Former Norwich City Council leader loses out in race to become Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner
06:30 17 November 2012
The former leader of Norwich City Council who lost out in the race to become Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner has today said the low turnout should be taken by the government as meaning it is not wanted by the electorate.
Police and crime commissioners, which will replace police authorities later this month, have been hailed by the government as a reform that will put the power back in the hands of the people and make forces more accountable.
But just 15pc of people eligible to vote in the landmark elections bothered to go to the polls ahead of yesterday’s count at St Andrews Hall after which Stephen Bett, an independent candidate, was declared the winner ahead of Conservative candidate Jamie Athill.
Steve Morphew, Labour’s candidate, received 21,456 of the votes but was eliminated after the first round of yesterday’s count.
Mr Morphew was pleased with his performance but said the turnout has raised some alarming concerns about the role, which the government insisted would help make forces more accountable by giving the public a greater say as to how they are policed.
He said: “I was very proud and flattered by the number of people in Norfolk who were prepared to support me.”
He added: “I think it’s a kick in the teeth for the government because the message from the electorate in so many different ways was this was not what they wanted to see for policing.
“The person who gets elected has got the legal responsibility to do the job so they have to get on with the responsibility, making difficult decisions without public support. But the government I think is under an obligation to move us on from here very quickly.”
Mr Morphew said his “biggest concern” was that by pressing ahead with PCCs the government was taking away one of the “fundamentals on which policing is based - policing by consent”.
He added: “What the public has said is they don’t consent with what’s going on here and that’s very significant for a democracy.”
It was a view echoed by Charles Clarke, former home secretary and former Norwich South MP who has been an outspoken critic of the post.
He said: “The appallingly low turnout shows how flawed this system is.
“As far as Norwich is concerned, all I would say is it was an appallingly flawed election and one of the saddest aspects for the residents of Norwich is that despite voting overwhelmingly Labour there will be a police and crime commissioner who is not representing the needs of the city.”
The total valid first preference votes for Norfolk was 97,157 while the total rejected was 3,251, which means a total of 100,408 people voted in Norfolk.
Overall turnout was 15pc of eligible voters, which breaks down as Breckland 12.9pc, Broadland 15pc, Great Yarmouth 12.6pc, King’s Lynn 14.5pc, North Norfolk 16.1pc, Norwich 16.3pc and South Norfolk 17pc.
The election was won by Mr Bett, former chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, who has vowed to help keep the county one of the safest place in the country.
Mr Bett, who resigned from the police authority and quit the Tory party in September to embark on a campaign as an independent after he lost out to Jamie Athill in the summer as Norfolk’s Conservative candidate, received a total of 39, 988 votes compared to his closest challenger Mr Athill, who received a total of 36, 605.
Speaking after the result was announced at St Andrews Hall in Norwich yesterday, Mr Bett said: “I’m delighted to have won the election to be Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner and pleased that my non-party political stance won the day with voters.
“I don’t dwell on the campaign itself, nor the apparent apathy of the public towards the election. However, I offer my thanks to the other candidates for their hard work in stirring things up and helping to inform the public as they did so.
“Now, the hard work begins. I set out my plans for the role in a 10-point pledge and they are the commitments that I will ultimately be judged on.
“I have pledged to keep one of the safest counties in the UK with public safety as my number one priority. There will be a relentless battle to combat crime.”
He added: “There are some immediate priorities, including setting the budget. This will be pressured as we won’t know what the level of government will be until nearer Christmas.
“I will be seeking early consultations with the chief constable with whom I already have a very good working relationship. The quality of this partnership will form the basis of ensuring the best possible policing service for everyone in Norfolk.”
Mr Bett singled out his wife Phillippa<corr>son and daughters for their “tremendous support” and keeping him on the “straight and narrow when the going got tough” as well as his campaign team, including running mate and soon-to-be deputy Jenny McKibben, for working so tirelessly.
Norfolk’s chief constable Phil Gormley said: “I congratulate Stephen Bett on his success in the police and crime commissioner elections for Norfolk.
“I, along with the rest of my chief officer colleagues, look forward to working with him in the months ahead to continue to develop and deliver the excellent service provided by Norfolk Constabulary.”
Speaking after the result was declared, Mr Athill said he was disappointed to have lost the race to become police and crime commissioner - a role which he still strongly believes in.
He said: “We came second. I think it was well worth standing so that’s galling for the team. I sincerely wish the new PCC every success in what’s an important job.” When asked about the turnout, Mr Athill said it was what it was.
The race to become Norfolk’s first police and crime commissioner became a two-horse race after the first round of voting earlier in the afternoon.
Mr Athill and Mr Bett were out in front after the Norfolk first round results were announced just before 4pm, but as no man had secured more than 50pc of the vote, voters’ second preferences were counted.
Mr Athill, who received 30,834 (31.7 pc) votes, and Mr Bett, who got 27, 842 (28.6pc) then went head-to-head in a second round of counting after the three other candidates were eliminated.
Former Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew, Labour’s candidate, received 21,456 votes (22pc), UKIP’s Matthew Smith 9,633 (9.9pc) and Lib Dem candidate James Joyce got 7,392 (7.6 pc).
Mr Bett will take up his post on November 22, when police authorities will be officially abolished, and will serve a four-year term.