Voting in Radlett on 2 May

Calm down, it’s a really boring one.

Party control of the authorities electing PCCs in May (Institute of Government)

On Thursday 2 May there are local elections in many parts of England. In London, a couple of miles down the road from here, they’ve got all the excitement of a Mayoral election. In fact, there are elections in about a third of English councils (107 out of 317), also in 14 unitary authorities, 28 metropolitan boroughs and 34 district councils (details from the Institute for Government). Not here, though. Sorry.

But we do get to vote for something, right?

Here in Radlett we get to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Absolutely the most boring election possible, right? Few people bother to vote in Police Commissioner elections. At the last PCC election in Hertfordshire, in 2021, the turnout was a fairly respectable 37%, a bit more than half the turnout at the 2019 general election in Hertsmere (70.6%), but that was because the election was on the same day as local authority elections. Turnout will be much lower this time. We can’t believe we’re even typing this. It’s so boring.

The whole idea of a Police and Crime Commissioner is a very recent one – the first ones were elected in 2012. The Conservative government (this is the same government that’s currently sending dick pics to strangers and allegedly getting dogs drunk) thought that introducing explicitly political PCCs would give them an advantage. And they weren’t wrong. In 2021 (a year late because of the pandemic), 76.9% of Police Commissioners elected in England and Wales were Conservatives. What’s less clear is how useful they are. We think it would be safe to say that the jury’s still out.

We’d probably all be a bit more interested if there was any evidence the PCCs have improved anything. The Local Government Association, reporting in 2020, says the evidence is uncertain. The PCCs themselves, understandably enough, think they’re doing a great job and, in their 2021 report (PDF) list many positive actions up and down the country – for instance the Beacon Fraud Hub set up here in Hertfordshire in 2019 that helps fraud victims retrieve money from crims – over £1.1 million by the time of the report. We’ve been searching for independent evidence of the usefulness of PCCs. So far no luck. If you know of any, please share it in a comment. Perhaps they just need a few more years.

What the PCCs do seem to have done is given the governance of policing a slightly higher profile. Police Authorities, the somewhat bureaucratic institutions they replaced, had some formal independence but had a reputation for being ineffective talking shops and most people didn’t even know they existed. Even more boring. In 2016, only 8% of electors could name their PCC, though, and it seems likely that a clear majority of people still wouldn’t be able to. Can you?

Who’s who?

Hertfordshire’s current Police and Crime Commissioner, former financial adviser David Lloyd, is one of the longest serving in the country. He’s been in the role since the very first election in 2012. But he’s off to a research job at Birmingham University. The Tory candidate for the role on 2 May will be Jonathan Ash-Edwards, a former council leader. He’ll certainly win. There are also candidates from the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Here’s a handy PDF with details of all the candidates.

And don’t forget your voter ID. You won’t be allowed to vote without it.