By Cassie Chambers
The coalition's policies to promote police accountability may be hijacked by party politics, a survey out today suggests.
The Local Government Association (LGA) found that candidates in the first-ever police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections, set to be held in November, believe party politics, not policy platforms, will ultimately sway voters.
"It's concerning that with less than six months until polling day, most would agree that there's a consensus of apathy among the public at the prospect of new police and crime commissioners," Chris Khan, chairman of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said.
Over half of candidates thought political party would be the most important factor in how someone voted.
Lack of public engagement was also cited as a concern, with 75% of candidates believing voter turnout will be lower than in the most recent council elections.
Voting on May 3rd had the lowest public participation since 2000, with only a third of citizens casting votes.
Candidates wonder if this apathy and susceptibility to party influences can be surmounted, especially in the face of the recent Home Office decision not to give candidates funds for election materials.
"Government could help this effort by providing the same level of support with election materials that it does for prospective MPs and MEPs," Mr Khan continued.
He added: "Independent candidates may struggle to afford to produce and distribute fliers."
Instead, the Home Office will run on online website to provide all candidates with a platform.
This decision will lead to discrimination, the LGA argues, as "online campaigning only risks alienating older members of the public who are less likely to have internet access but would usually be more likely to vote".
The police and crime commissioner reforms were passed in 2011 as the coalition seeks to improve the way local police are held to public account.
The new directly elected role will allow the commissioner the power to hire and fire police chiefs, as well as generally steer the nature of local policing services.