This Thursday those of us in England and Wales outside of London get to vote for our choice of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Well done if you haven’t clicked away already. As far as unsexy blog posts I’ve written go, this will probably rank near the top, but there is a point to me writing this as will hopefully become clear.
I’ve listened to radio broadcasts on this subject and visited the Government’s Choose my PCC website to try to make sense of what’s going on and find out something about my local candidates. Having done all this I’m still not exactly sure what my PCC will be doing once they’re elected and what their role will and won’t include. Even when I’ve heard politicians including the Home Secretary, Theresa May, speak on this they don’t appear to be able to explain it in simple language and answer some basic questions hat have been thrown at them. Hmmm.
Given the fact that I’ve made an effort to find out what’s going on and I’ve still been left scratching my head, it doesn’t bode well for those less conscientious taking an interest in the vote on the 15th. The turnout is predicted to be around 18.5% by the Electoral Reform Society, which won’t produce a great mandate for those who are elected. I just don’t have a good feeling about this whole process. Admittedly with this sort of thing, until the system is up and running the majority of us aren’t going to fully understand it, so when the next round of elections come our way in 2016, maybe by then we’ll finally be clued up about what a PCC actually is.
Recently I spoke to someone high up in one of the police forces who is trying to put everything in place for their new PCC once they’re in place and they’ve described it all as a shambles that’s been ill thought through. They explained how the old Police Authorities which are being replaced by the new PCCs were made up of locally elected councillors, so the element of democracy has always been there. They fear that the process will now become more political, with some PCC candidates coming in with agendas beyond what is best for local residents and communities. It’s also extremely difficult knowing who will do a good job in the role. It would help if we voted in people who had some understanding of how police forces are run and who will be able to do the job effectively and with understanding. This is more important to me than any party loyalties they might have. Unfortunately though, the information given by the candidates as to their suitability is sparse to say the least. Complaints that potential independent candidates have been put off by the costs also seem justified. It costs £5000 just to stand plus you have all the additional costs of publicity and PR, which quickly add up. Is this really the best way we can put democracy into action as a nation?
OK, moan over. Now for the (sort of) positive.
It’s inevitable that the new PCCs will be exposed to plenty of lobbying by groups interested in getting a slice of the Police budget cake allocated to their causes. This is not necessarily a bad thing although as is often the case, those who shout loudest tend to get the most attention even if what they’re promoting isn’t of greatest importance or need. We can’t ignore this inevitability and therefore it’s been pleasing to see Christian organisations making the most of the opportunity.
Christian Concern has provided a really useful form that automatically sets up emails to send to all of your PCC candidates. They provide content for the email asking the candidate to respond to the questions of whether they support the freedom of Christians to speak openly and publicly about faith issues and also whether they support the presence and work of Christians in their local community (e.g. Street Pastors and work with homeless people) recognising the need for them to do it whilst publicly maintaining their Christian ethos. You can edit the emails individually to say what you like before you send them.
Stop the Traffik, CARE and Hope for Justice have teamed up to raise the issue of human trafficking and are asking people to contact their local candidates to commit to tackling it in their area. Probably the most helpful site is CARE’s Make the Cross Count PCC election page which gives advice and help about contacting candidates before the election and also the successful PCC after the election asking them to take appropriate action to tackle trafficking. Hope for Justice also have sound advice directly for Police and Crime Commissioners that is well thought through and explained.
Churches often have a good understanding of their local communities. It makes sense for them to aim to get to know the new PCCs once they have started in their roles. The issues raised above are important and churches and Christians have a great opportunity to press for underrepresented justice issues to be taken seriously. All the above organisations are committed to this, but they need our support. Together as a Church we have a strong voice. This is a chance to make it heard.
Windows 8 users may need to go to the Vimeo page to watch this.