A number of candidates standing in Thursday’s Cardiff South and Penarth by-election have expressed their opposition to the Police and Crime Commissioner vote taking place on the same day, with several even encouraging people to abstain from the latter poll.
Welsh voters will have the chance to choose a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for their local force on Thursday as part of the Conservative’s flagship policy to replace the existing police authorities with a publicly elected individual.
The winning candidate will set budgets for their force, decide on policing priorities for the local area, and draw up an annual police and crime plan for the chief constable to follow.
But concerns have been raised about the possibility of a poor turn out for the vote across English and Welsh forces, with suggestions it could be as low as 10%, and some candidates standing in the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election on the same day have branded the PCC vote “a farce”.
At a by-election hustings meeting on Monday night, a member of the public asked the candidates for their views on the PCC poll, pointing out that many voters “do not even want to have that election”.
In his answer, Green Party candidate Anthony Slaughter branded the PCC elections a “shambles and a farce”, and said it was one of the issues causing the most anger on the doorstep during his campaign.
He said: “People feel misinformed, and feel they have been taken for granted. There will be a low turn out.
“My personal view on it is I do not think it is worth while voting, and there needs to be a cut off point below which the [turnout] figure is not valid.”
John Tyrrell, who was representing Socialist Labour candidate Andrew Jordan at the debate, agreed, arguing that for an election to be credible, it needed participation. He said the Coalition Government had “failed on that”.
Luke Nicholas, Plaid Cymru’s candidate for the Cardiff South and Penarth seat, reiterated his party’s opposition to the PCC elections, and said it had not put forward any candidates because of this.
He added that he would not be voting in the PCC election because he did not want to add to its turn out, and urged others to do the same.
He said: “I think it actually damages democracy because people feel it is just another layer of bureaucracy. It is not empowering anybody other than the people who get elected. I would encourage people not to spoil their papers, but to abstain.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Bablin Molik said the police and crime commissioner roles were “not something I am a fan of”, but that she would be voting. However, she added that she would be voting for an independent candidate, as she did not believe the role should be politicised.
Robert Griffiths, standing for the Communist party, said the PCC elections were “all part of the Tory effort to undermine local government”, but said he did think it was important to vote to “keep the worst of the right wing” out of such positions.
But David Melding, representing Conservative candidate Craig Williams, pointed out that if it weren’t for the PCC vote, none of the candidates would be standing in Thursday’s by-election, which was triggered after Labour’s Alun Michael resigned the Cardiff South and Penarth seat he has held for 25 years to contend the South Wales PCC vote.
Vaughan Gething, representing Labour’s candidate Stephen Doughty, had left the debate to attend a prior appointment by the time the issue of the PCC election was discussed.