorkshire, and more than 8,000 ballot papers were spoilt. And this week the Electoral Commission announced there would be a review into how the elections were conducted.

Pontefract MP Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The Government has made a real mess of these elections, spending £100m that they could have spent on 3,000 police officers instead. Why on earth did David Cameron decide to hold these elections in November without giving people any proper information?”

Lib Dem candidate Andrew Marchington said many prospective voters had complained about a lack of information and thought they were being asked to elect a chief constable.

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Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett has also questioned the timing of the election.

But the Home Office said turnout would grow in future elections as people saw the “real impact” of the PCC.

A spokeswoman said: “More than 5m people have turned out to vote for PCCs giving them an infinitely bigger mandate than the unelected and invisible police authorities they are replacing.”

Mr Burns-Williamson will be offered a salary of £100,000 but said he would not take the full amount. He said he would not allow private companies to take over core policing and said his first priority was to visit all neighbourhood policing teams.

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He said: “My work begins now, to build trust and transparency and to improve policing. There was clearly some confusion over the system and we all wanted a better turnout, but to get more than 100,000 votes is very humbling.”

Mr Burns-Williamson will be scrutinised by an independent police and crime panel.

Wakefield Council said it estimated that at least £400,000 had been spent on running the election in Wakefield. But the overall cost for West Yorkshire was still being calculated.

Independent candidate Cedric Christie came second with 71,876 votes, ahead of Mr Marchington and Conservative candidate Geraldine Carter.