Election fever is gripping Horsham district, with voters preparing to help choose the first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex.
Okay, that may be something of an exaggeration, with many pundits predicting that fewer than one in five people eligible to vote will actually do so on November 15. But whoever electors choose will have significant power to shape the way Horsham district and the rest of Sussex is policed.
The Home Office’s website says: “Do you want more of a say about how your area is policed? Do you feel victims of crime need more of a say or that more needs to done to tackle antisocial behaviour on your street? These are the important issues that PCCs will take up on your behalf.”
Five candidates will contest the election in Sussex. In alphabetical order of surname, they are Tony Armstrong (UKIP), Katy Elizabeth Bourne (Conservative), Ian Chisnall (Independent), Godfrey Daniel (Labour) and David Rogers (Liberal Democrat).
What will a PCC be responsible for?
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 received Royal Assent in September last year. This stated there would be a PCC election in each of the 41 police areas in England (excluding London) and Wales.
PCCs will replace local police authorities, including the 17-member Sussex Police Authority. They will not run the police, but will be responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account. They will be able to produce a police and crime plan setting out local policing priorities, set the local policing budget and decide how money will be spent, and appoint or sack the Chief Constable.
The new PCCs will officially start work on November 22. The next elections after this are due to take place in May 2016 – about three-and-a-half years from now.
What does Sussex Police Authority say about losing its powers?
Sussex Police Authority met for the final time in Lewes on Thursday last week.
Cllr Steve Waight, chairman of the authority, said: “Sussex Police Authority has worked to both challenge and support Sussex Police over almost 50 years. The authority has met countless times to hold Sussex Police to account on behalf of the people of Sussex.
“It is the decision of the coalition government that PCCs should replace police authorities. I hope that the good work of the authority in ensuring that Sussex Police is effective and efficient is built upon by the individual voted for by the people of Sussex.”
Who can vote and how?
A person can vote if they are registered in England (excluding London) and Wales, are aged 18 or over on November 15 and are a British, Irish, European Union or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. British citizens living overseas cannot vote in these elections.
Voters must register by October 31. The deadline for a postal vote is 4pm on October 31 and the deadline for a proxy vote, except in a medical emergency, is 5pm on November 7.
Before polling day, voters will be sent a poll card which includes details of their polling station. All polling stations will open at 7am on Thursday, November 15, and close at 10pm. Even if voters join a queue before 10pm, they will not be able to vote unless they have been issued with a ballot paper before polls close.
Polling station staff will be on hand to explain the ballot paper and how to vote. Voters do not need to take their poll card with them to the polling station, but doing so will speed up the process.
For more information about registering to vote and/or applying for a postal or proxy vote, phone Horsham District Council on 01403 215126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Which voting system will be used?
PCCs will be elected using the supplementary vote. Under this system, electors vote for their first-choice candidate by marking a cross in the first-choice column and their second choice by marking a cross in the second-choice column. If voters only mark a first choice, their vote will still be counted. They can choose not to mark a second choice.
If a candidate receives more than half of all first-choice votes, they are elected immediately. If this does not happen, the two candidates with the most first-choice votes go through to a second round. All other candidates are eliminated, but their second-choice votes for either of the top two candidates are added to the totals for those two candidates from the first round.
How can voters find out more?
Samantha Mills, head of campaigns at the Electoral Commission, said this week: “These are new elections, taking place at an unfamiliar time of year and using a voting system that has not been widely used before. Over the next few days, voters will receive our booklet with all the information they need to cast their vote with confidence. This includes what the elections are for, when they are taking place and how to vote.”
Pick up your free copy of The Resident on Friday, November 9, to read the Sussex candidates’ views.